(L-R) Cath Halstead, Robert Partington, John Yellowley, Tony Nixon, John Day.

B4RN continues to celebrate the communities and volunteers who’ve dug in the gigabit fibre broadband network over the past decade.

Wray was the fifth stop for our Awards Tour, with another group getting their hands on the INCA and ISPA gongs.

A group of five ex-volunteers gathered at the village’s Methodist Chapel for a picture with the trophies – John Yellowley, Robert Partington, John Day, Tony Nixon and current B4RN employee, Cath Halstead.

John Y. and Robert also stopped to chat about their project, eight years ago.

Did you think B4RN would ‘take off’?

Robert Partington: “B4RN approached the first eight parishes, some 1,300 properties. At that time we didn’t anticipate people would come knocking saying ‘can we have some of that?’ For us, it was a question of will B4RN survive? Will it actually work? We worked very much hand-to-mouth. At one point, there wasn’t funding for this cabinet!”

John Yellowley: “It being a whole community-based company was very important. Living in the centre of the village I’d get best service by any other provider but that didn’t help the people on the fell.”

Volunteers digging in Wray, 2014

What do you remember about the build?

RP: “It was ‘pick it up as you go along’. We were doing it with diggers, mainly, or by hand. We used the odd mole to get under roads.”

JY: “It was quite important you actually started digging in visible parts of the village so people thought it was actually happening – it provided that visual spur.”

“Getting the duct to a nearby bridge [was a challenge]. We dug a trench one day, the rain came, and the next time we looked it was a river!”

What about the social aspect of B4RN?

RP: “It was a village project. A huge number of people got involved. We were very heavily involved in taking ductwork into people’s houses. It drew the village together – a great boost!”

JY: “I was a relative newcomer [to the village]. It certainly enabled me to get to know an awful lot of people.”

And how is the B4RN service?

RP: “I love it when I get a ‘cold call’ telling me I can get a much better internet deal. I tell them ‘frankly, no I can’t! Thank you very much, goodbye!’.”

JY: “It’s been a very resilient service. I can’t recall any time we’ve lost it by fault.”

The group members also wished to give some honourable mentions: Mark Rowland (who’s no longer with us); Phil Ring (the “store man” who drove things along); Brian Kirkby (“our JCB man who went ‘great guns’ until encountering our boulders!); Rob Staveley (who now works for B4RN); Tony Baker; Keith Wilson; and Keith Sykes.

BBC media coverage, 2014.






Buried somewhere under Wray!