The Thorpe Estate, in rural Staffordshire, is a working estate stewarded by the same family since 1631 and focused on sustainable farming, conservation, and rural diversification. The farm produces potatoes, wheat, oat and beef for household name brands and has been spearheading conservation efforts and pioneering innovative farming techniques for over 20 years. The estate includes a range of rental properties and converted stables housing local businesses.
Broadband connectivity has been a source of frustration for many years, struggling with 15 – 30 megabits per second (Mbps) over a wireless connection with an expensive data cap. At peak times it was impossible to watch catch-up TV or to stream a film, and the signal would drop in bad weather and heavy cloud.
Tristan Lillingston is responsible for communications across all site activities, including farm, leisure, weddings, field sports, location shoots and more, so he spearheaded the campaign to improve broadband provision for the benefits of all stakeholders;
Tristan explained: “The previous speed was barely useful at peak times. Three people on devices would grind the system to a complete halt at times. It wasn’t an acceptable situation and made it more difficult to attract tenants to our renovated offices. As we all know, a good internet connection is a high priority for pretty much everyone these days.”
Through his own research Tristan found the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme and contacted Openreach for a quote to connect fibre broadband. Surveyors estimated a total cost of £23,000 to create the infrastructure network for the installation and connection across a dozen premises. He worked closely with the estate’s community of residents and businesses and applied on their behalf for vouchers to cover the cost of the installation cost.
Openreach completed the installation of the gigabit-capable cables to the estate with a reliable 300 Mbps broadband service being provided by Zen Internet in Rochdale. And even through the thick walls of Thorpe Hall, at the furthest possible point from the router, it is still possible to get 50-60 Mbps, more than enough to stream a high-definition film. The scheme has transformed the digital capabilities for every area of activity across the estate, including the all-important tenants.
Tristan added: “On a personal level, we can now connect multiple devices, use video calling platforms efficiently and hold on-line meetings with no fear of dropping-out. Our business tenants are thrilled because of the added efficiencies they are seeing from fast, reliable internet, whilst our residents have reported exceptional feedback – particularly those whose kids use a lot of data when gaming. I can honestly say, without exception, we are thrilled to bits with the decision to use the voucher scheme. From a financial perspective we have reduced our costs considerably, whilst making our units a far more attractive proposition to rent. It’s been life-changing.”