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!