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Picturesque Clovelly in Devon, renowned as one of the UK’s only privately-owned villages, is set to join the information superhighway.  Perched on a cliff-top, with steep, narrow, cobbled streets, it is home to just 300 people.  Until now residents have been unable to access a fast and reliable broadband connection. 

But that will not be the case for much longer as Airband, working in close partnership with Connecting Devon and Somerset, finalises this most challenging of new installations.

Airband managing director Red Peel comments; “At Airband we take pride in bringing connectivity to rural areas across the country. We’re especially proud to be working in partnership with the residents of the beautiful village of Clovelly – a truly one-of-a-kind area. 

“We’re thrilled to be offering superfast broadband to this area and providing residents and business owners with the many benefits which better connectivity brings, whilst also preserving the unique character of the environment which makes Clovelly so special. I think that this is perhaps the most challenging broadband installation we’ve ever undertaken.” 

Originally owned by William the Conqueror, the estate of Clovelly remained in royal hands until 1242. 

It is now owned by John Rous who inherited it from his mother Mary Rous in 1983.

He commented: “As Lampedusa once said in The Leopard, ‘If you want things to stay the same, things must change’.  Clovelly Estate is committed to maintaining Clovelly’s beautiful unspoilt environment, whilst adapting to the changing demands of its tenants.

“Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw increasing numbers of professionals such as barristers and software engineers using Clovelly as a base for remote working. We understand that connectivity is key to the way we now live.

“Through offering Airband’s high speed broadband and concealing the fibre optics under the famous cobbled street, we are able to remove unsightly telegraph poles in the future, extend the work opportunities in the village, and future proof our properties.” 

Airband engineer working on Clovelly high street

In these efforts to preserve the environment and maintain the character of the area, Airband has intricately put back each of around 12,000 street cobbles exactly how they were – so you would never know that they had been disturbed. 

Managing the installation on a 1.5km hill, Airband has used mechanical buckets for removing the spoil, meaning around 500 trips will have been made up and down the hill, totalling a massive 700 hours of work. 

With almost every property being Grade 2 or 2* listed, Airband has adhered to strict restrictions to ensure that the historic character of the buildings is maintained. 

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) is the programme responsible for delivering superfast broadband to the region. As the largest publicly subsidised rural broadband programme in England, CDS has been involved in many rewarding projects including this work in Clovelly.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert said: “Clovelly is a unique village in Devon and it’s exactly the kind of hard-to-reach area that the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme aims to connect with full fibre broadband.  

“I’m proud that we’re working with Airband to help deliver better broadband to people in Clovelly – they need and deserve faster broadband speeds that are often taken for granted in urban areas. In rolling out full fibre to the entire community, every effort has been made by Airband to preserve the rich heritage of Clovelly’s cobbled streets. It has certainly made it a challenging project, especially when you take into account the steep terrain as well, but the team at Airband has risen to the challenge.”

The residents are excited about the vast changes that the installation will bring to their lives. 

​​Clive Curtis-Wall, who owns an online boat parts business, says, “In the last two years I have been offline for about six weeks with my current provider and it’s bad for business, bad for me ordering and getting in touch with the family, because it is slow down here. With a faster Airband speed I will be able to contact people quicker and not waste so much time waiting for people to come back to me and waiting for people to get in touch with me, so it will help very much so.”