Last week I attended a parish conference on wildflower meadows and rural broadband, held at Great Dixter and organised by Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle.
It might seem an odd mix of subjects but it was a fascinating morning and I learnt a lot.
I must admit my interest initially was more in wildflower meadows, but the information on access to superfast broadband in rural areas was an eye opener. To start with, I should point out that superfast broadband refers to a connection of up to 300Mbps. The UK Government defines it as providing download speeds in excess of 24Mbps.
There were representatives from many councils there, and some of the attendees had download speeds of less than 2 Mbps in their area, meaning it was hard for them to get online at all. If you have no idea whether you can access fibre optic superfast broadband, you can find out (ironically) online at www.eSussex.org where you can check the coverage at your postcode.
You then need to contact your broadband provider and check what the speeds are at your postcode. Even if your area has access to fibre optic broadband, your property might not, so it is worth checking. Also bear in mind that you have to sign up and pay for a superfast service. The more people that sign up the better, as some of this money goes back into rolling out the provision to others.
We all know the importance of the internet now, and in future it is likely to play an even bigger role in our lives, so it’s great that work is going on to make sure rural areas don’t get left behind. Perhaps though, as was argued at the conference, rural areas should be a priority as less than 2 Mbps could leave some rural communities extremely isolated.
In East Sussex fibre optic coverage is expected to be over 96 per cent by the end of September 2018. This is all very well, but of course if you are in a rural area, as many of the outlying villages around Eastbourne are, then you may still have several years to wait for superfast broadband. On the subject of wildflower meadows I learnt a lot too.
Fergus Garrett, CEO and head gardener at Great Dixter gave the talk and it was all very inspiring. Under discussion was the importance of creating corridors of wildflower planting and the many benefits this can bring to wildlife. We learnt that grass verges could be turned into useful and beautiful areas teeming with wildlife with only a little extra thought. Fergus suggested that verges could simply be ‘haystrewn’ to let seed from wildflowers settle on the grass and grow. With a reduced mowing regime (also saving the council money) in as little as three or four years the verges he showed us was full of native orchids and other flowers. I also took away lots of ideas for my own garden, especially as long grass and wildflowers mean less weeding!