Burton Bradstock lies about 2½ miles from Bridport, on the B3517 coast road to Weymouth. At the lower end of the Bride Valley and ½ mile inland from abrupt cliffs and beach which form part of the spectacular Dorset coastline around Lyme Bay, the village is surrounded by arable farmland and holiday caravan and camping parks. The village has about 450 houses and just over 1000 inhabitants, many of whom are retired.
There are a number of active and well supported organisations central to community life in the village; St Mary's church, a VC primary school with about 115 pupils on its roll, the Village Society, Women's Institute, Play Group, Youth Club, British Legion and various other leisure/sports activity clubs. The Burton Bradstock Players present both a pantomime and a play each year and in the summer there is a three-day classical music festival. Two pubs provide excellent restaurant meals and there is a well-stocked village shop, a separate post-office and shop, a hotel, a garage and a library.
The community's use of Information Technology is centered on the Burton Bradstock Village Web Site Committee, a group which was formed in May 1999 at the behest of the Parish Council to create a village web site as a Millennium project. The Parish Council provided £300 as start-up funding and continues to sponsor these activities though they are now self-sufficient. The objectives of the 11-member committee, which includes representation from all the key organisations in the village and meets about every six weeks, were and remain twofold;
Privately owned. It is estimated that approximately 200 households in the village have a computer and that some 75% of these are connected to the Internet.
Aims of site. This is best summarised by quoting from the site home
"Welcome to the Burton Bradstock Village web site. This site is a village effort to put together all that is important to the people who live, work and spend their leisure in the village. It has been arranged to be of interest to visitors to the area as well as local people."
It is intended that the site should be comprehensive in covering the past, present and future. It should benefit villagers, be educative, be an archive of village history, be a complete record of past, present and future events, promote the village, its organisations and activities and should share and link with other villages and organisations.
Site navigation. The primary method of navigation around the site is by using the following side bar headings:-
Sport and Leisure
In addition further sub-headings appear on these main pages. "What's New" links directly to all new material, allowing regular users to keep in touch with up-dates and changes. The site search engine allows all 970 pages to be accessed directly. The site has been set up to be reasonably accessible to users with visual handicaps and early versions of browsers.
Site promotion and Publicity. The site is advertised routinely in the free Bride Valley News, the parish magazine of the Bride Valley Team Ministry; with regular articles about the site. Articles have also appeared from time to time in the local area press; the Bridport News, Dorset Echo and Western Gazette. On 12th October 2001 the Daily Mirror ran a full page feature article on IT in Burton Bradstock, particularly covering the computer award from BT and the web site. Members of the committee have been interviewed for BBC Radio Solent.
Statistics for the site suggest the current audience is about 300 accesses per day with a running total of approximately 180,000 hits since the site first went online in 1999. Apart from the UK, eighty five countries are listed in the domains from which the site has been visited.
Site Design. The site has been designed to be as simple as possible. This has benefits for users who can load pages quickly, as well as page designers who can produce work for the site with only basic HTML and graphics skills. These skills have been developed in basic training courses on web page design, organised by the committee and given by local IT training providers, for those in the village (and some outsiders) interested in being able to compile pages ready for insertion. Nevertheless it is a multi-media site with audio and video clips, including film from the Imperial War Museum. The overall content of the site and its architecture are decided by the committee but day-by-day control of insertions and changes is done by the web master, who is also chairman of the committee. West Dorset Internet hosts the site.
Village Involvement. With representation of the major village organisations on the committee, members encourage the organisations to provide regular reports of activities etc and individuals to feed in information and articles suitable for inclusion on the site. There have been substantial contributions from villagers, local experts and even from as far away as Australia. Open Meetings are organised on at least an annual basis to give villagers a chance to see how the site is developing and feed in their ideas. Attendance at such meetings has risen from a sparse few initially to about 70 at the most recent. Customer feedback is constantly being sought in this and other ways to see if people's needs are being met as set out in the objectives.
Special Features. Each month, the Bride Valley News is published in
full on the site.
There is a key link to the village school site, www.burtonbradstock.dorset.sch.uk, which is very active and one, which has been selected many times as the Dorset County Council School Site of the Month.
Site Funding. The modest payments by local businesses (pubs, shops, tourist accommodation, caravan and camping parks, professional services, etc) for advertisements provide the funds to sustain the operation of the site and associated activities and the acquisition of hardware and software such as the mini-disc recorder and the Dreamweaver web page design package. Most of the work on the site is done on a voluntary basis so the funding requirements are small.
Formal Courses. In October 2001 the committee arranged for a questionnaire to be sent to every household in the local area to determine if there was a demand for computer training. 90 people replied saying they would welcome this in the village, particularly if it were to provide introductory training to computers and in more advanced skills on word processing, spread sheets, internet use and e-mails. Working with Weymouth College and other local IT training providers, the committee is providing such courses:-
Twelve is about the maximum number that can be accommodated on the courses. Feed back from the initial courses has been very positive.
Informal Instruction. As explained above, informal instruction is available on a one-to- one basis twice weekly in the meeting room in one hour sessions, when with prior booking individuals can be helped by a member of the committee to explore computer use and acquire skills.
The web site has been beneficial in many ways; by
E-mail is now a key means of communication around the village and all web site committee communication is in this form. Other village committees work in the same way. It also plays a vital part in the monthly preparation of the Bride Valley News, allowing last minute inputs to a magazine which reflects the totality of life in the Bride Valley and not just church affairs. Most of the administration such as for promotional material, programmes, ticketing etc., for the various shows, concerts, plays and pantomime put on in the village is achieved using in-house IT resources.
Overall the committee is satisfied that its objectives are being met. The web
site and facilities for computer use and training have heightened awareness
of the values of IT and its use in Burton Bradstock is expanding.