The spontaneous disruption of a quiet Sunday afternoon occurred on the 3rd day of June 2007, but what followed had begun much earlier.
No one could have guessed in the latter days of May that the antics of a few SOTA summiteers were being watched from afar, but as Mike GW0DSP discovered ‘they’ know who we are and why we are doing what we do.
For some reason when I drew up a list of my local summits I missed the fact that Raw Head SP-016 was so close and it was only when my partner in crime Mike GW0DSP got sent a list of easy to activate summits that I looked at the map and realised just how close to my QTH it was. I suggested a few weeks back that Helen GW7AAU, the kids and I should go and activate the summit, take loads of photos and report back to Mike as to whether we thought it was as easy as the ‘real activators’ said it was (it is).
Best laid plans of mice (‘what the hell have men got to do with it?’) and all that; it was throwing it down on the day we originally planned to do it and Mike got in first.
Mike’s activation was somewhat interesting and involved the men in black, armed police and black helicopters. Only a hint of what really went on was included in his activation report due to the official secrets act. He could tell us but then he would have to…you know the script! Our activation was fortunately not so exciting.
On Saturday evening Helen and I made some tentative plans to tackle Raw Head. We bought some bottles of coke and some sausage rolls, programmed the parking spot into TomTom and the waypoints plus some Geocashes into the GPS, put the handhelds and the SLA battery on charge. I got up Sunday and took my time with breakfast and a couple of cups of coffee. I had worked Terry G0VWP on TW-004 (5mHz) and was just getting into conversation with Myke G6DDQ (144-FM) who was out portable somewhere when Helen told me that both she and the kids were ready to go. A mad dash ensued as I dressed and threw all the kit into the rucksack. Some things were bound to be missed and they were.
The journey to Raw Head was uneventful and the only delay was caused because we are becoming too reliant on TomTom; which took us through the town centre and 10 sets of lights instead of going a couple of hundred yards further and missing them completely. We parked in the parking spot at the end of Coppermine Lane and followed the Sandstone trail to the summit. The path is very straightforward and the only place you might go wrong is a fork in the path, which to the left is the driveway of a farm, and the right is the Sandstone trail. The sign here is quite easy to miss if you are as blind as a bat and need new glasses (that would be me then!). Fortunately I had three other sets of eyes with me so we never went wrong (honest!).
For such an easy walk the views from various points on the trail are more than worth it. I say various points because there are a lot of trees that obscure the view most of the time, but there are some good vantage points that look out across the Cheshire plain. With a good pair of binoculars you could probably see my co-linear somewhere left and above the new Dee Bridge. With a reasonably sized telescope you could probably look a bit further up the hill and see the back of Mike GW0DSP’s head as he sits in the shack. With the naked eye you can see such delights as the Steelworks at Shotton, Connah’s Quay Power Station and further to the right the towering columns at Shell Stanlow. Fortunately there is some beautiful countryside as well.
When we arrived at the summit there was a large party of individuals sat around the trig involved in some kind of strange ritual, which involved either human sacrifice or lunch, I am not sure which. Resisting the urge to set the kids onto them we withdrew to a safe distance and checked our weapons against evil, Helen was wearing silver and I had eaten garlic last night. I set the ring tone on my cellphone to ‘All things bright and beautiful’ and waited. They looked like we had scared them off and were packing to leave. I had been in contact with Mike GW0DSP en route both in the car and on foot so I gave him a call to let him know we were on the summit. Both Helen and I worked Mike and Arthur GW1LDY so the summit was half qualified on the rubber duck before we set up.
Once the crowd had moved on we set up the HF antenna by cable tying the end of the SOTA pole to a convenient sign and stringing the ends of the dipole to trees well above the pathway. Helen set up two metres from the trig so fortunately the only other muggles to come calling were as we were packing up.
