Case Study: Wireless broadband in the Corvedale
We recently visited Corve Barn Farm (http://www.corvebarnfarm.co.uk/) in the Corvedale near Much Wenlock to hear how access to a wireless broadband service has transformed the lives of the Davies family:
We pulled up to Corve Barn Farm in glorious autumn sunshine one morning in October and were greeted by the owners, Margaret and Chris. We’d come to talk about their recent internet upgrade and the impact it was having on their business and their lives. The kettle was already on…
The Farm, nestled deep in the Shropshire countryside between Wenlock Edge and Ditton Priors, is an idyllic place to enjoy the peace and majestic views over the Corvedale.
Corve Barn Farm is no longer a working farm. Chris and Margaret have been providing holiday accommodation since 2008. They have 5 barns and 8 caravans, which can accommodate up to 55 people at any one time.
“Our guests range from families on holiday, to businessmen and sub-contractors working in the area. We also have people stay on a longer term basis whilst moving or renovating at home.”
It’s clear that the location, surrounded by farming and wildlife, appeals to a wide audience.
“There was a wedding nearby last Saturday, so we were fully booked with guests for the weekend. We get a real mixed bag of bookings and people come from all over. You have the regulars that come here frequently for work and holidays, but we also get lots of first-time bookings online. We meet people from all walks of life”.
It’s not hard to see why the couple enjoy running a business in such a beautiful spot, and it’s quickly apparent that Chris and Margaret provide a first rate service to their customers.
Despite the rural setting, guests to Corve Barn Farm needn’t exit the 21st Century when they stay, as all accommodation has recently been kitted out with innovative equipment to allow a strong, reliable Wi-Fi signal.
Struggling with slow speeds, Margaret and Chris applied for a grant through the business connection voucher scheme, funded by Broadband Delivery UK and administered by Digital Birmingham. Margaret told us about the experience:
“We were on holiday and my daughter rang me up to tell me there was a meeting at Shipton Village Hall on 23rd July. Secure Web Services (SWS) were due to attend and tell people about the scheme. I rang them up the next day, they sent me all the paperwork through and we arranged to go and see them once we were back. They came to the farm to work out what we were going to do, then helped us get the voucher sorted through Digital Birmingham. Maxine and Chris (of SWS) are brilliant, they assisted with the paperwork to apply and the backup support since getting connected has been great.”
“I applied in August and it was about 3½ weeks from first enquiring to getting everything installed and up-and-running. It took 2 ½-3 hours on the day. Alex from Rapidity (a computer company from Cressage) and SWS worked well together.”
“I would say a solution of this kind is well worth considering for homes and businesses in rural areas. We’ve been connected since 20th September and the advantages have far outweighed the disadvantages of it. And it’s no more expensive than what I was paying before for an inadequate service.”
Margaret and Chris proceeded to tell us some of the early benefits for the business:
“People expect the internet. You go on holiday now and you take your laptop or an iPad.”
“Our customers have often come from towns/cities and they’re used to fast internet speeds at home. Most guests ask about connectivity when they book, including me! If I go away I’ll need to check for bookings or check my emails”.
“The classic example is businessmen stopping here for a week or a fortnight and needing to stay connected with their families. We have one guy from Northumberland who always stays with us when working in Bridgnorth; he Skypes his little girl on his iPad every evening and reads her a bedtime story.”
“In this valley, there’s a real issue with mobile phone signal. Now we have download speeds in excess of 5mbps, we can use the Wi-Fi to make our phone calls. All the networks are very poor here, we could go for months without having a phone signal; you’d have to literally get in your car to drive to the other side of the Wenlock Edge or Ditton to pick up a signal.”
“We keep a few Texal sheep and lambs in spring – our visitors love to pet the sheep! All farm-related forms and payment have to be done online”.
“If you’ve got no internet at home, you have to go into a coffee shop or library to get a service. I used to go to Bridgnorth, pay for parking, buy a drink in the coffee shop and then pay for surfing the internet when there.”
Running a business from their home, Chris and Margaret are also reaping the benefits of a faster connection in family life. They tell us how the upgrade has helped at home…
The couple have two children: Suzie is thirteen and attends Newport Girls High School; Timmy, who is twelve and has autism, is at Church Stretton School.
“The kids have got to email in their homework every night and it’s the responsibility of us as parents to see that it’s done. We get an email of what homework the children have got to do and when it’s got to be handed in. And then you get another email afterwards if it’s late.
They all need the internet daily to download stuff and look up information.”
“It’s been a great help and Timmy’s buying so much more stuff online now the pages don’t time out!”
About the technology and speeds
“We went for the highest speed available because we have it microwaved out to the caravans and cottages. All the accommodation has good Wi-Fi now as well as the house itself.”
“We did have broadband down the copper wire, but it was intermittent at best. The speeds were slow, often around 0.2mbps and the connection would drop out altogether.”
“We now get 30mbps (download) and 4mbps (upload), so it’s much faster. It will save us time on VAT online, bookings, banking, shopping, everything. We were doing all those things before but pages would often time-out before we could complete a transaction which was very frustrating. This solution is fast enough to do the job quickly”.
“It’s a fixed wire from the dish to the house, we’ve got a hub in the house then Rapidity came in and installed a beam up to the yard for the cottages. From the corner of the house we’ve then got another that goes out to the caravan park.”
The fitting of the system was all done in one morning and caused minimal disruption. It was very very quick.”
“It’s been fantastic for us, and it’s going to change our work life, home life, everything.”