(L-R) Granville Tunnicliffe-Wilson; Jean Tunnicliffe-Wilson; Clare Hunter; Mike Macklin; John Calnan; George Heaton; Dawn Hancock; Mark Bryson.

Stop number seven of our Awards Tour saw the Yealands (Conyers and Redmayne) come together.

The INCA and ISPA trophies are doing the rounds of the communities, groups and volunteers who’ve dug in the B4RN network over the last decade.

Eight volunteers – some still active with B4YS – gathered at Yealand Village Hall. Present were Granville Tunnicliffe-Wilson, Jean Tunnicliffe-Wilson, Clare Hunter, Mike Macklin, John Calnan, George Heaton, Dawn Hancock, and Mark Bryson.

They remember the early days fondly and talked about why they got involved:

Dawn Hancock: “I got some video footage of Priest Hutton digging. We thought ‘hmmn!’ it’s going to be a long way to dig over here! They were doing it by hand, without any machinery.”

Clare Hunter: – “I remember the first time I joined you lot. I needed B4RN in and I thought ‘well, if we want it in we better do something about it’. So I turned up near Longlands and there was all these guys there, just me and all these fellas!

Granville Tunnicliffe Willson: “She [Clare] is a dab hand with an angle grinder!”

John Calnan: “It was such a good community project. When we first got going it was quite a daunting thing, but once the community all got together and got their weight behind it we could set to, organise it and do it.”

GTW: “The fact that most people struggled to get 5Mbps was good motivation.”

Jean Tunnicliffe-Wilson: “We didn’t go into it for ourselves, particularly. If  you’re not careful you can become a ‘retirement only’ community, because people don’t want to travel to work. The great advantage with good internet is people can work from home and then you get the families coming in. One of the interests I’ve always had is keeping the school going and you don’t have a school unless you have people of parent age group.”

Volunteers showing reel grit, 2015

Conversation turned to challenges in the build:

JTW: The terrain [here] goes from bog to outcrops of limestone.

George Heaton – “What amazed me was the fact we got over the M6, the main railway line, the A6, the canal. It’s staggering really!”

JC: My land rover got licked quite a lot by cows. We go into fields and all the cows would come and start licking the windows!”

GTW: “It’s also much fun. We have one or two people here who have very long drills and just love going through old stone walls!”

All the volunteers felt their B4RN project had brought people together:

JTW: “It took digging to get them together and find out they were both cyclists, or something. They had all sorts of things in common, but they never would’ve discovered it if they weren’t working together.”

CH: “That was one reason for doing B4RN. We’d just moved into the area and it was very useful way for getting to know people in a nice way.”

Some of the group remain active, saying age is just a number!

JC: The vast majority of people who did all this are all retired. You think to yourself ‘us oldies, we can do a thing or two!’ Just goes to show the Old Age Pensioners, we ain’t done yet!”

JTW: “At one time we called ourselves the ‘cripples brigade’! One was recovering from an ankle, one waiting to sort a knee.”

GTW: “We went down on the moss about a year ago, two houses, isolated. We sent round the gang.”

JTW: “We’ve got digging down to a fine art.”

DH: “I know people in Silverdale and Storth. They ask me ‘how did you do it? What problems did you encounter?’ Yes, we’re very much active still.”

The group wished to add some honourable mentions: Ron Ogden (who’s passed away) – a great helper who worked very hard and kept an invaluable notebook on where the cable were; and David Wanless (who’s moved out of the area) – who was brilliant on the paperwork and tube maps.

Mike, Jean and Granville getting their spades, 2016