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SOTA on tour


#1

…quite literally.

These past five days I have had four tour dates, playing bass for the vocalist and entertainer Joe Longthorne. These were:

Wednesday 6th December - York
Thursday 7th December - Glasgow
Saturday 9th December - Isle of Sheppey
Sunday 10th December - London West End

Wanting to continue my existing run of doing (at least) one SOTA activation every day, I did the following:

Wednesday - Sharp Haw G/NP-029 and Rombalds Moor G/NP-028
Thursday - Little Mell Fell G/LD-037
Friday - The Cloud G/SP-015
Saturday - Wendover Woods G/CE-005
Sunday - Detling Hill G/SE-013
Monday - Bardon Hill G/CE-004

The activation reports for Little Mell Fell, The Cloud and Wendover Woods have been posted elsewhere on the reflector, but I will go back to them and add some photos.

On Wednesday 6th December 2017, I set off in good time for my gig in York. Sharp Haw G/NP-029 and Rombalds Moor G/NP-028 had both been activated by me already in 2017 - but both failed in terms of getting the 4 contacts.

It seemed I was going to suffer the same fate when I was trying to set up on Sharp Haw. My 20m GP antenna had broken - again - and I didn’t have the necessary small screwdriver with me to fix it - again! I therefore set about setting up the 40m dipole which (fortunately) I had also carried to the summit. However, while setting this up, a section of my pole broke in half. I was still able to get the aerial up, but at barely over half the intended height.

I managed to get two QSOs - ON4FI and IK2LEY on 40m CW - but I was then struggling. Then a stroke of luck - I called CQ on 2m FM with the handheld - and got Phil G4OOE and Dave G3TQQ - who were kitting up at the parking spot for Sharp Haw! Phew!

Obviously, we passed each other on my descent / their ascent, and Nick kindly let me borrow his screwdriver so I could quickly repair my 20m antenna. I really need to stick one of those into the pack!

En route to my next summit, I heard Nick calling on S20, so pulled into the Craven Heifer car park to chase them both.

Nick and Dave were first into the log, S2S, when I called on 2m FM from Rombalds Moor G/NP-028.

I was now a bit pushed for time, so was just using the handheld.

Fortunately, a couple of calls from Keighley sealed the qualification for me, and I could press on to work at the Grand Opera House in York.

On Sunday morning (10th December 2017) I got up and left the other band members asleep in the Travelodge (Medway M2). I accessed Detling Hill G/SE-013 - the highest point in the North Downs - via the road to the public car park for White Horse Wood. Pay & display cost £1.50. There is a trig point a short walk into the woods, but as far as I can tell, the actual car park itself is the highest point. It’s all pretty flat up there and the AZ will be considerable.

The whole area was covered in a couple of inches of snow. After pottering about the country park for half-an-hour or so, I returned and set up the 20m GP beside one of the picnic tables next to the car park. Although it was snow on the ground, it was persistent rain dropping out of the sky, so I was soon inside the bothy bag. Fortunately, there wasn’t any wind, so I could drape the bothy bag over me and my gear while sat operating at the picnic table, without it flapping about everywhere.

Conditions seemed rather down on 20m, but seven QSOs were made on CW, including S2S with HB9/OE9TKH/P on HB/AR-004.

Next, it was down to Gravesend to meet back up with the boys in the band, and a fry-up at Nell’s Cafe. Then it was a tortuous 2.5 hour drive to Edgware for parking, and catching the tube into the West End. That night’s show was at the small but lovely Leicester Square Theatre. Afterwards, we had to wait for the crew to pack down and load the huge sound system onto the truck before putting our bass and drum gear on there. We caught the last tube back to Edgware, then drove up to Toddington services on the M1 to retrieve our gear from the truck. Very tedious and time-consuming. Made me wish I’d gambled on finding some free street parking in the vicinity of the theatre and carried my gear in two trips from my car to the stage door!

After Toddington services, I managed it all the way to Newport Pagnell services before needing to stop for a rest. I reclined my driver’s seat for a short nap. 2.5 hours fast asleep later…

At least I was now refreshed to continue driving safely back home on Monday 11th December 2017. Only thing was, I realised I must have missed the M6 turning off the M1 (including ignoring the SatNav) when I started seeing signs for Nottingham. I suddenly had an idea! At the next services, I pulled in and added a waypoint to my SatNav route - Vercor Close, Coalville!

Vercor Close was covered in substantial snow, and I wonder how deep it might be on Bardon Hill G/CE-004 itself. In fact, it was fairly well compacted on all the paths, so the walking was easy. At one possible right turn in the woods, I wasn’t sure if it was that one, or further down so I carried on. It was that one - but I was happy to explore a little anyway, so I continued. I kept following the path and woods around to the right as the path very gradually ascended. Eventually, the gradient intensified and I was on the access track for the mast installation on the summit.

I was on summit well before dawn and setting up my 20m GP. The RBN was spotting me OK, but it looked like I was only getting detected with a very weak signal by a skimmer in Bulgaria! Nobody came back to me, and I had no success at all when I tried to answer some other strong CQ calls on the band.

