Life at the end of the road

September 11, 2013

A step closer :-)

When I received the call and message on the blog last year about an alternative to our satellite broadband from Alison Macleod, local development officer of the Applecross Community Company I was quite excited at the prospect of a faster, more reliable and cheaper alternative to . We did have pretty reliable and usable service before from but without any consultation we were ‘migrated’ to Niall Quinn’s company without choice and the service went down the toilet.

Most issues have since been resolved and we get a reasonable 15gB monthly allowance, acceptable upload and download speeds and a pretty reliable service. However a teenager in the house has meant that once or twice we’ve gone over the 15gb and been ‘throttled’. This would not be a problem if the service was just slow, that I can cope with, but apart from the ‘internet like treacle’ it is impossible to access email, and that I cannot cope with.

The service that was being mooted for Applecross, who like me had little alternative other than satellite was wireless based and had its roots in the ‘Tegola project’ that I’d read about some years ago . Pioneered by professor Peter Buneman of Edinburgh University it used a network of powered antennas and relay stations to give reliable and fast broadband via ‘line of site’. The ‘Master’ would be at a place which already had acceptable broadband and the ‘slaves’ anywhere that was wirelessly visible from the directional dish placed on the ‘backhaul’ master station. In effect the system could attain speeds of up to 18meg but few exchanges up here are capable of half that.


The Tegola Project

At the same time that Avanti were rolling out their network, trials of a much faster and more reliable wireless distribution system were taking place a little further north in Loch Hourn.  Prof. Peter Buneman of Edinburgh University was demonstrating that if fast ‘backhaul’ (trunk-line broadband access) were available, it was perfectly possible, using the more reliable and advanced equipment that was by now on the market,  to distribute this round rural communities.  His project is fully described at . In early 2010 Peter heard that folk on Eigg were dissatisfied with the cost and speed of the Avanti scheme, and were keen to find an improvement.

A quote from who’s site gives a far better explanation than I



Anyway, a long time passed, Applecross got their first ‘backhaul’ set up at Broadford village hall and phase one (the pilot phase to 9 or 10 properties) was by all accounts a great success. However this only delivered broadband to subscribers that could ‘see’ Broadford or any of the other slave stations and I believe the funding had run out. However, twelve months on, thanks to the Big lottery fund, ‘phase two’ is going ahead and this is where ‘yours truly’ comes in Smile Phase two needs a powered station at the north end of Raasay to use the Aros centre in Portree as the ‘backhaul’ . Now I may not know anything about computers or the internet but what I do have is a power supply more reliable than the National Grid and years of experience in laying cables and pipe over the north end of Raasay Smile

Fast forward

Anyway, I’d kind of forgotten about all this and ‘put it on the backburner’ until recently when I was contacted again by Alison, Simon Helliwell  and Ian Bolas who are all heavily involved in the project. A site for a mast was chosen, the various permissions granted and before I knew it I’d 1000m of 1.5mm square SWA cable in my trailer.


Map picture

The original plan being for me to lay the first 500m from my power supply (bottom left) to North Arnish (centre), the bits for the small mast and second 500m drum being dropped by helicopter on top of the hill top right. However, despite PDG  reasonable quote of £1600 for doing a ‘lift’ from Arnish to the top of that hill it was a lot of money Sad smile Fair enough I suppose with our ‘risk averse’ culture in these hard times, helicopters are exceedingly expensive things to keep in the air and must earn their keep. Anyway it was felt that a few strong bodies could do the job and leave more in the budget for other stuff.

So, this morning, on a day that can only be described as ‘perfect midge’ weather I doused myself in Smidge and ‘set forth’ not initially on a cable laying mission but to grease up the opposite wheel bearing on my trailer to the one that failed yesterday Smile



Then I removed the 1250lt fuel tank given me by the Quarryman and cleaned it out, this is going to be Harry’s new tank up at the barn site.