I had my mike in hand ready to call on 5.3985 (FE) when a call from Mike sent me back over to Helen and a nice summit to summit on two FM with Simon M1AVV on Great Shunner Fell NP-006. Back to 5mHz and Rob G4RQJ had started up on FE so I worked him for a 2nd S2S on Gummers Howe LD-050 before being called back to work Tony G1JCW on Fair Snape Fell SP-007. Once Rob had finished I took over on FE and worked a number of the usual suspects and one or two others including yet another S2S this time with Carl G0TQM on SE-012 Brightstone Down. Calls on 40m on both 7.068 and 7.115 unfortunately brought no response. While Helen and I played radio the girls searched for a Geocashe which Helen found later and ate lunch.
It was all over rather sooner than we expected so Helen suggested we head over to the Gun SP-013 and maybe do the Cloud SP-015 on the way home. Back at the car we dumped the rucksacks and set in search of some other Geocashes further down the Sandstone Trail. We found one but as there were too many muggles about we left the second one and headed back to the car. It was then we realised what had been forgotten, the maps! We had TomTom and two Garmin GPSs but without a map for the references they were almost useless. A quick call to Mike reminded us that Cloud was also called Bosley Cloud so we headed for Bosley knowing when we got to the Cloud we could find our way to the Gun. We just had to hope that the Bosley that TomTom was taking to was the same one we wanted to go to. It was and as we approached the area we started to recognise where we were and found our way to the Gun without going via Cloud.
This time there were very few muggles about and certainly no strange ceremonies about the trig point, which we could see from the parking spot. In no time at all we were at the summit. Once again Helen set up at the trig and I cable tied the SOTA pole to a convenient hawthorn bush with the ends of the dipole held in place by a small rock and a sapling.
On 5mHz I seemed to be getting a better response than on the previous summit but conditions were still not brilliant but I did get another S2S this time with Terry G0VWP who I had worked from home nearly eight hours earlier still on Bishops Wilton Wold TW-004. During one contact I received information that Peter ON3WAB had a good signal from me on 5mHz and wanted to know if I was doing 40m so when calls dried up I QSYed to 7.068 and managed an easy contact with him.
It was nice to be able to give Fritz DL4FDM a point back too. Several other stations were calling but were to weak to work and my reply to F5NEPs call went un-answered. After several minutes calling and getting nothing I went to see how Helen was getting on, she had managed to work Stewart GW0LGS for another S2S on SW-016 Ysgyryd Fawr and as I stood there Steve M0SGB called from SP-012 Easington Fell so we both worked Steve on 2m FM.
I gave 5mHz another go and managed to work Keith G8HXE who we had heard on S20 on the way out in the morning from SP-001 Kinder Scout. He had been unworkable due to the banking on the roadsides and yet had been very strong on the calling frequency I was amazed to hear that he had been having trouble getting contacts. This was quickly followed by contacts with Robin GM7PKT and Dave G6LKB it was nice to be able to give some points back to those two stations. Finally Steve M0SGB called me for a 5mHz S2S and I left him with the frequency.
It was now 17:00 UST, the sky had been darkening since we arrived and I had heard that it was raining back home. That coupled with the fact that Tom M1EYP was alerted for the Cloud later on we decided to head for home and a chippy supper rather than do SP-015. It would have been a quick splash and dash anyway. Hopefully we will do it along with Shining Tor SP-004 a week on Sunday (WX permiting).
Packing up didn’t take long and we were soon on the road heading home via an interesting route that included Birmingham, if the chat on Skype was anything to go by. Mike GW0DSP managed, once again, to keep in touch for 98% of the journey and the banter from various other stations made the time fly by. We were soon out from under the black skies and pouring rain of Cheshire and under the majestic Jet skies and silver rain of Flintshire. Arriving home I realised that we had forgotten to cancel the milk and papers, but that was okay because we had not remembered to restarted them since the outbreak of HJD in about 1964 which following so close on the heels of the BLH epidemic put us completely off both reading newspapers and drinking milk from bottles with aluminium foil caps.
A total of 55 stations worked. Thanks to all those who worked us, all those who listened for us and a special thanks to the selectively deaf, who left us alone, mostly.
Photographs will be on Flicker shortly.
Regards Steve GW7AAV & Helen GW7AAU