The Bridge Lodge: A wild idea
Angus Birditt and Lilly Hedley launched their own small, seasonal food company whilst studying at Oxford Brookes University. The pair came up with the idea after paying a visit to Lilly’s family in Erbistock, near Wrexham, where they spent an afternoon foraging for wild garlic in the woods. When they returned to Lilly’s family home, they began making pesto out of their pickings and after realising how delicious it was, they thought ‘why don’t we make this to sell?’
As they were both studying at the time, Angus (History of Art) and Lilly (History), they spent hours outside of their study time researching how to go about launching a food business.
Lilly recalls: “We wanted to learn more about food production, food hygiene, and setting up a business of our own, so we took part in many courses to get qualified before setting up the business.”
Setting up the company just over a year ago, the pair decided to name the business ‘The Bridge Lodge,’ paying homage to the old lodge house nestled in the woodland where they would source their ingredients. As the company specialises in creating products using fresh and wild ingredients foraged from the surrounding woodland on the family estate – setting up the business anywhere else was always out of the question. However, the pair were soon to discover that setting up a business in rural North Wales would have its challenges.
Lilly adds: “We set up the business in North Wales as that is where I’m originally from, and all of the wild ingredients we use can be picked right on our door step, so for us the business wouldn’t really work as anywhere else!
“However, being such a rural business, we are very far away from cities and large towns, which can be difficult as a lot of our potential clients and customers are based in urban areas. This also makes it quite hard to distribute to places further field, we really are located in the middle of nowhere!”
Despite this, the pair were able to overcome these challenges thanks to the strong entrepreneurial ecosystem surrounding them – and Lilly is quick to point out that there are just as many benefits as there are challenges that come with setting up a rural business.
“There are a lot of benefits to being a rural business!” She added. “Being in Wales we are very fortunate to have lots of support from the Welsh Government’s ‘Food & Drink Sector’.
“They have been so helpful with many things, including introducing us to brilliant contacts, setting up networking classes, and inviting us to take part in showcasing our products with Food and Drink Wales at various trade shows and events.
“Also, being a rural business is a huge part of our brand. Our customers in general really love the backstory of our products. The fact that it is all handpicked and handmade in small batches, situated in the beautiful valleys of North Wales they seem to really engage with.”
Lakes and Lambs: Practical fashion for the countryside
Another entrepreneur proving you can set up a business anywhere is Jannike Taylor, founder of the aptly named Lakes and Lambs.
Taylor launched the business from her home in Cumbria just over a year ago in a bid to design and sell her own unique outdoor boilersuits for children. The overalls are designed for children playing outside all year round and are inspired by the countryside and lifestyle around her.
She told BQ: “I live on a small sheep farm in rural Cumbria along with my husband who has an agricultural contracting business.
“As a mother of three young children I always encourage them to be outside and play freely, but the washing was endless!
“Even in dry weather they would still have dusty mucky knees, but waterproofs weren’t suitable for the time of year.
“I wanted to get them boilersuits, like my husband wears on the farm, but I struggled to find any that were small enough or had the desired design features.
“So, I set about designing my own from scratch, with children, and indeed parents, in mind.”
Setting up the business in Cumbria was a no-brainer, given it was where she lived, however it did have it had its challenges. As she recalls: “One of the biggest challenges has been making connections with other people and businesses.
“Our location, and indeed having young children and livestock, makes it difficult to travel and meet with our partners and network with other businesses.
“We are forced to do more via email and phone and it sometimes takes longer to research and meet the right people.
“In particular it took us a long time to find the right manufacturers.”
But, being based in the bucolic Cumbrian countryside also has its advantages. Taylor adds: “There is so much inspiration all around you; the landscape and the wonderful people and businesses within it. Travelling to work through beautiful countryside is refreshing and aids creativity.
“We also make sure our brand reflects our farming lifestyle and the countryside we live in, it’s what we know and so needs to be part of our company’s identity. There are also some incredible rural businesses in Cumbria who inspire us every day.
“The company has grown well over our first year. We have developed a wide customer base and have been recognised in a number of national awards for our products; something we are immensely proud of.
“The company is still in its infancy and going forward we will be working on increasing our brand awareness as well as developing a new product line.”
