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SOTA on Tour part 2 - The Sequel


Saturday 10th November 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Marina Hotel, Benidorm

I woke up at 0517 UTC, so had plenty of time before setting off for the airport. Early Saturday morning activations can be fruitfulness for DX, so I got up to do a local activation.

Dawn had just broken as I arrived at the parking spot, so the headtorch was not necessary. What was necessary was shelter, with a strong southerly wind blasting across the summit. It wasn’t at the level of recent storms but I nonetheless wanted to protect the SOTA pole from its force, and my body from its windchill.

I set up on the grassy ledge below the cliffs on the north face, and this was fine. On the 20m band, it was pretty slow going, with just a few QSOs on CW, a handful on FT8, and a couple of S2S (into Poland and Greece) on SSB. The continent challenge wasn’t going to happen today with just Europe, Asia and Africa finding my logbook. Signals were received from Brazil and New Zealand, but nothing noted from North America or Antarctica.

I did add some new countries to my FT8 total though, which I think now stands at 58. More pleasing was when I was catching up with some SOTA Database logging the past couple of days and wondering why NL7N threw up an unusual and unanticipated DXCC number - it was Alaska! My first ever QSO with Alaska and I didn’t even notice it at the time!

There were activations in JA and VK in progress at the same time as mine, but unfortunately, I couldn’t hear them.

I will now have to be a good boy and ignore the EA5 summit that is in Benidorm itself as M0HGY is at home - not that I would have time anyway, and I’ve left all the radio gear at home.

73s for now and enjoy the British weather. I’m off for a little warm up while at work!


Wednesday 14th November 2018 - no activation

Gig: Liam Read (Open Mic)
Venue: Swan With 2 Necks, Macclesfield

I should have done an activation with it being a gig day, but I got a call to do a day’s supply teaching in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Even so, I should, and the initial intention was, to activate The Cloud G/SP-015 on the way home, but in a rare episode of apathy, I couldn’t be bothered.

Thursday 15th November 2018 - no activation

Gig: The Sound of Music (bandcall)
Venue: Brookdale Theatre, Bramhall, Stockport

I was determined not to suffer a second day of indifference to SOTA activating, so decided I would activate The Cloud G/SP-015 after finishing my music arranging work for the day, but before heading out to the gig (bandcall). I needed to scan in and load all the Sound of Music scores on my iPad as I wanted to be able to handle pageturns with my Bluetooth pedal, rather than missing a note or two. I then had to knock out a new band arrangement of “Hurt” that Joe wanted to perform at weekend, before transcribing a bass part for a North American customer.

After that lot, I could have done the activation, but it would have meant rushing about and keeping an eye on the clock. So for the second day running, I didn’t bother. This was turning into a crisis.

Friday 16th November 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Sheldon Ivy Leaf, Birmingham

Determined not to make it three days of apathy in a row, I set off in plenty of time for the gig and made straight for Bosley. I only walked up with the handheld, but had a great activation that included S2S with Phil GW4HQB/P on Snowdon GW/NW-001, and Matt GW8XYJ/P on Ysgyryd Fawr GW/SW-016.

The Skirrid was a nice contact from Cheshire just using a handheld. Matt and I repeated the exchange after moving to C4FM (Yaesu System Fusion) mode.

The gig venue was “a bit of a change” from Glasgow Pavilion a couple of weeks earlier!

After the gig in the Midlands, I drove down to Malvern Link where I had digs booked for the night.

Saturday 17th November 2018 - Worcestershire Beacon G/WB-009, Bredon Hill G/CE-003 & Cleeve Hill G/CE-001

No gig - day off

Staying in the Malverns, the first priority for Saturday had to be Worcestershire Beacon. Problem was I’d slept in until 11am, the bed was so comfy! This is not good for a multi-summit day in the back end of November when the days are short.

I was not prepared for the hit I was about to suffer at the car park on Beacon Road, before the start of my walk. £4.20 to park. £4.20!!! I’d opted for the longer easy approach rather than the short steep option, but I certainly paid for it!

Again, I’d only carried the handheld, confident it would be all I’d need. Sure enough I collected a good number of QSOs, and I couldn’t believe my ears when a GJ7 called in. The station from near Les Platons (GJ/JE-001) on Jersey was 59 with me, and gave me 52/53. Nice bit of tropo!

Unfortunately the satnav was in for repair and I was back to the old days of using Google Maps on my phone. It took a bit of getting used to again, but ultimately, it successfully delivered me to the top of the lane out of Kemerton, and the parking spots on the shoulder of Bredon Hill G/CE-003.

