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Cloud on fire

I set off for my pre-work activation on Monday 26th April 2010 at 6.30am, looking forward to giving 80m a rare outing. As I got to the canal bridge by my turning off the A54, I was dismayed to find that the road was closed. Instead I took the next left with the aim of getting to Cloudside via Key Green. However, the ‘Road Closed’ signs were also up beside Key Green Methodist Chapel. I wondered what was going on.

I now diverted through Timbersbrook and up onto Dial Lane which is the road between Mossley (Congleton) and Rushton Spencer. I turned left onto the road up to Cloudside from the opposite direction to usual, and this time made it to the parking spot.

The ascent was enjoyable in the early morning, and it was a good feeling to have some fitness back after the abandoned activations trials of the winter. After climbing the staircase and passing onto the National Trust land, I spotted the large area of black to my right. It was considerable and rather creepy. A huge area of heather had burned off, from the right-hand edge of the footpath, right the way down the steep slopes and across to a boundary fence of the farm below.

On summit, I set up for 80m, which was a trial in itself with me being somewhat out of practice in erecting these lengthy dipole legs! It worked though, and my repair had been successful. Things were quiet on air with just one CW contact followed by two on SSB. But I enjoyed the activation nonetheless, on a quiet and peaceful morning.

While descending, I met a couple who live on Cloudside walking up. I asked them about the fire and they reported that the whole hill was ablaze with six fire crews in attendance for 48 hours over the weekend. The chap showed me some stunning photos on his phone, before I made my apologies needing to shoot off to work.

Tom M1EYP

A Google search for “Bosley Cloud fire” brings up several links to reports and photos. According to Cheshire Fire and Rescue, the area on fire was more than ten acres. Much of it looks more like SP-002 than SP-015 now…

Tom M1EYP

The Cloud on fire - photo:

I had my first opportunity to survey the weekend damage more fully on the evening of Tuesday 27th April 2010. I was heading to The Cloud G/SP-015 for a SOTA activation combined with the RSGB 6m activity contest, and this time the roads weren’t closed so I could see around the front of the hill in daylight.

It was pretty desperate. The fire has wiped out an enormous ten acres of heather and vegetation. From the fence lines behind the farms and residences at the foot of the hill right up to the paths and rocks on the summit has been burnt off. From the boundary of the National Trust land near Cloudside all the way around the hill to its west facing slopes has been burnt. It just looks like a big lump of naked black peat now.

I guess it did appeal to people’s voyeuristic natures though, because it was busier than ever before on a Tuesday night up there. I set about erecting the 6m delta loop, and realised that I had forgotten to bring the guying kit for the pole. A tricky improvisation was used with an old guy string from a WASP Special SOTA Beam mast looped above two sections of the SOTA pole and pegged into the ground to keep the assembly upright.

The first contact was with G3ZOD on 6m CW. The second was S2S on 2m FM with Sean M0GIA/P over on Gun G/SP-013. There followed a further 51 QSOs all on 6m SSB in the contest with a fairly decent coverage of UK areas - and the occasional SOTA chaser!

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

As I mentioned during our QSO earlier there have been a few grass / moorland fires around this area too recently. As I am sure most of us are aware, they can be started by natural causes, but we don’t get that many of those sort of events here in the UK.

There is always the possibility of a carelessly disgarded cigarette end starting a fire, but even a small piece of ash blown by the wind could do the same. Call me cynical, but I think both the Cloud fire & the recent fires on Winter Hill & around Belmont, Belthorn & I am sure numerous other areas of the UK are deliberate acts of stupidity.

As for the contest tonight, I was very pleased with my 29 QSO’s, which is the most I have had in any UK Activity contest apart from once on 144MHz. Signals on 6m were very much affected by QSB tonight, but generally in a good way & I worked a couple of squares I wouldn’t normally hear. Even my main problem, an extremely high noise level,(Which is the only reason I use two antennas, which automatically puts me in the Open section, along with the 400 Watt multi antenna stations), was lower than usual tonight :slight_smile:

Thanks for the offer of a CW exchange Tom, but on SSB it was too easy to need it. I did have one CW QSO later, with Graham G3ZOD, who I failed to work last month. I believe he has moved his indoor antenna to the North side of his QTH in Stockport which made a huge difference for me in Blackburn tonight. I actually called him after the contest for a CW ragchew, which is unheard of for me, maybe the Carlsberg had given me a little more Dutch courage by then :wink:

I was pleased to hear Mike G4BLH working a portable station about three quarters of the way through the contest & mentioning that he rarely uses 6m. I know you hadn’t worked him with 30 seconds to go but Mike was a good signal here, even off the side of my antenna, & with you peaking at S8 I think you could have worked each other.

I also heard a few SOTA chasers, & activators too, although I didn’t work that many as they were usually working somebody else.

Great fun tonight though, I was about 20 minutes from going portable myself, but I had eaten a big tea & felt a bit full. Next month maybe, the Sun doesn’t set until 21:30 BST too :slight_smile:

73,

Mark G0VOF

In reply to G0VOF:

Probably the cause of most fires of this nature is discarded bottles. These can act as a lens concentrating the suns rays on a single spot which may after a few nice days be dry enough to ignite. Discarded cigarette ends are often blamed but I suspect that due to the nature of the ignition source they are quite far down the list. Next come deliberate acts and then bonfires that get out of control. The fire a while ago on GW/NW-044 Moel Famau was a ‘controlled burning’ by the rangers that quickly got out of control when the wind changed. I think that these fires should always remind us that even the most innocuous of hills, in the best of weather can be dangerous places and that while we are on the radio we need also to keep our wits about us. Anyone who watches nature programs will realise that fires like this are not always destruct, they are sometimes essential to habitat and they often open up the inaccessible areas both to humans and to wildlife.

Steve GW7AAV

In reply to GW7AAV:

I well remember doing the Lyke Wake Walk in 1977 after the drought and fires of 1976. Mile after mile of burnt ground, in places the peat itself had burned away leaving a waste of white gravel and sand. The dust was choking. It all made a huge impression on me, particularly the absence of birds - no grouse, curlews or skylarks. I always intended to go back and see if it had recovered but never got around to it, but I guess once the peat is gone it would take millennia to return.

It’s made me doubly cautious about fire.

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

“I well remember doing the Lyke Wake Walk in 1977”

Hope you did it properly - ie carrying a coffin.

In reply to G1INK:

No, but in the burnt areas I did a lot of Coughin’! We also sang the Lyke Wake Dirge at one point, though I prefer the melody in the version by Benjamin Britten…

73

Brian G8ADD