Saturday 3rd May 2008
This day of activation required a totally different approach for Paul G4MD and myself to our usual arrangement. For a start, the location of the summits down south near Brighton meant that the best course of action would be to set out from Northampton rather than Stourbridge. Since a start was required at 04:00UTC, Paul was duly invited to stay over the night before. The Friday evening saw us busy packing the car which in itself was different from how we had planned it. Unfortunately my car had been in for a diagnostics check on the Friday and the resultant work had not been completed, so I was left with the loan of a Nissan Primera. This was not the kind of vehicle I was used to driving and to add to the drama, it was an automatic which had as much pulling power as a dead frog!
The alarms were set for 03:15 and we were up and away for 03:55UTC, our route taking us down the M1, around the M25 and down the M23. Easy stuff fortunately for the automatic, but I was not especially looking forward to driving the A27 sections later in the day, worst still manoeuvring a vehicle that I was not used to in tight busy car parks. As it was, it all started well with us arriving at the parking spot for Chanctonbury Ring SE-009 (TQ120120) at 06:03 to find that we had the car park to ourselves. The weather was fine with a temperature of 8 degrees which didn’t seem chilly when we got out of the car, probably as we had become accustomed over the winter period to being bombarded by rain and high winds in sub-zero temperatures while we donned our boots. This certainly made a pleasant change and we were ready for the ascent by 06:20 complete with cereal bars in hand.
The ascent to this summit is certainly all that Richard G4ERP describes it as being, though at the beginning of May there were fewer flowers than he described, but the birds sang loudly to make up for this. We walked up the bridleway to the South Downs Way at TQ130116 and then turned left towards the trig point. The view to the north was excellent if somewhat hazy and we found the dew pond described by Richard. I set up using the trig point for support and Paul chose the fence near the pond. It took me 12 minutes to set up and check the Kent beacon. I then moved to my usual operating frequency at 07:00 where I found Graham G4JZF waiting despite me being a full half hour early! Graham kindly posted me and advised me that the MUF was just 3.9 so Paul would find 60m closed. After working Graham there followed a steady run of chasers, with Phil G4EGU making an appearance. Several people asked me where Paul was and I suggested that they look on 80m. At 07:22 my initial run finished, so I legged it across to where Paul was to find he was having no success, even on 80m. After a quick look on 40m which was full of Italian stations, Paul returned to 3.667MHz to continue calling. I moved back to my station and found Russ G0WYB calling, so I gave him a call and we QSY’d to 144.330MHz. Russ said he would try to find Paul on 80m and he went off to do that and then Don G0RQL called me. I informed Don that I would give 70cms a miss on this summit as I wanted to ensure Paul would qualify the summit and so wished to leave the 2m station intact. After speaking to Don I moved down ten to make contact with Richard G4ERP/P on Botley Hill SE-005 for an S2S before going across to see Paul once more. Fortunately 80m had now opened up and I noted Russ’s call in the log. Back at the trig I put another call out on 2m and was treated with a call from Tim G4VXE who I had not spoken to for several years. I closed at 08:06 and started to pack up, after which I went across to Paul to find he had completed an excellent run of 12 contacts between 07:43 and 07:58 including contacts with ON4ON and ON3WAB. He said it was just as though someone had thrown the switch and the band had come alive.
We started our descent at 08:18 and were back at the car by 08:39. Our next summit was Ditchling Beacon SE-006 where I managed to make good use of my National Trust membership to save the cost of parking (TQ334130). Fortunately there was a nice wide parking spot made just for our car. The ascent on this summit was a mere stroll of no more than a few minutes and we both set up using the fence near the trig to support our poles. We were both up and running by 09:38, Paul opening on 60m with a contact with Steve GW7AAV. On 2m, I heard Richard G4ERP/P who was now on Detling Hill SE-013 working Andre ON4CAP (who was S9 with me). I worked Richard and then announced a QSY to 144.333MHz, but disappointingly found no-one waiting. However, a quick CQ brought Roger G0TRB straight back, followed by most of the Cheltenham Mafia and others more geographically spread. Despite this being the highest summit of the day there was little activity and the run of 10 was over in just 12 minutes, so I decided this time I would try 70cms. Unfortunately despite hearing several beacons at decent strengths, I appeared to be alone on the band. Over on HF Paul worked 6 on 60m followed by a further 8 on 80m headed and orchestrated by Frank G3RMD and including ON4ON and ON4CAP.
Back at the car by 10:40UTC, we decided on having lunch before setting off for Firle Beacon SE-010.
The journey was uneventful and we were parked up in the car park at TQ494050 to the south-east of the summit by 11:22. As we ascended, the route over the Downs was like a motorway with large groups of people walking in both directions, all out to enjoy the fine weather. Reaching the summit at 11:45, I decided to risk interruption and set up on a high spot close to the trig, while Paul used the fence further down the slope on the north side of the hill out of the way. I was first to score on this one with Graham G4JZF once again waiting for me to arrive on 144.333MHz. Graham told me that I had just missed Richard G4ERP on his third summit, but Richard later grabbed a chaser point from me while mobile. I had a straight run of 18 QSOs on 2m, the final two with Martin PE1BIW in JO32 and Mike G0BPU in Ipswich being more of a chat. After these a quick call down towards Devon brought Don G0RQL back to set up a test on 70cms where we managed to exchange reports before the QSB ate us! Paul’s tally on HF was 8 on 60m headed by Paul G0HNW and 5 on 80m, once again headed by Frank G3RMD. The 80m activation included an S2S with Dave G0AOD/P on The Wrekin WB-010, but there were no ON’s worked on this occasion.