The walk up through a small wood and several fields with a very gentle gradient, was very pleasant, and I had forgotten just how spectacular the Iron Age Hill fort up there was.

The 2m handheld again was sufficient for an easy and rapid qualification on 2m FM, with Stu G0LGS and Matt 2E0MDJ both worked again in Fusion mode.

As I descended, I realised that the price of my lie-in that morning, would be that I’d only have time left for one more activation that day. I reset the Google Nav for Cleeve Common and set off.

Little did it, or I, know that the existence of a race meetings at Cheltenham would cause the complete closure of an A road, so it could be entirely devoted to punters leaving the racecourse. I was far from gruntled. I did manage to find a way round and up onto Cleeve Hill G/CE-001. Parking was at a premium up there, but fortunately someone was just leaving as I arrived.

The walk to the trig point is trivial on this one - just a few hundred yards along a flat field. For the third time in the day, the summit was qualified on 2m FM with the handheld.

My issue now was getting accommodation for the night. Nigh on impossible around Cheltenham on a race day it would seem. I messaged my sister-in-law in Chandlers Ford who I’d already arranged to stay with after Sunday’s gig in Portsmouth, to see if I come come a night early. This was fine, so I had a bit more driving to do. It worked out well though, as I enjoyed a very pleasant evening catching up with Charmaine and Rob over a couple of beers and a bit of supper.


Sunday 18th November - Black Down G/SE-003 & Butser Hill G/SE-004

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth

I set out from my sister-in-law’s place in Chandlers Ford at 10am and drove along the A31 towards Haslemere. My target was Black Down, a summit I had only ever activated once before.

A cul-de-sac road became a dirt track as I pulled into the upper of two car parks. It was extremely busy, but there was one space left.

I set off along the path recalling it to be a very short and pretty much level walk. Well it was a little bit longer than I remembered, but nonetheless quick and easy.

I used the hole in the trig point to support my mast, deciding to set up 20m with no replies on the 2m handheld. 12 QSOs were made on CW on a glorious mild and sunny November morning - most unNovemberlike.

I still had plenty of time to get to soundcheck at the theatre in Portsmouth. Joe had been making a habit during the show of asking me what hill I’d been up that day. After me telling him, he’d been turning to the audience and asking if they’d heard of it. With most fairly obscure hills I’d done, usually they hadn’t, leading to the other band members saying “Can’t you just say Ben Nevin or something?” So with a bit of time to spare, and despite already activating it this year, I made for Butser Hill, which I anticipated would be reasonably known to a Portsmouth audience!

It was a trivial task - just drive up the long lanes to the summit car park in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, purchase a £2 pay-and-display ticket, and walk a quarter of a mile to the trig point.

I just carried the handheld to the summit. 2m FM down south is much less of a certainty than up north, but this being a repeat activation in 2018, no points were on offer anyway.

I managed to make three QSOS before resuming my commute. It was a nice show in Portsmouth and Joe did indeed ask me about the day’s hill during it! And, this time, the audience positively recognised the hill that had been mentioned!

As Liam says on his radio show (tonight - Monday - after 10pm on Canalside Radio 102.8FM, and online streaming http://canalsideradio.net/player/index.htm if you’re interested) - “Stay tuned for more!”…


Monday 19th November 2018 - Walbury Hill G/SE-001

Gig: The Sound of Music
Venue: Brookdale Theatre, Bramhall, Stockport

For the second day running, I started out from Chandlers Ford in Hampshire, where Marianne’s sister Charmaine had been kindly putting me up either side of the Portsmouth gig.

I set the Google Nav for Walbury Hill, and this deposited me at the opposite end of the byway from the previous usual start point. It was still a short easy walk though, and access to the trig point was simple.

It was significantly colder than the previous two days, exacerbated by the strong wind. It then started to rain and my thoughts turned to the chances of success with a 2m FM handheld activation.

This worked out OK. It wasn’t like the busy VHF north, but I got four contacts within 15 minutes and no stress. A fifth was added using C4FM Fusion before I took the short walk back to the car.

The drive home was very sluggish between Warwick and Sandbach, and I only just had time for a cup of tea at home, before heading out on the next gig.


The 2nd and 3rd night of the production of The Sound of Music followed, but the SOTA activations did not. I found myself too busy writing band arrangements and bass transcriptions, and doing the production work on Liam’s weekly radio show. Both days I’d intended doing a local activation, but both days, by the time I was clear of tasks, it had already gone dark.

