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SOTA on Tour 3


As the gig above finished at 1am this morning, I’ll put this here…

Sunday 27th January 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Woke up at 1130. Went to big Tescos in Congleton to get the shopping for Sunday dinner. Via Bosley Cloud.

Very windy and gusty. It was hard to stand up on the summit never mind write logs in the notebook. 2m FM HT - 4 QSOs.

Thank you to the station that reported the wind noise to me.

M0HGY and I will now be on cooking duties do that dinner is on the table when the Station Manager gets in from work.


Nothing to do with me!


Still a winter wonderland on our local hills in Cheshire. No snow has fallen the past few days, but temperatures have remained mostly subzero to keep the white stuff on the ground. On the popular paths though, it is getting very compacted, icy and slippery - so bring on that thaw in the next few days!

Sunday 3rd February 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Stu Clark & Friends
Venue: The Venue, Lymm

It was the 70cm AFS event on the Sunday morning and my contest group (Tall Trees) was asking for participants in order to have at least one full team of four operators. I had a busy Sunday ahead - including the teatime gig above - and also didn’t fancy sitting out in the snow and subzero temperatures for four hours, knowing that three of them would be mind-numbingly slow!

So I figured I’d just go out and do the first hour - I’d get at least 50% of all the contacts I was ever going to make then anyway! My hands got very cold very quickly when I took my gloves off for setting up, but then warmed up during the setting up process. Then they got cold again when resetting the mast which had collapsed, and wouldn’t warm up again.

So back on with the gloves, which were on and off frequently for the next hour! 23 QSOs were made, all on 70cm SSB. Squares worked were IO74, IO81, 82, 83, 91, 92, 93 and JO02. So a very modest contribution, but sufficient to keep the contest manager (Reg G3TDH) happy.

The descent was tricky in places, which the path down The Cloud resembling (and behaving like) a cresta run. I think the cold got to my brain as well. I was focused on safely negotiating a nasty patch of black ice on the hill down to the A54 (Congleton to Buxton) road. I then heard a strange noise from the roof of my car. I stopped and got out to inspect. And there was my SB270 antenna, set as a 6-element beam for 70cm, loose on the roof of my car. Quite remarkable that I had driven a mile from the parking spot and it was still there.

I took a photo of it, as one does in this Facebook-obsessed age and got back into my car to resume the drive home. I heard the same noise again. I stopped again, got out of the car, took the antenna off the roof and actually put it away this time! Yes, previously, having taken the photo, I actually hadn’t bothered to then put the antenna in the car! What a spoon.

It’s not really one of my gigs tonight, but my good friend and superb fingerstyle guitarist Stu Clark has invited Liam and I to perform a guest spot in his show later. That should be good fun, but first we’re off out for a Chinese Sunday lunch. Yum.


Saturday 23rd February 2019 - Bardon Hill G/CE-004

Gig: Serious Hat Band
Venue: Hill Top Farm, Rutland

Rutland is hardly SOTA country, though the venue was indeed on top of a hill. A little hill, but in these parts, probably a fantastic potential VHF contest location!

The choice for SOTA en route was obvious. Not much to report. A bad traffic jam early in the journey gobbled up most of my slack time, so by the time I was parking up on Dauphine Close, Coalville, I’d resigned myself to 2m handheld only.

It was a pleasant walk up under clear blue sky and warm sunshine as the unseasonably high temperatures persisted.

I operated leaning against the trig point. The summit felt like it was even bigger than previously, with the surrounding quarry seemingly deepening with every visit!

Four QSOs, all 2m FM, then back down and onwards to Oakham. This was a dep gig with a bunch of guys I’d never met before, but a great band and top musicians. Great fun - but after 5am by the time I got home!


Sunday 24th February 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Biscuit Brothers Bandeoke
Venue: Station Bar & Grill, Clitheroe

Easington Fell G/SP-012 might normally be the obvious SOTA to bag en route to this one, but Marianne was cooking roast beef Sunday dinner, to be served at 4pm. I couldn’t miss that! So I nipped out mid-afternoon while she was busy in the kitchen for a rapid activation of the usual.

On another glorious and amazingly mild day, it was no surprise that plenty were out on the hills. There was even a bit of enhancement too, and I received something French on my handheld as I scanned through the 145.350MHz FM frequency.

So, just lolloped against the topograph with my Yaesu FT-70D handheld, I made nine QSOs on 2m FM. This included two S2S - Mike GW7HEM/P on Y Garn GW/NW-004, and Viki MW6BWA/P on Fan Nedd GW/SW-007.

Now on the road to Clitheroe to see what people want to get up and sing with the band. (The kids in this band - the other two are nearly 20 years younger than me - think they’ve invented this ‘Bandeoke’ concept. I haven’t the heart to tell them it’s been going for donkey’s years and used to be called ‘Free and Easy’…!)


As long as Free and Easy doesn’t clash with Quiz Night you’ll be sound.


