Diary of a Madman

Jimmy and I got in the car shortly after 7am on Tuesday 1st June 2010, and set off from Macclesfield on the first leg of our Summer of SOTA. Refuelling was the first objective, so we did just that - diesel for the car and sausage, egg, bacon, toast, mushrooms, beans, hash brown, black pudding and tea for our bellies. We pulled away from Lymm Truck Stop and onto the M6 Northbound - Lake District here we come!

In car audio entertainment was provided by two classic rock albums recently acquired on CD - “Blizzard of Oz” and “Diary of a Madman” by Ozzy Osbourne. It’s nearly thirty years since I heard these LPs and I had forgotten how good they were. Jimmy was immersed for the first time into the guitar mastery of Randy Rhoads.

The weather forecast was for a damp morning, improving in the afternoon, followed by a clear night and a super day tomorrow. The weather was performing exactly as the Met Office and its rain radar had illustrated as we drove north, and so we made some contingency changes to planning. In the worst weather of the two days, we would activate the easiest hill - Holme Fell G/LD-051.

First job though was to secure a bed for the night. Although all our target uniques were over towards the Langdales and beyond, I also planned to do the RSGB 2m activity contest from Gummer’s How G/LD-050 that evening. Hence I figured that Windermere would be a good place to find a B&B room. Most places had the “No Vacancies” sign up, but Windermere has hundreds of guest houses, and it did not take long cruising around the back streets to find something.

Now we were in business, and continued north through Ambleside and onto the Coniston road. We ignored the right turn into Langdale, where we would be heading later and again tomorrow, and continued until the next right. This one we did take, following it up to the car park overlooking the quarry. Sadly, here there was a lot of unsightly litter, food packets, unused sausages and beer cans, presumably from a barbecue.

Jimmy led off onto the bridleway which meandered in a generally south-westerly direction, until our left turning onto a smaller path. Jimmy initially headed for the cairn immediately ahead, but I called him back and pointed to the much higher one to our right. We climbed up to this one and met a couple up there. Cameras were exchanged as seems to be standard practice!

Jimmy stayed close to the summit to operate on 2m FM with his Yaesu VX-110 handheld and SOTA Beam. I dropped back down the path somewhat to get a little shelter, before setting up for 40m CW with the Yaesu FT-817 and dipole. No sooner was it up, and one of the (already weak) thinner sections of pole snapped! Remedial action was applied courtesy of some tape in my rucksack, and I was soon on the air.

The rain was now coming down rather heavily, and 40m was also a washout. I had never know 7.032MHz be so devoid of action - well not 'til later anyway! Just six contacts were made before I decided to pack up and get walking again. Jimmy M3EYP had qualified also, so he wasn’t far behind me. We returned down to the car and hung out our already wet coats on the car seat backs.

The next target was Lingmoor Fell G/LD-040.


After Holme Fell G/LD-051 on Tuesday 1st June 2010, Jimmy instructed me to drive back down the long cul-de-sac to to the Ambleside-Coniston road, and turn left. And left again through Little Langdale. A right turn, and soon I was up to the NT car park opposite Blea Tarn. Yikes! £3.40 to park. Yikes! For 2 hours. For 4 hours it was £4.40, while £5.40 was the all day rate. I reluctantly posted £4.40 worth of shrapnel through the slot, and grumpily trudged up the lane with a rucksack on my back and a great big chip on my shoulder.

My mood soon lifted. Instead of thinking of my £4.40 as a rip off to park for what would turn out to be three hours, I chose to instead consider it as my contribution to the NT for all the enjoyment I have on its property. Considering all the times I walk and play radio on The Cloud G/SP-015 for free, I decided I was getting exceptional value for money, and put a spring back into my stride.

The first section of this walk is north along the road from the NT car park to Bleatarn House. Then there is a sharp right onto a footpath that ascends steeply up a field. The gradient barely eases all the way to the summit, although there is brief respite when turning the corner at the fence. Soup was served at the summit, and today it was the new Baxters Highland Game (as distinct from Royal Game) - it was delicious.

Despite the mediocrity of the morning performance, I set up the 40m dipole again, while Jimmy did his 2m FM thing. I was soon regretting not swapping the 40m aerial for the 30m or something else, for 40m was dead. A CQ call on 7.032MHz CW produced nothing. A self-spot plus CQ calls still elicited zero. Listening across the 40m band, and it was deathly quiet, not a signal to be heard. In contrast, 30m, 20m and 15m were buzzing. I knew I could use the 40m dipole for 15m, so I self-spotted for 21.022MHz CW, and this time the QSOs came in.