Thursday 22nd November 2018 - Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: The Sound of Music
Venue: Brookdale Theatre, Bramhall, Stockport

I was determined not to allow a third consecutive day of lethargy, so despite the to-do list lengthening once again, I chose to ignore it and get out of the house. Liam joined me for some fresh air, and to pop into the studios at Canalside Radio in Bollington.

Thankfully, there were no puddles, bogs or streams on the footpath up to Gun summit, and our feet remained dry. Five QSOs were made on 2m FM with the Yaesu FT70D handheld.

Forty minutes later, we were on Cloud summit. Again, five QSOs were made, all 2m FM.


Saturday 24th November 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013

Gig: The Sound of Music
Venue: Brookdale Theatre, Bramhall, Stockport

The Friday was another gig day where I failed to find time for any SOTA. Saturday would be challenging too, as I had two shows - a matinee and an evening performance - so I got myself up and out!

It was very quiet on The Cloud with just two stations - 2E0IXM and 2E0LKC - answering my CQ SOTA calls on 2m FM.

Over on Gun, it was a total contrast. with seven stations going into the log, actually sounding like a pile-up at one point!


Monday 26th November 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013

Off-topic alert - I didn’t have a gig

No, I was dropping Liam off in town at 7.30pm, and picking him up again at 9.30pm. I couldn’t be mithered going home for an hour and a bit in between - and choose to do two SOTA activations instead.

It was a crisp, cold and clear night, and good fun to be walking on the hills under moonlight and starlight. On both hills I made five 2m FM QSOs. On both hills, four of them were 2E0LMD, 2E0LKC, 2W0JYN & MW0XAD.

After picking Liam up, it was straight home to tune in to his weekly show on local FM radio.

Back on the road tomorrow - off down to the Smoke, and then back up the road to Hull, Mexborough and Bury. All activations expected to be pointless…


Tuesday 27th November 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Leicester Square Theatre, London

So, no realistic way of getting a vehicle to the venue - not without suffering London traffic, Congestion charge, and astronomical parking tariffs. Hence it would be necessary to meet the sound crew at 11am at Warwick Services M60 and transfer some gear into the truck. A SOTA option to fit in with all this? A repeat of Wendover Woods G/CE-005 was considered, but I decided to play it safe and do an early one on The Cloud at the start of my journey.

Just one QSO from the summit - Arthur G0OHY on 2m FM. There was a net in progress on 145.525MHz, but I decided not to interrupt their triumphant reflections on the EU referendum result.

I chose instead to get on the road to my least favourite city - London - but at least my favourite part of it - the West End / Chinatown. Well, the “road” all the way to there was not viable, due to parking and congestion charging, so we got as far as the cheap digs we had booked in Archway, then tubed it from there for the show.

I posted the above photo to Facebook, with the caption “I win”, which triggered posts from my XYL complaining “I don’t get it!” Of course, most UK radio amateurs will probably get it!

More uninspiring SOTA stories no doubt, from my commute from London to Hull tomorrow.


Wednesday 28th November 2018 - Bardon Hill G/CE-004

Gig: Liam Read Band
Venue: Swan With Two Necks, Macclesfield

So we checked out of our digs in Archway, North London, and set off up the A1 in search of a suitable greasy spoon. We stumbled across Busby;s Cafe on Apex Corner and went in there for a big fried breakfast. Very nice it was too.

Shortly after, we got a call saying that Joe was not so well that morning and the Hull gig would have to be rescheduled. Then followed instructions to meet the sound crew at Leicester Forest East services on the M1 in order to get our gear back out of the truck. I would have probably activated Normanby Top G/TW-005 en route to the theatre in Hull, but now I was very close to Coalville and about to head home. Bardon Hill G/CE-004 it had to be.

Instead of the usual Vercor Close, this time I parked on Dauphine Close, which links onto the same path. I grabbed my Petzl headtorch as it would be dark by the time I would be descending. The walk up the hill was mainly easy, and completed in around 20 minutes. I did slip on a greasy patch on the final climb though, and ended up with the knees of my trousers caked in mud!

At the summit, six QSOs were made on 2m FM using the Yaesu handheld transceiver. This was a repeat activation in 2018 for me, so no points available, but t was a (largely) enjoyable walk nonetheless.

