This was a joint activation done with Steve GW7AAV, Helen GM7AAU and family. Steve and family being up nearby on holiday I thought it would be right neighbourly to wander on down and go along with them. Also I hadn’t done Hods Hill and was looking for something gentle just to stretch my legs after a week of more strenuous stuff.
The most obvious route is to park at the Daer Reservoir Water Works and then follow The Southern Upland Way (SUW) to the summit. The good thing about walks that have recognised paths to them is that the going is much easier. Well that’s the theory but not too accurate in this case. I’d arranged with Steve to meet him there for 10.00 BST on Sunday.
Saturday was monsoon weather up near Edinburgh. It rained non-stop Saturday and it was still chucking it down Sunday morning when I got up. The Daer Reservoir is one of the sources of the River Clyde and the area around Hods Hill/Green Lowther is the main catchment area for the start of the river. I whizzed along the road to Daer and parked up at NS973095 by the cattle grid at the end of the public road. There’s room for 4 cars here. I had just enough time to boot up and give Steve a call on 2m when his Discovery appeared over the brow.
Watching the AAV clan disembark made me think of a Keystone Kops movie as there seemed to be a never ending stream of youngsters getting out of the car! It wasn’t really, the 3 of them just kept getting back in and out as they retrieved stuff for the journey. Introductions over, we wandered over to the sign post for the SUW and set off. It was definitely gaiter weather and whilst the rain had stopped and the cloud was lifting, the wind was strong and from the North. The windchill was significant here already and it was much worse on the summit.
The path was very poor. I expected better as all the parts of the SUW I have been on have been very obvious and well maintained. I suppose this bit isn’t walked too often. The path leads around some fir trees through very long grass. It was muddy from the start and very squelchy if it wasn’t muddy. The whole section from NS975098 to NS98092 was boggy. Thank heavens for GoreTex lined boots. From here on the path runs parallel to a drystane dyke up to the summit of Sweetshaw Brae and beyond. After a while the paths leads away from the dyke across more boggy ground. I certainly don’t recommend this walk after the kind of weather we’d had. But in Winter, on a frosty, clear day it would be a cracker as there are some good views to be had.
The summit was obvious from here as the cloud continued to lift. I used my eyes and the map, Helen checked with a GPS using a route from Jack GM4COX. Jack’s route agreed with me and the summit was reached with nothing eventful happening. There’s an ever convenient fence running here, ideal for masts, and we set up next to each other. I was setup first so I told Steve I’d just work 4 then I’d leave the rest for him. With the weather having been so poor I didn’t expect there would be many out. The wind was howling and it felt more like November that August. In fact I think last November was warmer and dryer!
Now I had worked Graham G4JZF by switching to FM and keying the mike on Friday so I had Palm Paddle with me this time. I know Mike GW0DSP is keen on CW and encourages newcomers so I announced I’d try and work him on the key. Mike went at a speed I’d have no problem copying normally but several things happened. Steve saw me put down the mike and assumed I’d finished so he started calling 1 channel up on FE causing serious QRM, I was feeling very cold already and couldn’t think straight and I bottled it when I missed a couple of characters from Mike. At this point all I could do was think “get the numbers” and so all I really copied was 559 from Mike for the report. I then discovered how hard it is to send with cold fingers and when the sidetone is QRM’d with the windnoise. Oh, it’s all so different in the warm shack! After this baptism of fire with Mike, and I have to stress it was nerves from me not Mike’s keying, I was confronted with a pile up of people calling me in CW. Sorry, but I threw the paddle down in fright at this point. However, I’m going to keep on at this till I can do it properly, there’s no going back now that the cat is out of the bag.
I left Steve a clear frequency and he worked a good number of contacts before QSYing to 40m. I went back on 60m and continued working people. Ken GM0AXY called, he could just hear me on SSB so I TX’d using the key. Ken could copy my shaky, nervous cold fingered sending but came back in SSB. I guess he knew what was happening on Hods Hill I worked 15 in the end, which suprised me including 2 S2S with GWINK/P on NW-017 and G4RQJ/P on NP-015.
All done we packed up and wandered back. The cloud had lifted giving me a chance to study the route up to Ballencleuch Law which is the other side of the reservoir. By the time we were back to the edge of the forest, the cloud was so high that Green Lowther was clear and the ATC radar dome and masts were standing out on top of the ridge. Steve, Helen and their kids could see their next target.
Then we were back at the cars with Steve and Helen thanking me for letting them come with me. It should be the other way round as I was gatecrashing their holiday. However, it was a good day either way and Steve’s kids were much better behaved than mine would have been. Mine wouldn’t walked up the hill never mind sat at the top in a bitter North wind having their picnic whilst radio tomfoolery took place. All in all, a nice wind down for me after a strenuous week and a real pleasure to meet with Steve, Helen and family.
Distance walked: 4.6 miles, total ascent 281m, distance driven 98miles.
Hods Hill was my 52nd activation and 50th unique in 10 months of SOTA, a figure I find truly astounding when I consider back over these months. That only leaves me 1100 or so Scottish Marilyns to do. I hope I don’t run out!