Friday 22nd April 2011 - Dundry Down G/SC-010
Well, Good Friday was scheduled to be our day to drive home from Cheddar, perhaps via a morning activation of Dundry Dump. However, Jimmy, Liam and myself were enjoying our little break so much that we rather fancied extending it by an extra day. Liam also made the valid observation that we hadn’t been to a curry house on the holiday yet, so we couldn’t go home.
It didn’t take me long to hatch the revised plot for Good Friday. Job One was to book the extra night at Cheddar Youth Hostel. The availability was there, but it did require a change of dormitory, so we moved everything and remade the beds before setting off that morning. Cheddar is a sleepy town where nothing much happens before 10am, so the hunt was on for breakfast.
Although everything else up through the Gorge was closed until 10am, the Costa Coffee establishment was open. Here we enjoyed tea/coffee/juice along with our hot breakfast sandwiches sat outdoors on the large first floor terrace, bathed in sunshine. A lovely start to the day.
This took us to beyond 10am, and Cheddar Gorge came to life. We drove back down to the bottom and parked in the car park for the caves. I purchased the tickets for the three of us, and the package began with an open-top bus ride up the Gorge while the guide explained all the features as we passed. He pointed out a climb that Chris Bonnington did on the tallest inland cliff in Britain, which apparently got christened “Coronation Street Climb” - because it went on, and on, and on"!
The first item on the agenda was Gough’s Cave, which was very good - and we could see the local cheese being taken in there for “cave maturing”. This was followed by Cox’s Cavern and The Crystal Quest, and then the museum of prehistory, which was really good. Finally came Jacob’s Ladder of 274 steps to the lookout tower atop the cliffs. Jimmy and Liam climbed to the top of the tower, but such a feat was well beyond my vertigo - I stayed at the bottom!
We were now at the start of the optional gorge cliff-top walk. Jimmy led the way (no surprise there) as we climbed steadily on a good path that was busy with the cave tourists. The crowds thinned out as we crossed the highest point and began to descend through the woods to the road at the top of Cheddar Gorge. After crossing the road to continue the route, we were mostly alone, with most others having given up and turned back on the other side, or taking the road route back down the Gorge.
It was a much easier walk on the other side, and it did not take long. Soon we were dropping back down to the road opposite the cave entrances. We adjourned to The Galleries Inn for a few drinks and a brief rest.
Now, in the middle of a hot and sunny late afternoon, it was SOTA time once more. Jimmy directed me up to the village of Dundry, near Bristol, and we parked in the area at the start of the access road to the transmitter compound. The three of us walked up the road, an easy five minute stroll leading us well into the activation zone. I selected a shaded spot by the wall at the edge of the field, adjacent to a small wood, and began to set up.
Jimmy, as ever, took the camera for an extra little walk to the trig point. The first contact was GW0GHF on 2m FM using the VX-7R handheld, but then it was business as usual and onto HF CW. 10 QSOs on 30m CW, 9 contacts on 40m CW including a S2S with DK1HW/P on DM/BW-224 before trying out 15m CW on the 7MHz dipole. I made just five QSOs on 15m CW, but this included Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and USA so pleasing nonetheless. Jimmy made just four QSOs on 2m FM.
After driving back to Cheddar and depositing the car at the youth hostel, we walked back up to the bottom of the Gorge to visit the Shahnaz restaurant - http://www.shahnazindiancuisine.co.uk/ - for our evening meal. We wandered up the stairs to the first floor dining area, listening to the typical background Indian classical music. Then something that completely made my night - the music was coming from two live musicians on a small stage, Ricky Romain on sitar and Jon Sterckx on tabla. Their performance was outstanding and I thoroughly enjoyed watching and listening to them during the meal. See more at http://www.jonsterckx.co.uk/ and http://www.indian-music.org/
The standard of the food matched that of the live music, and this restaurant is highly recommended. I started with chicken sheekwa - minced chicken stuffed with paneer, followed by the house special biriyani. A great meal, and somewhere to which I would like to return. I understand that Ricky and Jon perform there once per month, so if I am likely to be in the area again, I will be checking the restauarant website to try to match the night that they are on.
We returned to the hostel, but this time struggled to get to sleep as the night was so hot and humid. Another multi-activity day awaited for Saturday.