An environmental charity near Castle Cary, in Somerset, says it never thought it would get a decent broadband connection, but Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) and Wessex Internet have made it possible.
Over the past 25 years Carymoor Environmental Trust has created a nature reserve on an old landfill site and its remote location has made connectivity extremely difficult.
It now has a full fibre connection as part of Wessex Internet’s ongoing three-year fibre build in some of the most rural parts of South Somerset on behalf of CDS.
Rupert Farthing, Chief Executive of Carymoor Environmental Trust, said: “We were a communications black hole purely because of our location. We’re surrounded by farmland with not much in the way of anything else around us, we never thought anyone would be able to connect us to the modern era.
“Prior to getting a fibre connection our broadband was incredibly slow. We had a very old single copper line coming into the site and with 10 employees here anything like a Zoom call was generally impossible.
“It’s been a real limitation for us and I think we thought it was going to be difficult to resolve without a lot of investment from us, so it was music to our ears to hear it was possible to be connected up. It was something I thought wouldn’t ever happen so it’s a fantastic development.”
More than 120 schools visit the centre each year for outdoor learning experiences, but being able to bring that learning inside was almost impossible.
However, in the past couple of months, Wessex Internet has installed fibre broadband to the Trust, making life easier for staff and enabling the charity to re-think what it can provide for visitors.
For the first time it’s able to offer Wi-Fi to people who hire out rooms at the centre for meetings.
“People expect a good internet connection and with any kind of online meeting now we no longer have to think about it as a consideration,” added Rupert.
“Everything just works and it’s marvellous. The change it has made has been phenomenal and suddenly it has opened up a range of possibilities.
“Since the installation we just haven’t had to think about our connection which is such a boon when you’re running a business. You simply need it to work but it works so much better than we thought we’d ever have here.”
Although delivering full fibre broadband to Carymoor Environmental Trust was challenging, Wessex Internet specialises in connecting rural communities.
As part of the CDS programme, Wessex Internet has completed build in parts of Babcary, North and South Barrow, Woolston and Sutton Montis and it’s currently building its fibre network at Chilthorne Domer, Mudford, Podimore and Queen Camel.
Jez Allman, Chief Commercial Officer at Wessex Internet, said: “With the support of Connecting Devon and Somerset’s investment it has made it achievable for us to give the Trust the opportunity to utilise broadband to its fullest.
“It wasn’t an easy build, by any means. There was a lot of clay, a lot of rock, so it was a much slower build process to get the mole-plough through, but it’s one that was important to connect.
“As an educational facility they can now do things differently than when they had 2MB per second, which wasn’t really allowing them to do anything.
“Working with CDS helps us level up the playing field between towns, where most people want to build because it’s a cheaper option and there are bigger populations, and rural communities. Rural areas should have the same opportunities as towns to help businesses be productive and compete, and for educational facilities and homes to enjoy the same level of digital connectivity as everyone else.”
Councillor Mike Rigby, CDS Board Member and Somerset County Council Lead Member for Transport and Digital, was among invited guests, including local councillors and Wessex Internet staff, who recently visited the nature reserve to see the work that’s involved in running the site.
He said: “It’s quite remote here, we’re quite a long way from the nearest property, and you can understand how properties like this aren’t going to get connected commercially. I think that’s the real bonus of CDS – it has the ability to connect those hard-to-reach properties which makes a massive difference, and in this instance it’s transformational.
“I think it does two things – it gives people the opportunity to start businesses in locations where perhaps they might not once have done, but it also gives people the opportunity to move businesses into more rural areas, so there’s a massive economic boost that this sort of connection provides.
“Carymoor Environmental Trust does great work here. It’s a really good education centre, particularly for school kids to visit, and having that massive improvement in connectivity is crucial to their continuing success.”
Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: “We are delighted to see the ongoing impact of the Connecting Devon & Somerset programme in bridging the digital divide. This transformation of Carymoor Environmental Trust’s connectivity is just one example of how this investment is advancing digital access in our region, opening up new possibilities for organisations and communities.”
The CDS programme is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Heart of the South West LEP, CDS local authorities, European Regional Development Fund and the Rural Development Programme for England.
Residents and businesses can visit www.wessexinternet.com and use the postcode checker to find out if their property is covered as part of the CDS programme.