Craine Communications: Connecting rural businesses across Scotland
Scottish entrepreneur Stuart Craine isn’t only showing how to set up a successful rural business but is also helping others do the same. He launched his eponymous telecoms engineering company Craine Communications last year in a bid to provide a solution to the lack of independent telecoms companies in the general Argyll area.
Stuart said: “My family was the main reason I started the business. Just two weeks after my youngest child was born, I had been working away from home every day during the working week.
“Five years later I knew I had to find another way of earning and being closer to home. Starting this allowed me to be involved with the daily routine of my wife and kids which is really important to me.
“The second reason was seeing the number of households and businesses seriously struggling to get a decent internet connection in my area.
“Working on the Broadband Delivery UK contract, on behalf of BT, sent me all over Scotland and the UK and I felt I had built up enough of a skill set to allow me the confidence to go it alone.
“Working on a part time basis for various community owned wireless internet networks based in Fort William and Skye, I found a new method of broadband delivery.
“After a slow start and a few setbacks, I created my own wireless network called Back of Beyond Broadband, which now has nearly 60 users with more added weekly.”
For Stuart, it was quite challenging promoting the business at the start as after working away for so long, he had lost touch with a lot of the local community. He recalls: “Initially the difficulty I faced with the business and network was the geography along with the local land owners.
“Not being a known face in the area meant I lacked the necessary word of mouth to get regular business and a foot in the door with the ideal land locations.
“After around six months of cost price work though things started to improve and word of my plans started to get out amongst the wider population.
“Once BoB Broadband went live (after a 10 month wait for BT Openreach Fibre connection) things quickly snowballed for the better, with land owners approaching me to get connected.”
The gamble of launching BoB is now really starting to pay off for Stuart and he has ambitious plans for the future. Craine’s services are now used by internet providers Skyenet and Locheilnet and have already connected over 100 new connections for Locheilnet with a 100% customer satisfaction rate.
The company is now hoping to develop a skilled workforce, drive rural digital development and empower small communities and existing businesses well into the future.
He concluded: “Going forward I will be looking to take on at least two new employees in order to cope with the demand.
“I also have two new fibre connections about to be connected in areas in Argyll which are in desperate need of good, affordable internet.
“This will be the start of the many other project areas I have planned for the near future, all without public funding.
“The rural areas will be concentrated on first with a view to have a presence in the Scottish cities too eventually.”
People who live where high-speed internet access is sparse or nonexistent may now be able to join most of the rest of the country with new wireless broadband access. North Carolina is one of eight states where AT&T has added fixed wireless broadband to better reach places where internet service is spotty, the company announced Monday. The fixed service signal is sent between cell towers and antennas fixed to homes or businesses. The AT&T service1 comes with download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second, similar to a standard home connection in areas with broadband access.
“We’re committed to connect hard-to-reach locations to the internet,” Cheryl Choy, AT&T vice president for wired voice and internet products, said in a news release. “This changes lives and creates economic growth for these areas. We’re excited to bring this service to even more underserved locations.”
AT&T and other internet providers are receiving federal money from the Connect America Fund2 to expand broadband into underserved areas. AT&T internet prices start at $303 in a monthly plan. The fixed wireless service includes 160 gigabytes of data and options to purchase more up to a $200 monthly maximum.
AT&T’s fixed wireless first launched in Georgia this year and now reaches more than 70,000 homes or buildings with the addition of service in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and the Carolinas, the company said. By the end of the year, AT&T intends to expand the service to Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin to reach 400,000 locations. The company wants to reach more than 1.1 million locations with fixed wireless by 2020 as part of its commitment to the federal program.
The slowest internet speeds in Lincolnshire have been revealed in a new consumer survey. Which? has released data extracted from Speed Checker Ltd which ranked every district in the country on their internet connection speed. Tamworth in Staffordshire is the best place to live if fast internet is what you are after as the study revealed they boast download speeds of up to 30.4Mbps.
If you are wondering about who has the worst, then that mantle fell to the rather remote Orkney Islands in north east Scotland. In total there were 11 areas that fell short of the government’s minimum recommended speed of 10Mbps under its Universal Service Obligation. While none from Lincolnshire2 fell into this category there were two that were lower than the national average of 17Mbps.