Paul packed up and came across to me and once I had everything stowed away, we set off down to the car at 12:55. The drive to Wilmington Hill SE-011 included a rather dangerous turn onto the A27 at the bottom of the lane, but it was just a case of being patient and waiting for a good clear gap between the traffic. The pleasant drive over brought us through the lanes to a rough parking area to the west of the hill at TQ532032 where we managed to avoid the damp patches and park up on a firm area of earth. We started our ascent at 13:33 and took the path above the Long Man which we were able to view from a rather oblique angle. The trig on this summit appears to be on a permissible path, but we opted for operating nearby from within the open access land on the north side of the fence across the summit. Again we used the fence posts to support our poles and I was first to be up and running at 14:18. Once again Graham G4JZF was ready waiting for me and another spot from him brought in a steady run of chasers as far afield as Chris G4DJJ. Richard G4ERP/M en route to Crowborough SE-007 caught me for yet another chaser point. The run ended with a brief chat with John G8VXH near Sevenoaks, after which I once again put a call out to Don G0RQL for a contact on 70cms and again we were successful on that band. Before closing I had a quick look around the band and found a number of contest stations, but resisted calling them as they might have been required as contacts for the final summit – more of that later. On HF Paul had a steady run of 10 contacts in 15 minutes, again headed by Paul G0HNW and including a further S2S, this time with Terry G0VWP/P on Lord’s Seat LD-033. Switching to 80m, Martyn M1MAJ beat Frank G3RMD in making contact with Paul and the total on this band was again 5 contacts.
The wind was stronger on Wilmington than earlier in the day, so Paul was pleased we were starting our descent by 15:05. I was well protected as I had not shed my thermal layers – they work well in reverse keeping the heat of the sun off. We arrived back at the car at 15:30 and decided to have something to eat before departing to our last summit for the day, Cliffe Hill SE-014. We had left this summit until last as qualification on 2m could be difficult and the fact that a contest was running on 2m and 70cms virtually guaranteed success if this course of action was required. Roadworks on the A27 delayed us en route to the parking spot at TQ448111 opposite the end of Week Lane to the west of the hill, but we were only 7 minutes late arriving and I had allowed ample time for climbing this hill. The route down the lane and across the fields was very pleasant and once in the field which includes part of the activation zone, we struck uphill at an angle to get to the area that we needed to operate from. I chose the highest point in the corner of the field and Paul used a section of fence just a little lower down.
It was my aim to try to qualify the summit with contacts with chasers, but our position was on the south-east side of the hill, almost 20 metres down from the top and this was a potential problem. The hill itself is a meager 164m lump, so it is hardly a decent VHF location anyway. Beaming across the western shoulder of the hill, I put a call out on 144.333MHz and much to my relief back came Graham G4FUJ with 55 reports exchanged both ways. This looked encouraging and indeed Matt M3WDS made contact a few minutes later followed by Frank G3RMD. Qualification of the summit was achieved with a contact with yet another member of the Cheltenham Mafia, this time Richard G4ERP/M at the camp site where he was staying the night. This contact was most appropriate as it was Richard that had warned me of the potential difficulties with this summit on VHF. Don G0RQL followed on from the contact with Richard, but signals were relatively poor, so we decided it was not worth trying on 70cms. Several minutes of calling to the north-west to my surprise resulted in a call from Graham G4JZF with his signals managing 51 and mine 31 to 41. Unfortunately no more of the Midlands contingent were heard. A chat with John 2E0ZML at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight followed, after which I worked a couple of F portable stations in JN27 and JN28. I then heard a couple of HB9’s and concluded my operation with a brief contact with Philippe F1BZG located at Chaingy in JN07 to bring my tally to double figures. Paul came over to report a run of 9 in 16 minutes on 60m, but 80m was now full of continentals and so he had finished his activation.
The walk back to the car was extremely pleasant as the wind had dropped and we were pleased to have got another 5 unique summits ticked off. We had received a light sprinkling of rain while operating on Cliffe Hill, but nothing of any note. The weather had been excellent all day and the sun had made its mark on both of us. Seems it is time to pack the sun cream…….
Our activations are planned meticulously in terms of timing as regardless of which summits we activate, a lengthy drive is involved. On this occasion we had planned to get back to the car for 18:15, so it was with mock dismay that Paul announced our late arrival to the tune of a whole minute. Needless to say, we got a move on and left the parking spot a whole minute early! On the way back we decided to use the M40 / A43 combination rather than the M1 as the overhead signs on the M25 indicated long delays between junctions 13 and 15 on the M1. Even taking on board a stop for fuel, we arrived back in Northampton at 21:04, just 4 minutes later than planned and all that with around 340 miles of travelling behind us.
Many thanks to those that supported our activations by being on to work us. Particular thanks go to Frank G3RMD for his support in respect of Paul’s 80m operations including the spots he placed – Paul was really appreciative of his assistance. Similarly thanks to Graham G4JZF for waiting for me on my working frequency and to Don G0RQL for his support and continued interest in my 70cms operations. Thanks also to the others that spotted us on the various summits. Unusually for us, we did not discuss what to do next until part way through our return journey. Currently knocking off the TW’s looks like an option - one that will make for another long day!