I resorted to the handheld and made a couple of contacts on 2m FM. Eventually, a huge signal came back to me on 20m CW. I assumed that the band must have opened into Central Europe at last, and sent “QRX” while I got my logbook and pencil ready again.

The very loud signal came back and repeated his call: “ZL1BYZ”. Wow! I gave John his genuine 599 report, and received a 529 back from him. Later, John was kind enough to email me a copy of a recording he made of my signal on the other side of the world:

Two more QSOs were made on 2m FM, and just one more on 20m CW - definitely a case of quality rather than quantity!


#2

SOTA will be back on tour with me this weekend.

Tonight the plan was to do the 6m UKAC from The Cloud G/SP-015. I ascended to the summit and set up the SB6 beam and station. At that point, the mobile rang. It was my XYL advising me that, in fact, I was not contesting this evening.

I packed everything away unused, and made three QSOs on the 2m FM handheld.


#3

I couldn’t wait to get back up The Cloud G/SP-015 and exorcise the demon of the previous night’s debacle. I set my alarm at 6am on Friday 15th December 2017 - that is a sure-fire way of avoiding XYL QRM to my plans.

It was a slow and extremely careful drive - mainly 20mph, and rarely out of 2nd gear - up to Red Lane (Cloudside), Bosley. The roads were very treacherous with the ice that had formed overnight. I was half expecting to get stuck at one of the several steeper sections of road and be forced to turn back in defeat, but I made it to the parking spot, accompanied by Test Match Special on BBC Radio Five Live Sports Extra - oh the luxury of having DAB radio in the car!

Fortunately, the ice down underfoot was not smooth and glassy like a few days ago, and was quite easy to walk on at normal pace. Some fresh snow had fallen, and certainly added some grip potential, but I wore my big boots anyway. The footprints before me indicated that despite the early hour (0700), two humans and one canine had ascended the hill ahead of me.

The snow was increasingly deep as I ascended, but never prohibitive to progress. I imagine it would have been over on Shining Tor G/SP-004 though. The summit was like a winter wonderland scene, and I appreciated it greatly. Later, after a bright sun rose above the horizon, it was even more spectacular - fabulous!

I operated on 20m using the FT-817 (5 watts) and the GP antenna. This aerial is incredibly light, but it is definitely showing signs of age (or rather, showing signs of intensive use) now, and plans to replace it with a heavier duty version are at an advanced stage.

It still does the bizzo though, and I had a nice short pile-up of 10 QSOs, all CW. One of which was John ZL1BYZ again. Excellent.

I called for ages on 20m SSB, but didn’t get a single taker. Neither did I on 2m FM, though I didn’t call for “ages” on VHF - just twice in fact - and then I wanted to go. Things to do. Run Liam to the hospital for his regular volunteering with the early stage dementia patients (an activity that he absolutely loves every week), round to my mum’s new flat to continue the decorating for five hours, then meet Liam again to get our Christmas shopping finished. And YES - it’s FINISHED! Woo hoo - I normally only achieve this around 5pm on Christmas Eve!!!

So now Liam and I will celebrate by going to the local pub for a couple, then returning home with a curry take-away. Jimmy M0HGY will not be joining us - he is out on his work Christmas do, and already has a belly full of food and ale!

“SOTA on Tour” continues around 8am tomorrow (Saturday) morning, as I head off down south again for a couple of gigs with Mr Longthorne. I’ll be QRV on 2m FM /M all day, and on 20m CW from any summits I managed to activate en route.


#4

:joy: :thumbsup:


#5

That all went pretty seamlessly. I got in the car at 8am and programmed the Satnav to take me to the Circus Tavern, Purfleet, Essex, via way points at Leith Hill G/SE-002 and Botley Hill G/SE-005.

For the first one, I was landed at the Windy Gap car park from which it was a short steep pull up steps to the summit. Getting QSOs on 20m CW was surprisingly hard work, but I qualified and got off to the next one.

Since my last visit to Botley Hill, the summit position has changed. I found where Jimmy had now put it, by a water tower. Again 20m seemed difficult, but again I managed to qualify.

2m FM was good all day, operating while /M. That was welcome with all the driving. I made it to the Circus Tavern ahead of time for soundcheck. A nice curry for tea in Purfleet, and on stage in about half-an-hour.


#6

The band overnighted at the Thurrock Lakeside Travelodge and the other guys had a lie-in on Sunday 17th December 2017. I arose at the early hour of 10.30am and went off to do my daily SOTA activation. I hadn’t realised quite how far Detling Hill G/SE-013 was from here, as it was very close to last week’s digs near Gravesend. Still, it was just about the only remotely feasible SOTA for me if I was not to miss a day, even though it would be “pointless” what with me activating it last week.

I parked in the White Horse Woods car park again and first went for a short circular walk to enjoy the pleasant cold morning air, and remind myself where the trig point was (not at the summit).

I set up the same picnic table adjacent to the car park and went for the 40m dipole this time. There was a terrible noise hovering around 7.025 to 7.035 MHz but I decided to battle through it.

Just five QSOs were recorded on 40m CW. Sorry to DL8DXL and G4OBK who tried to work me but couldn’t hear their reports. Just before leaving, I worked Kevin G0PEK on the 2m FM handheld.