With a rate of 13.7Mbps residents living in East Lindsey were revealed to have the slowest was the slowest broadband connection speed in the region. Boston was also lower than a lot of homes in the UK with internet users averaging 16.3Mbps in the town.
But how did the rest of the county perform?
Surprisingly, North East Lincolnshire recorded had the quickest connection in the region. An average speed of 27.4Mbps saw the area ranked seventh highest in the country for the best place to surf the internet.
Lincoln was the second best in the region, having an average of 19.9Mbs, followed by South Kesteven (18.8Mbps), West Lindsey (18.1Mbps) and North Lincolnshire (17.7Mbps). A full list of the country’s speeds that were recorded in the survey can be found here3
North East Lincolnshire has one of the speediest broadband connections in the UK (Photo: Google Street View)
What do the figures tell us?
Which? managing director of home services Alex Neill feels the results of the survey highlight far too many UK households are being forced to accept slow broadband. She said: “Far too many households across the UK are suffering from slow broadband speeds, which can stop you being able to carry out essential daily tasks.”
The watchdog has now launched a Fix Bad Broadband campaign urging households to use its free speed checker to make sure their service is up to the speed promised and complain if it is not.
Which? will be using data from its own speed checker to lobby the Government, regulators and broadband companies to improve broadband services across the UK. Ms Neill added: “This will also help to further highlight where problem areas are across the UK, putting pressure on Government and providers to help everyone get a good broadband connection.”
Why are the internet speeds so low in some places?
Internet speed can depend on the availability in that area. In simple terms fibre optic broadband is the quicker than standard broadband, however, this is not readily available across all parts of the country, especially in areas where the houses are much older.
However, in new builds many providers have come under criticism for failing to provide speedy broadband to new house-owners.
East Lindsey has the slowest broadband in the county, according to the survey (Photo: Google Street View)
One woman who didn’t wish to be named, complained about the lack of availability when moving into her new build in North Hykeham, near Lincoln. She said: “I understand that Lincolnshire is a rural county and is quite behind the times when it comes to internet speeds.
“What I can’t understand is why in new build housing developers, and broadband companies aren’t made to prioritise new builds to make sure they can get access to high speed internet service.
“I have just moved into a new house with my family off Tiber Road and we were told by Sky that we couldn’t have fibre optic broadband because they didn’t offer it in our area. They also said their copper fibres were fully capacitated so I have had to change broadband provider.
“I phoned BT who offered me a deal but the speed was the same as EE which was a third of the price left.
“I am not saying that the internet is life or death, but in the modern day, in my opinion, it should be treated the same as water and electricity as this is a new build so really I can’t see why it hasn’t been incorporated into the housing plan beforehand.”
As part of ambitious plans to make ultrafast broadband speeds available to 12 million homes and businesses by the end of 2020 – Openreach intend to build a Fibre to the Premise (known as FTTP) network for free to all new housing developments with 30 or more homes. This is dependent on developers registering their site with Openreach and working together early in the building process. The company has promised to connect new homes within nine months of contracting with a developer.
Any developments with two or more homes will have access to the company’s existing or planned fibre infrastructure, either funded entirely by Openreach or, where necessary, with the help of co-funding from the developer. For each new development, Openreach’s dedicated New Sites Reception team will work with developers to check the options for a particular site, and give a clear recommendation on the infrastructure that should be built. Once contracted, a dedicated field based co-ordinator will work with the Developer to lead them through the plan and build process.
A spokesperson for Openreach said: “Like Which?, we’d encourage people to check whether faster broadband services are available in their area, because more than 93% of the UK can order superfast speeds today and around 97% can access a service faster than 10Mbps*.
“Openreach has invested billions of pounds to improve UK broadband speeds in recent years and we’re continuing to extend our fibre network, which means faster services are increasingly available in some of country’s most remote and hard-to-serve areas.”
Top 10 broadband speeds
Tamworth, Reading, Adur, Enfield, Dundee City, Luton, North East Lincolnshire, Merton, Elmbridge, Broxbourne.
Bottom 10 broadband speeds
Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Highland, Ryedale, Purbeck, Na h-Eileanan Siar, Powys, West Devon, Eden, Rother, Stirling