Long time B4RN volunteer, Gina Barney, is the subject of a DCMS case study.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has highlighted her as an “inspirational community broadband champion.”
You can read the article here, while Gina tells us in her own words below what it’s like to volunteer for B4RN.
“What I most like is meeting and talking to people (and drilling holes)”
“B4RN is great. I love it”, says Gina. Perhaps no surprise given her background as Director of Networking at Manchester University.
She says putting the network in Cautley was “real fun”, adding she and other volunteers ploughed on whatever the weather.
Gina recalls one particular challenge, “problems such as the River Rawthey were solved with a farmer’s bow and arrow, some binder string, two cubic metres of concrete and a wire catenary across the 30metre gorge.”
Gina’s well known among local volunteers and admits to telling them off for things like getting chambers wrong. She know she’s not perfect though: “On the very last section of 34km of duct to the Cross Keys Inn what do I do? Crimp the duct and get a telling off myself.”
Meeting people is a highlight for Gina. In 2018, she needed a wayleave. The farmer turned her away. Gina went back on the day of the local elections. She picks up the story on the 3rd of May that year, at 8pm: “We stood on the doorstep for 20 minutes and he eventually let me in. It was dark so I asked if he would put the light on. We sat on the floor for an hour just talking and he missed casting his vote. I got the wayleave; and a friend. He’s sadly is no longer with us.”
Gina enjoys doing house installations. “The faces of the residents are unbelievable”, she says, “this octogenarian woman turns up waving a one metre bit on the end of a SDS impact drill.” She’s drilled 80 holes in residents’ walls for free (although a post-job tipple of sherry and whisky has occurred as thanks). She’s not put off by lying in cupboards!
With Cautley done, Gina’s been helping out Lunds. It’s a rugged patch – a gateway further north for the B4RN network to Mallerstang.
It took a year to get 12 properties on, despite Covid.
Gina has a lot of time for the B4RN staff and contractors too. She recalls helping one contractor retrieve his favourite “puncher” from under the A683. Then there’s a memorable anecdote about having to shoo away an ostrich from one of our splicing team!
Gina says she’s not too old to learn: “On one occasion in Lunds this keen and younger volunteer questioned my ability to walk a rough track near Lady Anne’s Highway to sort a route out. He was being considerate. Off we go with me leading and showing off. What happens? I slip in a beck. There was a lot of swearing. Down to Sedbergh Health Centre for 11 stitches.”
So is it time to stop? “I really can’t. I have learnt a lot about rural networks. What I most like is meeting and talking to people (and drilling holes). They all eventually trust me and now I know where all the house keys are in Cautley.
“The next project (subject to B4RN approval) is on the outskirts of Sedbergh. Another 19 properties. Piece of cake.”