…but can there be any such thing?
Anyway, that was the deal. Liam had negotiated another camping holiday to a location of his choice, in return for the excellent walking he did - 36 miles in 5 days - as he accompanied Jimmy M3EYP and myself in completing the G/SB SOTA region a few weeks ago. And Liam chose to go to Essex, a long time favourite campsite at the Strangers Home pub in Bradfield, and close to good beaches at Frinton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze.
We certainly did all the things that Liam favours on a holiday. Piers, arcades, curries etc, but mainly swimming in the sea, which I too thoroughly enjoyed. But could it be entirely SOTA free? No chance!
I had been working out how to configure my FT-817 to work through the node MB7IIP near Ipswich, and my VX-7R to send DTMF command and stored dialler strings. Periodically, I would work Richard G3CWI, which was quite weird on 2m FM, over 200 miles away.
After swimming in the sea at Walton-on-the-Naze on the Saturday, we visited the lightship LV18 (home to RNI, Radio Mi Amigo and Pirate BBC Essex) at the Old Pier in Harwich. Things then turned back towards SOTA as we made a surprise visit to former G Association Manager James M0ZZO. We had a pleasant hour or so chatting, and enjoying tea and scones with James and XYL Margaret.
Yet more SOTA and this official non-SOTA holiday came at 8pm that evening, with the inaugural International SOTA Net, hosted on Richard G3CWI’s node. Most connected in directly via Echolink, but Jimmy and I used some RF on 70cm to connect via MB7IIP.
It was great to hear SOTA stalwarts from all over the UK, plus OE7PHI, CT1DRB, and a most welcome surprise when Jason HL4ZFA (HL Association Manager) called in. That proved to be a very pleasant hour, before a beer watching the band in the pub, and then enduring the typical campsite din until midnight. This site had become far busier - and nosier, in an antisocial sort of way, since our many previous visits over the last 14 years. We won’t be returning.
We packed up and unpitched swiftly on Sunday 14th August 2011. Good progress was made up the A14 after a substantial cooked breakfast at the Strangers Home. Scanning around the 2m band while driving, I soon locked on CQ calls from John 2E0VCO/P on Bardon Hill G/CE-004 - coincidentally the summit were we heading towards!
It was good fun to listen into John’s activation up the M1 to Copt Oak and around into Vercor Close, Coalville, where we parked. Jimmy and Liam tore off ahead while I kitted up and locked up. I didn’t see either until I reached the summit myself. Without Jimmy, and without a map, I had to use distant memory and best guesses on the turnings through the woods, but I managed to get them all right.
I continued listening in to John’s activation as I ascended above the quarry, and called him at one point when we had visual contact. Jimmy was about to arrive on the summit, with Liam not far behind. By the time I arrived, Jimmy was assessing the best spot for his SOTA Beam, while Liam sat right up by the trig point with his 3DS, and the 10 Playcoins amassed during the walk!
It was good to meet with John as he wrapped up his 2m FM operation, and began to reset for 2m SSB. I had intended to activated on 15m CW and thought I had packed the MM15 groundplane vertical antenna. But on erecting the thing on the pole, I remarked to John that the radials looked rather short! Connection to the 817 revealed that this, indeed, was not the MM15, but the MM10!
It wasn’t a big disaster, as there was a small amount of life on 28MHz, and I made seven contacts, into EA, F, G and I. I am almost certain that this represented my first ever SOTA qualification on 10m. Meanwhile, John 2E0VCO/P had moved onto 70cm FM, reaching an impressive 42 QSOs for his activation, and Jimmy was racking up 12 contacts on 2m FM.
Jimmy and Liam set off on their descent, while I waited for John to pack up, so we could descend together and enjoy a good chat. And a most enjoyable chat it was; after the 20 minute descent, the conversation continued for a further 15 minutes on Vercor Close!
Between the woods and Vercor Close, I spotted a mobile 'phone, and some Disney cards on the grass. Back at my car, I tried all of the numbers stored until one answered, and within ten minutes the dad of a very relieved young boy was there to collect.
We returned to the M1, and then took the A50 to Stoke-on-Trent. I was surprised at how near to Stoke I had to be to have decent use of the GB3VT repeater, considering the incredible coverage it enjoys to the west and the south. But SOTA could be back on the agenda again, as I chatted to Richard G3CWI. The SOTA theme (for the non-SOTA holiday) continued back at home with a take-away for the family from the Weston Balti Raj…
73, Tom M1EYP