Being unexpectedly at home meant that Liam and I could go to the local open mic night and cobble a band together for a short set of Radiohead, Jamiroquai and Joy Division.


Friday 30th November 2018 - Shining Tor G/SP-004

Gig: Ragdolls
Venue: Pastures Lodge, Mexborough

A clear, bright and sunny lunchtime, but with a bitter windchill. It was an enjoyable walk - once the padded gloves were deployed - and several other walkers were on the hill.

Only really time for a quick 2m handheld activation, not that I would have wanted to set up any antenna on a SOTA Pole in that wind anyway.

Six contacts made, five on FM and one on C4FM. Nice to get G3CWI from his motorhome in Taddington, a village that I would coincidentally drive through later on the way to work.

Driving from one side of Chesterfield to the other was tedious and time-consuming, so it was a good job I didn’t hang around on the summit.

Now for an evening of the music of Jersey Boys / Frankie Valli & Four Seasons.


HI Tom

Just catching up on the Tour - The Sound of Music - what a change from playing for Joe Longthorne. Did you need to dress up in appropriate Sound of Music clothing for this gig? Looking at your selfies I think a nun’s wimple would suit you and it would also help you cope with the wind on the summits…


73 Phil


Am I the only person reading these reports Tom - Jimmy must have given up - he would have spotted your mistake. As you know Bardon is G/CE-004 not TW-004. The hours on the road are showing… Unless you actually meant Bishop Wilton Wold and the name was wrong and not the reference, I doubt it as BWW is a long way from Coalville…

PS I noticed you had the correct reference in the heading G/CE-004.

73 Phil


I have been reading these posts Phil, but didn’t notice the SOTA reference error above. My dad Tom M1EYP was on Bardon Hill G/CE-004. I am surprised that my dad made this error as he is always telling me to correct errors I make and always tells me to proof read what I write.

Jimmy M0HGY


Yes, it is extremely rare for dad Tom to make a mistake on the reflector… Unlike me, I make them all the time and made a monumental one yesterday which thankfully was soon corrected.

73 Phil


Corrected - thanks.

It might initially appear that you’re the only one reading the Tour reports Phil, but plenty more are lurking. Notice that the G AM sprung into life when he was mentioned. Notice also that the SOTABEAMS chap put a ‘like’ onto a post that was at my expense.

Further digging finds lots of discussion and comments about this thread on a certain Facebook group. So no, you’re not alone, you’re in good company.

Joe Longthorne to The Sound of Music was a bit of a leap I guess. A bigger one is to Frankie Valli tonight, and then Motown and Atlantic Soul tomorrow night. Then Bowie and Radiohead on Sunday night with my other son Liam.

At that point we’ll have gone full circle as the next gig is Joe again - who does an impersonation of David Bowie in his show!

We were in the orchestra pit, not on stage, for The Sound of Music, so it was boring old “theatre blacks” that were worn. I’ll bear in mind your wardrobe recommendation for the future though.

Just need to decide which summits to do before each gig. Probably repeats of the local ones again TBH.


Saturday 1st December 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Matt Philips
Venue: Bury Town Hall

Local gig, local summit. Well the most local ones to Bury are Winter Hill G/SP-010 and Hail Storm Hill G/SP-009, but I’d already got the activator points for those in 2018, so I went for a summit local to home, rather than one local to the gig!

Only time for a quick 2m handheld / rubber duck activation, but it started well with S2S with Jordan MW3TMX/P on Mynydd y Cwm GW/NW-076. Jordan was completing the “Five Clwydians in a Day with Winter Bonus Points” for the first time. This is an iconic SOTA outing, a great day’s walking and 13 activator points up for grabs in bonus season. It’s a bit like the “Shropshire” Five and the Ponderosa Pair - they are “must-do” outings for any self-respecting SOTA activator over the winter season.

My other four QSOs were all with Intermediate licencees, who seem to be, significantly, the most common species on VHF these days.

Tea was a chicken jalfrezi at the Wetherspoons in Bury, and the gig was 90 minutes of Atlantic soul and Motown.


Sunday 2nd December 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

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

I got home from the Matt Philips gig around 1am on the Sunday morning. The big Wilder-Fury heavyweight fight was expected to start around 5am. In a moment of inspiration, I phoned my mate Steve who lives across the estate from me. We agreed to buy in the Pay-Per-View event, have three hours sleep, then meet over at his around 4.30am.