002  003

Once the trailer was back on its wheels and the tank removed I made a ramp up to the Honda’s rear carrier using one of the trailer sides with some ratchet straps to hold it in place. Each 500m reel weighs 150kg so it needed careful manoeuvring up there.


and once securely lashed to the ‘50kg max’ rear carrier


I blew up the tyre Smile

The Honda TRX quad and its derivatives have to be the best on the planet, I’ve owned and used them all, Kawasaki’s, Suzuki’s, Yamaha’s and of course that piece of Chinese carp the Quadzilla. They are all good apart from the Chinese offering which biodegrades faster than a cow pat, the Honda however is in a league of its own when it comes to taking abuse.


I kid you not, these machines are ‘bombproof’, even before I was given this machine some years ago it had had nine years of abuse, been stuck in bogs the sea, used with three wheels and struck by lightning!!!!!!

Anyway, this ‘incident’ convinced me that I should reverse all the way up the steep hill to North Arnish, 150kg plus driver makes them a little light on the front end.



Once I’d turned around, found a smaller ditch and approached it obliquely the rest of the journey upwards past ‘Donald’s barn’ and the old Post Office was quite uneventful and I stopped the quad at what I thought would be the 500m mark from the chalet.


010 009

Tipping the reel off the carrier I took note of the marking on the cable and tied it off on the back of the quad.

Laying SWA cable

Now with all my renewable energy projects I’ve learnt a thing or two about laying cable and the general rule is, there are no hard and fast rules, well there are but every job is different depending on the terrain and cable length.  Fifty and even one hundred meter lengths are child’s play, you simply make up a holder and pull it off the drum, however as the lengths increase so does the weight and its problems. Sure you can still pull it off the drum with a quad or winch but as the tension increases the cable starts to twist due to the way the SWA (steel wire armour) is wound and this leads to kinks. You can lay very long lengths by pulling it off the drum 40 or 50m at a time and flaking it out flat on the ground but this is impossible amongst trees and undergrowth.

As this first section from North Arnish to the chalet power cable was nearly all down hill I opted for the ‘rolling method’ but this is done in the opposite direction to what you would think. A reel this size and weight cannot be rolled out ‘yo yo’ fashion so to speak as it is too heavy to ‘slip’, not only that but it could run away with you and end up in a tangled heap. The drum must be rolled the ‘wrong way’ as in the picture with each turn being taken off opposite sides to stop it kinking. You can do say six one way and six the other as you would with fence wire but my counting is rubbish so I just do it alternately ‘left and right’


011 012 013

Downhill it’s a ‘piece of cake’ and you know you’re not going to have the drum run away on you, here it is at 100, 200 and 300m respectively as I sweated like a pig in my waterproofs surrounded by flies Sad smile



The 400m mark came just by the ruins of 2 and 4 South Arnish but by now it was lunch time, I was soaked to the skin, hungry and sweating so heavily that my Smidge was starting to come off.



After a cup of tea, some chocolate and a change of clothes I enlisted some help


and got the last 100m laid, including some ducting over the burn.


And that is all the cable that was left on the drum!!! literally 2m to spare, skill or luck I’ve not got a clue Smile


All I had to do was walk back up to North Arnish for the Honda and start again Smile



This time things didn’t go quite so smoothly


and I ended up stuck in the drain. I could have easily extricated myself by removing the 150kg roll of SWA but then I’d have had to lift it back on the Honda. Much easier to get Wifey, the Yamaha and a block & tackle.

 022 023

Once she’d pulled me out of the ditch I reversed the Honda all the way up to the other end of the cable and left it there. The plan being to enlist the Dude on Saturday, take up the Yamaha, strap a scaffolding bar between the two quads and pull the cable off by hand, I guess about 100m at a time then cut it. One hundred metres of cable is 30kg so probably easy enough to drag through wet heather, watch this space to find out Smile


That’s it really, we’re a step closer to superfast broadband, I changed my underwear three times today, due to sweat and not ‘brown trousers’ I hasten to add and now I’m off to bed. This is the life, I’m pure wrecked and feel like I’ve actually lost a few pounds and achieved something at the same time.