Next it was off up the A12 and A14 to Felixstowe for the night’s gig with Joe Longthorne at the Spa Pavilion Theatre.

As I write this, I am about to commence my journey back to Macclesfield along the A14 and M6. I will be calling on 2m FM 145.500, and any conversations would be warmly welcomed!


#7

Well I called and called - but there was no one to talk to in the vicinity of the A14 in the early hours of Monday 18th December 2017. I was very tired, and pulling over for a 5 minute power-nap whenever I felt I needed it, rather impaired my progress (but probably enhanced my life expectancy).

When one such “5 minute power-nap” actually took two hours, and included a most entertaining dream, I reawoke feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. It was now around 6am and I finally got an answer to one of my /M CQ calls. Arthur G0OHY kept me company from SE of Leek through to Cloudside, and then throughout the ascent of G/SP-015 with me on the VX7R.

Arthur was first into the logbook on the summit, soon followed by Dwayne 2E0DIJ/M, but there were no other takers on 2m.

I set up the 40m dipole and made a handful of contacts around Europe, 9H Malta probably being the pick. C3 Andorra was CQing too - but wasn’t hearing me.

I was finally home from this leg of the tour at 0845.


#8

Photos added to the latest round of activations - see the above few posts ^^^^


#9

So back at home and back to the mundanity of helping my mum get ready for her flat move in a couple of days. Going through her stuff for packing / tipping, and I come across this…

…a 1988 album from the very guy I’m currently touring with! Not only that, but looking at the credits on the back, the pianist/MD was Dave Arch (currently leading the band and singers on BBC’s “Strictly Come Dancing”, and the album was recorded and produced at Cottage in Macclesfield - on the very same estate where I live currently!

I needed an activation after that bombshell (although I was actually going for one anyway), so off up The Cloud G/SP-015 it was. Just me, the VX7R, the logbook and pencil. Four QSOs on 2m FM, culminating in S2S with MW0PDV/P on Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042.

Ahead of returning to the mothership, I called in at the new premises of SOTAbeams to pick up some strong military specification wire for a new antenna project. This inevitably resulted in a lunchtime couple of pints with the proprietor - Richard G3CWI - a bad influence that man…


#10

Wednesday 20th December 2017. This morning’s Macclesfield Express printed my ‘snowy Cloud’ photo (which is also above in this thread), but didn’t print my reply to the angry Mr Davies on the letters page.

So I cracked on with transferring all my mum’s hoarded rubbish from her flat to landfill and recycling. Some music arranging and guitar practice to do this afternoon, and a little local gig tonight, so I needed to squeeze my daily activation into a tight window of opportunity.

That meant a 2m FM handheld job, and just two QSOs were attracted. Still, it still constituted a SOTA activation, and I rather enjoyed the summit in thick mist which reduced visibility to 80 yards horizontally - and only about 20 yards vertically down!

“SOTA on Tour” spreads its wings a bit more again tomorrow, as I’ll be on the road to Falkirk for a Joe gig. Lambrigg Fell G/LD-046 most likely.


#11

Yeah Lambrigg Fell it is then. 40m CW, sometime around midday.


#12

Any idea where you’ll be around 1400 Tom?


#13

Yeah, picking up other band members in Penrith.


#14

Thursday 21st December 2017.

A gig in Falkirk and my immediate thought was Lambrigg Fell G/LD-046 sitting, as it does, right by J37 of the M6. Very heavy rain all the way up from Macclesfield concerned me; the Met Office forecast was for dry conditions on my summit. Sure enough, the rain turned to fog as the M6 began to gain altitude in Cumbria, and thick fog was as bad as it got weather wise for the walk and activation.

I enjoyed the short walk greatly, as I did the activation. On 40m CW I made 22 QSOs including 4 S2S. Just one contact was added on 2m FM.

Next stop - FTH Theatre, Falkirk!


#15

Could have been 5 - I did call you - you were very loud in Cornwall. I think you had the auto CQer going and moving to FM at the time I called, based on the spots that were posted. I had 3 S2S and 12 contacts. Apologies to those who were calling on CW, but the mash of people all calling on frequency is impossible for my weak CW ears to decode.


#16

Ah good! You managed to activate and add G to your tally of associations. I’m celebrating your new assoication with a small glass of something special having found an unopened bottle of 14yr old malt in the cupboard.


#17

14 years old? It must be well past its “Use by” date!

73,
Wlat


#18

That’s what I thought. You’re probably right because my head feels a bit funny this morning. That will be the rum from the finishing casks though, not the whisky.


#19

Desperate indeed…Not so tempted here…

I have a"Signatory’s Un-Filtered Collection Coleburn Distillery" single malt in a tin, unopened. Distilled on 22nd October 1981, bottled 27th July 2001. Cask 1343 bottle 427 of 780. I think I best go and buy a bottle of Famous Grouse, before I also get tempted, as I am fresh out of whisky and its Xmas…

What’s the Coleburn worth - anybody know? (Off topic now).

73 Phil


#20

Why is your windscreen washer bottle empty? :grin:

North of £500 a bottle, probably.