After the fight, which was one of the best big heavyweight fights I had ever seen, and well worth getting up for, I was wide awake and not ready to go back to bed. Guess what? I drove down to The Cloud for a SOTA activation.

I set up the 20m GP, hoping for some Oceania DX. It might have been a bit early for that around 0730 UTC, but John ZL1BYZ came through for my second contact. It is always highly satisfying to get a ZL in the log, even though in reality it will have been John’s station and antennas doing the bulk of the work! Next up was a S2S with OK/SP9MA/P on OK/JC-121.

Despite the promising start though, just six QSOs were made on 20m - two on SSB and four on CW. Three were added on 2m FM, but I was now getting really tired, and ready to go home for my second helping of sleep.

I awoke again in early afternoon, and went almost straight out, and over to the little Cheshire village of Lymm. We first had a nice meal at the Grill on the Cross Turkish restaurant, before going over to The Venue. This wasn’t really one of my gigs, but one of a friend and amazing fingerstyle guitarist Stu Clark. It was a “Stu Clark & Friends” night, and on this occasion, two of those friends were Liam and myself.


Tuesday 4th December - Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015

No gig - day off :slight_smile:

I would normally have held off activating The Cloud until evening, and use it as my site for the FM and SSB 2m contests. However, I had other family (taxiing) commitments that wouldn’t really accommodate full participation - plus it was cold, and I wasn’t in the mood!

I went up Gun about 2.30pm, and the water was starting to make an appeareance on the lower sections of the path. It had been unusually and pleasingly dry for an extended period. Just three QSOs were made on the 2m FM handheld at the trig point.

There was a reasonable inversion in place with low cloud filling the valleys, and giving the spectacle of peaks like The Roaches, Merryton Low, Shutlingslow, The Cloud and Mow Cop poking through the white blanket.

As I got back to the car, I made the decision to do Cloud as well, there and then, rather than save it for the FMAC and UKAC later that evening. Somehow, I had left my headtorch at home, so I needed to get a move on with only 20 minutes of daylight remaining.

This time I made eight QSOs on 2m FM, starting with S2S with Nick G4OOE/P and Dave G3TQQ/P who were on Sharp Haw G/NP-029. I also added a ninth QSO with one on C4FM Fusion mode. The low cloud was still around, but it was moving and thinning, so not as spectacular as from Gun an hour earlier.

I still managed to take part in the 2m FMAC, but operating from my car on Merryton Low IO93ad. It was good to catch Simon G7WKX/P on Shining Tor G/SP-004, and I felt slightly guilty I was not providing for a S2S contact! Shortly after 8pm though, it was time to go and pick Liam up from Macc town centre.

Wednesday 5th December 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Elma’s Restaurant, Lymm

From the 1500 sell-out at Glasgow Pavilion just a few weeks ago, tonight’s gig will be slightly more low key, with an audience of about 40 - though still a sell-out! I get paid the same though, and tonight I’ll get free (very good) pizza too!

I was awake at 6am, and fancied an early SOTA activation. 20m, with datamodes and legacy modes was in my mind, and the possibility of some DX. That was until I stepped out of the house into very heavy rain.

I checked the forecast on the Met Office site, and found that this misery was set to last until well after I would need to go to work. I was on the point of abandoning and going back in the house - but the compulsion to conduct a SOTA activation on a tour gig day was too strong.

So The Cloud it was, a damp, cold, dark and windy experience exactly as anticipated. I managed to make three QSOs on 2m FM. There were nets on S21 and S23, but otherwise hardly any activity at all. Mind you, it was before 0800.

I toyed with the idea of going across to Gun, but then remembered the reappearance of water on the path the previous day, and imagined the flood it would have turned into in the current heavy rain. So I went back home for a mug of coffee and a plate of cheese on toast. As you do.


What no phizog from yesterday Tom…? Your slipping. The pictures of the inversion are not up to BBC Yorkshire Weather standards unfortunately, but all the same its nice to see an inversion from the comfort of my shack! Plenty of activity yesterday - I was fortunate to also work G4OOE and G3TQQ on Cracoe and Sharp. Nice timing for you arriving on the Cloud to catch them - your advanced spot helped - I know they stayed a while longer and were feeling the cold.

73 Phil


I had to look up what on earth a ‘phizog’ was Phil!

You want phizogs from yesterday? Well, OK, here’s a selection, but they very much stretch the “on-topic” thing to the boundaries of “SOTA on Tour” - though I’ve got a bit of “form” for doing that.

Maybe it should be “SOOTY on Tour”…?