Although the sky had remained of a threatening colour all afternoon, it had remained dry, and the forecasters seemed to have got it right. We now relaxed, feeling that we had got one of the tougher summits out of the way, and that we were set for a fine evening and superb next day weather-wise.

The steep descent was hard work for me, even with two walking poles, and I was glad to be back on the short section of road walk. We drove back into Windermere, found a chippy, had battered haggis, chips and curry sauce twice and returned to the B&B for a shower and change.

Then it was off for an evening on Gummer’s How G/LD-050.

In reply to M1EYP:

… A right turn, and soon I was up
to the NT car park opposite Blea Tarn. Yikes! £3.40 to park. Yikes!
For 2 hours. For 4 hours it was £4.40, while £5.40 was the all day
rate. I reluctantly posted £4.40 worth of shrapnel through the slot,
and grumpily trudged up the lane with a rucksack on my back and a
great big chip on my shoulder.

My mood soon lifted. Instead of thinking of my £4.40 as a rip off to
park for what would turn out to be three hours, I chose to instead
consider it as my contribution to the NT for all the enjoyment I have
on its property. Considering all the times I walk and play radio on
The Cloud G/SP-015 for free, I decided I was getting exceptional value
for money, and put a spring back into my stride.

I’m a member of the NT, and regularly take advantage of the free car-parking that membership provides, when walking in nearby (and not so nearby) hills and open spaces

The annual membership of £36pa (when paid by direct debit) is money well spent, and now that I’ve discovered how many potential SOTA activations are on NT land, it is an option I can commend to UK SOTA activators.

In reply to M6ADB:

For those with wallets that are tightly welded shut, membership of the NTS (National Trust for Scotland) is £2.50 cheaper than the NT and you get all the benefits of NT membership, i.e. car parking at NT sites as well as NTS sites.

I’m not sure if you need an address this side (the correct side!) of the border to join the NTS but I’m happy to provide an accommodation address for a modest fee! :slight_smile:

Joking aside, M6ADB (sorry no name given) is right that annual membership will work out cheaper if you visit many of the carparks. Also if you pay for a whole year then the NT (or NTS) will be able to claim back the income tax you (may) have paid. It costs you the same but they get an extra 25% or so.


In reply to MM0FMF:

M6ADB (sorry no name given)

Sorry… must get used to adding my name at the bottom of my posts :slight_smile:


From our B&B in Windermere, we drove down to the lakeside and then south down the A592 towards Newby Bridge. The left turning near the south end of Lake Windermere was signposted “Gummer’s How”, and we drove up this steep road to the car park on the right.

It was Tuesday 1st June 2010, and that meant 2m activity contest night. The VHF ACs have become something of a favourite of mine in recent years, and now I’m hooked. So much so that I try not to miss one, even when I am away. While this was a “uniques” excursion, I considered it best to choose a known simple summit for a nightime activation.

Jimmy and I were pretty tired after our long day, and as easy as Gummer’s How is, we were both feeling fatigued as we hauled our bodies up the stepped path towards the summit.

I set up the 2m SOTA Beam, while Jimmy set about the little 2 man £11 tent which would keep the chill out for the evening. It was a very nice evening with an attractive sunset and the eerieness of the mist filling up below all the way down Lake Windermere. There wasn’t any wind at all, but that was not positive, because it meant the midges were down - and they were bothering! I crawled into the respite of the tent much earlier than anticipated to escape their feeding frenzy, but they were nothing if not determined and crawling through the netting to get in there with us! Peace at last at 9.30pm, when some figure of authority in the midge world must have shouted “Bedtime” and almost in an instant, their nuisance was no more.

Radio wise the contest was interesting. My position in IO84 resulted in only about 70% of the normal number of QSOs, but the points per QSO were more than usual, especially for all the Cheshire/Manchester contesters. Jimmy failed to attract any takers on 2m FM before the contest, so dipped in to take the occasional 2m SSB QSO, recording a total of six. I finished with 34 contacts, and 11 multipliers, but some annoying getaways. Strong signals were heard from JO01, JO02 and IO64, but they couldn’t hear me.

Pack away and descent was by the light of our new Petzl headtorches, and I was impressed by their performance. It was like walking in daylight! We drove back up to Windermere, found a pub that would serve us at 11.15pm and sunk a pint each.

Driving back to the B&B, parking spaces were non-existent. Jimmy spotted plenty of space along a single yellow line though, and checking the sign, it said “9am to 7pm”. Fine, we pulled the car in and went to our accommodation. We both slept very well in the B&B that night.