Tuesday 26th February 2019 - Billinge Hill G/SP-017

Gig: Simon Faulkner Band
Venue: Blackpool Tower Ballroom

I hadn’t anticipated a gig. In fact I’d got up with my alarm at 0630 ad sat by the phone with a mug of coffee and a couple of boiled eggs (with soldiers of course) waiting for the supply teaching agencies to ring. Rather unusually, on this occasion they did not.

My SOTA brain turned to that afternoon and evening. Marianne would be out at work on a late shift, and Liam had afternoon and evening social activities sandwiched around his singing lesson - and would be requiring transport from me. So I was starting to think of what order I would do Gun G/SP-013 and The Cloud G/SP-015 in, and what bands and modes I would deploy.

But just after lunch, the phone did ring. Out of the blue, it was a bandleader needing a bass player at Blackpool Tower Ballroom that evening, soundcheck at 1730. I was on the point of resigning myself to turning it down due to my commitments to Liam - but he (and Marianne) had other ideas, and rather fancied the idea of a run out to Blackpool on a lovely sunny day - and to be fair, neither of them wanted me to pass up a good gig in an iconic venue.

The necessary phone calls were made accepting the booking and sorting out all the other arrangements, and soon Liam and I were on the road. Billinge Hill G/SP-017 was selected as the en route SOTA stop. There was already a car in my usual parking space just off Crank Road, so I pulled my motor tight in at the end of the access road to Beacon Farm. Liam remained in the car, with the mobile rig monitoring 145.400MHz FM, where I anticipated operating.

A brisk walk brought me to a very busy summit, where a chap appeared to be lecturing a large group about local bee colonies. I moved over to the trig point and began calling on 2m FM with the HT.

While motoring along the M55 towards the Fylde coast, I received strong transmissions on 2m FM from Ian GW8OGI/P on Tal y Fan GW/NW-040. It was good to grab a chaser contact and quick natter with him, and good to have Liam in the passenger seat to add the notes to my logbook as I was driving.

Just six minutes operating resulted in seven QSOs - and an actual point, what with this being my first visit to Billinge Hill in 2019. I returned to the car, and Liam reported that he had indeed been able to monitor my entire activation.

Next stop was Blackpool Tower, and Liam kindly loaded all my gear in for me, through security doors, up a goods lift, along corridors and onto the stage in the iconic Tower Ballroom, all while I searched for parking. I first tried the nearby pay-and-display - then I realised that was going to cost me a tenner. I ended up with some back street parking between South Pier and Central Pier - a twenty minute walk away from the venue. Of course, during that twenty minute walk, I did walk past loads of more viable free parking options!

After setting up and soundchecking, we were served a hot meal in our dressing room, but there was then still 90 minutes before we would be on stage. Liam and I walked back up to the car and brought it down to the nearer parking place. I did much much more walking sorting out my parking in the streets of Blackpool than I did earlier going up and down a SOTA hill!


Saturday 10th March 2019 - The Wrekin G/WB-010

Gig: Simon Faulkner Band
Venue: Rowton Castle, Halfway House, nr Shrewsbury

The extended “quiet time” for gigging has extended an extra month due to some March dates being rescheduled to later in the year to allow Joe Longthorne more time to get over a recent illness. The tour should kick in now at the end of the month. So, since the last gig in this thread, I have been mainly supply teaching in local schools, apart from a midweek gig with my son Liam.

I was pleased therefore to get a callback as a dep with the Simon Faulkner Band. When I looked at where the venue was on the map, it was tempting to head out early and bag the “Welshpool 3” of Long Mountain-Beacon Ring GW/MW-026, Moel y Golfa GW/MW-027 and Y Golfa GW/NW-061 (but sadly not Upper Park GW/MW-032…). However, I decided to be sensible, set off at lunchtime and do a straightforward single activation of The Wrekin G/WB-010.

It was very windy as I reached the busy parking spot, so I abandoned any thoughts of playing with my 30m groundplane antenna, and just went for a pack-free walk with my handheld, up to the summit. I was disciplined enough to stick to the main winding track, avoiding the temptation to head directly up the hillside to the back of the “Cafe In The Woods”. This would cut the corner, and is an established route on the ground, but is steep, and would have been very slippery.

I didn’t exactly feel full of energy, so it was a bit of a slog, but rewarded with the excellent views on the final approach to the trig point. Just using the Yaesu FT70D handheld, I made 14 QSOs, fairly quickly, all 2m FM.

Care was needed on the descent, as much of the path was muddy, even on the main track.

The wedding gig was supposed to be 7.30 to 9.45pm, but like most weddding gigs, things were running very late. I was still driving away and on my way home before midnight though, which is still early for most wedding gigs! Nice gig with a very good five-piece band too, and some unfamiliar (to me) tunes, so some sight-reading necessary!

I submitted to tiredness just after Nantwich and pulled into a layby for a snooze. That’s why I always carry a couple of pillows in my car!