  1. I suggest that dispite thje weight and the extra effort – do Not cut the wire, I report doNOT cut the wire – leave it intaqct it will be safer and less prone to breakdown

    Comment by SIMON KING (Not the famous one ) — September 11, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

  2. We have internet cable the diameter of a pencil running from the top of our roof radio antenna and around our house — we have had 2 problems in 8 years. The first was at a splice, when the cable was not long enough to enter the house. Make as few splices as possible because the elements do not like cable. Perhaps you will seal the join with the same super-glue connection goop you employ on the water piping? Last week our service was down for a whole week and after numerous guesses at fixes, the whole cable had to be replaced. Sun, wind, rain had rubbed and frayed the cable.

    Comment by George Leddick — September 11, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

    • This is the power supply Dr G and not the internet cable, it’s the same as the many I’ve laid over the years from my hydro, wind and solar panels, it’s ‘bombproof’ and recognized globally as a secure way of jointing unerground and under sea cables.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 11, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

    • Simon types faster than I do. The worst that will happen is that next winter we will get wonderful photos of snow covered Rasaay, as you hunt for the break in the cable. Maybe by then you will have trapped a mink coat.

      Comment by George Leddick — September 11, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

      • I am seriously dischuffed at your lack of faith DrG, my wind and hydro turbines have been using these joints for decades and the power to you house uses them too 😦

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 11, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

  3. Paul, your ingenuity and stamina never cease to amaze … by the way the heather up where you left the quad is so beautiful

    Comment by cazinatutu — September 11, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

    • I agree with cazinatutu; your ingenuity and stamina is amazing.

      Comment by Carrie — September 12, 2013 @ 9:51 am

  4. this looks & sounds like quite a project!! if it improves things around your area, then it will all be worthwhile!! good luck with this project!!

    Comment by Leanna Pruitt — September 11, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

  5. Paul – I take it you just leave the cable exposed on the surface – is the armouring sufficent to prevent damage by deer, pigs etc?

    Does show how little visited the north end of Rassy must be that this doesn’t cause any problems.

    Comment by Richard Haydock — September 12, 2013 @ 6:45 am

    • It’s a special ‘self burying’ cable 🙂 next summer you wont even be able to find it and I laid it next to a water supply pipe that had the same treatment 18 years ago. Or at least I think I did, that disappeared 17 years ago 🙂 Apart from halfwits tripping over it or inadvertently lighting a fire on top of it i can’t see the problem. Like I said, I’ve laid miles of them.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 12, 2013 @ 7:10 am

      • Hey Paul, here’s an idea for finding the cable again. Do you know somebody with a GPS? Walk along it and record the track. Mark the joints as waypoints too.

        Comment by Phil Cook — September 12, 2013 @ 10:47 am

      • Pure genius Phil, I have a phone now that has one but can’t use it, is there an ‘App’ and how do you fit it 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 12, 2013 @ 11:31 am

      • I’d forgotten that The Dude has the same phone as me, HTC Wildfire S – the one you can’t use 🙂 They reckon the best free GPS app for it is GPS Essentials.

        Comment by Phil Cook — September 12, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

      • OK Phil, I got that now what do I do with it and how do I get it on my phone 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 13, 2013 @ 8:01 am

      • Get The Dude to show you. 🙂 Hook your phone up to your WiFi (that will save a load on the mobile data tariff) then fire up the Google Play app on the phone and search for GPS Essentials in there, press install and it will put it on the phone.

        The maps it uses (Google and Openstreetmap as far as I can tell) are a bit blank for your part of the world but you can record tracks and plonk waypoints on that blank canvas.