Wednesday 2nd June 2010, and what an unbelievable day it would turn out to be. Things began well with a delicious cooked breakfast at the B&B. I chanced at presenting the landlady with three tins of soup and a flask, and she accepted the challenge. Not before snapping at me that “You won’t get three tins in that”. Now, call me bigheaded if you like, but I do happen to be rather knowledgable about how much Baxters soup fits into a litre flask, thank you very much!

While I was waiting for Jimmy to finish getting ready, I chatted to the landlady who was having a fag in her front garden. She glanced at my car and started to give me a lecture about me parking it illegally. I protested my innocence, referring to the times given on the yellow signs, adding that we would be away by 9am. “Doesn’t matter, you have to be 6 feet from the junction, my daughter’s a police officer, just emigrated to Australia, and she would tell you that you can’t park like that, though she couldn’t book you, they’ve decriminalised now you see, a traffic warden could still do you for it though”. My car must have been 12 feet minimum from the junction in any case.

Fortunately Jimmy then appeared, which meant I could make my excuses and get away. The route was becoming familiar - up through Ambleside and turn right for Langdales. This time we drove to the top of Wrynose Pass, where there was plenty of space to pull in at the side of the road. The morning was hot and sunny, and applying sunblock was the first task.

Jimmy and I commenced along a well-maintained path, pleasant walking quickly rewarded by reaching the appealing looking Red Tarm, resting beneath Cold Pike. However, we were now looking for our right turn, to head more steeply and rockily to the summit of Pike o’Blisco G/LD-024. At the top were two large cairns, with the as ever well researched Jimmy informing me which one was considered to be the true summit.

He set up right by the cairn enjoying a fantastic view over the valley for his 2m FM activation. This time I opted to deploy the MM17 and activate on 18MHz CW. Conditions were definitely down, and I only had five takers. Jimmy worked considerably more on 2m FM.

Keen to make the most of this lovely days and continue hunting down those SOTA uniques, we got cracking with the descent and eagerly anticipated our further progress through the passes. Little did we know quite what to expect!


The second summit of Wednesday 2nd June 2010 was intended to be Hard Knott G/LD-034. Taking things one summit at a time, we had an optimal plan of then doing Harter Fell G/LD-028 and possibly completing an epic day with Muncaster Fell G/LD-055. However, at Cockley Beck we were flagged down by a police officer who told us that Hard Knott Pass was closed. “It’s for your own safety, there’s a firearms incident in progress”. The officer showed us on the atlas which roads to avoid and where was safe, and we drove down the other fork towards Seathwaite.

BBC Radio Cumbria was now essential listening in the car, as we learned of the horrors perpetrated that morning by Derrick Bird. At this point he was still at large and randomly shooting people, and it was announced that he was driving a silver or grey Citroen Picasso - the same as mine! Reports at the time were that five people had been killed, and then that he had abandoned his car in Boot village. This sits at the other end of Hard Knott Pass from our intended access, and hence why the police had closed the road.

We figured that Muncaster Fell - Hooker Crag G/LD-055 was now the sensible target, and safely distant from the areas where police were advising people to stay indoors. Jimmy navigated me through the country lanes to the A595 near Muncaster Castle, and then to the sharp bend at SD100968, where I parked at the side of Fell Lane (track).

This hill was then a pleasant sunny afternoon stroll, mainly level with only minimal ascent. It was a surreal experience, the beautiful tranquil afternoon juxtaposed with the knowledge of the killing spree only a few miles away.

The summit was very nice with good views, and Jimmy and I agreed to linger for a while, rather than trying to squeeze another activation out of the day. 17m CW brought a better run of 13 QSOs for me, while on 2m FM, Jimmy struggled to break the barrier presented by Black Combe and Whitfell, and making just three contacts. I invited him to use the MM17 and spotted him on 18.120MHz SSB. He was answered almost immediately by Laci HA7UG and George HB9BIN to take him to qualification and beyond. Lunch was “aromatic Thai chicken” soup, which tasted unnervingly similar to normal chicken soup.

We packed up and enjoyed the warm late afternoon easy stroll back to the car. I cracked open a tin of Red Bull, and tuned back in to BBC Radio Cumbria. The death toll had risen from 5 to 13, including the gunman Derrick Bird himself. Suffice to say this was the only thing on the radio stations for the journey home. I returned to Mr Osbourne’s spookily appropriately titled album.

Diary of a Madman?

73, Tom M1EYP
(Diary of a Maccfan)

The photos and reports from this trip are now on my website:


The new pages are:

Holme Fell G/LD-051
Lingmoor Fell G/LD-040
Gummer’s How G/LD-050
Pike o’ Blisco G/LD-024
Muncaster Fell G/LD-055