        Comment by Phil Cook — September 13, 2013 @ 8:28 am

      • Paul, the app my son has is Viewranger … he’s got an Android phone and he bought it via the Google play store (not sure what type of phone the Dude’s is, sorry I’m not the techie in the family) … he says you install the app and then you buy “squares” (don’t think the squares match up to Ordnance Survey sheets), he says the cost is “reasonable” and given that he’s a bit of a tight-arse (!!!) it can’t have been too much … once you’ve bought the squares then they’re on your phone and you don’t lose them … and yes once you’ve got the map you can track on it

        hope this all makes sense … if there’s anything else you want to know let me know

        have fun

        Comment by cazinatutu — September 13, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

    • there is an app where you can download Ordnance Survey maps, Paul … it’s not free, you have to pay for the sheets you choose, but it might be useful for you … my son has done it … I can’t remember what it’s called but if you’re interested let me know and I’ll ask him … I believe you can track on it too, he’s recorded walks he’s done

      Comment by cazinatutu — September 13, 2013 @ 11:19 am

      • Now that sounds interesting Caz, tell me more.

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 13, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

  6. listen to the people who have more knowledge than yourself camili an DO NOT chop your cable ,, why do you have to be right all the time ? well in your eyes !!! DONT chop it !! the peeps who have had experience of these things are telling you a message an you aint taking heed ,, Put your efforts into getting into your house an not doin joints ,,, best o luck an take care ORRA BEST, bw

    Comment by brian wells — September 12, 2013 @ 8:20 am

    • Oh yee of little faith Brian 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 12, 2013 @ 9:02 am

  7. oh mate I got plenty o faith in ya but stop making more work fer yersel !!! put your efforts into getting that house o yours in order for the winter ,,, get it sorted matey !! listen to the people !!

    Comment by bw — September 12, 2013 @ 11:02 am

    • So is that you and your ‘strapping lads’ offering to come over and help me drag 500m of cable half a kilometer down a cliff, through a wood, over a stream and then up another cliff Brian 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 12, 2013 @ 11:29 am

      • well we could do it on sunday but alas the ferry wont be running due to the inclement weather which lies ahead mate,, sorry about that but any other day we would be over nae bother ,, just gimme a call a couple o dayss in advance and we’ll get a squad over to give you a hand ,, just make sure you got plenty bangers in your freezer to feed them !!!

        Comment by bw — September 13, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

      • We’re going to have a crack at it Today BW, got the Dude and Lightning to help. I see what you mean about Sunday right enough, wouldn’t fancy being on the hill then, looks like a day in the shed balancing wind turbine blades 🙂

        Thanks, Paul

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 14, 2013 @ 6:25 am

  8. an that tyre on the bike would have been ok till you sat on it !!!

    Comment by bw — September 12, 2013 @ 11:04 am

  9. Hi Paul
    To cut or not to cut? Perhaps you could set up a poll so we could all place a vote. Anyway all the best with it.
    Any chance there will be a Wi Fi hotspot up at Arnish in time for my next visit?
    Kind regards
    Green Van Man

    Comment by Ray Wilshire — September 12, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

    • To cut or not to cut? Perhaps you could set up a poll … omg Ray, do you want to tie Paul up in layers of bureacracy

      Comment by cazinatutu — September 12, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

      • Quite right Caz, I’ve enough bureaucracy in my life thank you 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 13, 2013 @ 8:02 am

    • Morning Ray, there is no ‘cut or not to cut’, I’m just doing it 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 13, 2013 @ 8:01 am

  10. Regarding the quad: Always admired a person who doesn’t shy away from doing their own stunts 🙂

    Comment by Andy — September 12, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

    • It’s never intentional Andy and scares the carp out of me, it’s just inevitable when you have to do stuff on your own in the middle of nowhere 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 13, 2013 @ 8:04 am

      • Just thought you might have been watching the Danny MacAskill clips again 🙂

        Comment by Andy — September 13, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

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