Today’s trip was never intended as a SOTA activation. My wife was running out of cigarettes, and Belgium is the most cost-effective place to get them. I normally leave the Tunnel and head north on the autoroute to Adinkerke, but it occurred to me that, with just a few extra miles, I could buy them at Loker and activate Kemmelberg (ON/ON-008) as well. Then, a few days ago, I heard Graham G4JZF mention that the only SE summit he hadn’t worked was Cheriton (G/SE-015). As that is directly adjacent to the Channel Tunnel terminal it seemed like an opportunity to kill several birds with one stone.
Having carefully publicised my intentions on SOTAwatch well in advance, I set off just before 0430 this morning. Despite the various permutations of possible disruption (80 miles drive, catch the Shuttle, and another 50 miles drive), I was ready to go on Kemmelberg within minutes of my announced time. This summit had been activated three times, including once by me, since its inception on 1st July, but only on 40 metres. This time I decided to try 30 metres, and was rewarded with seven QSOs with four countries. Changing to 40 metres CW found a steady queue of regular chasers, as well as an s2s QSO with Glyn on GM/CS-123 with his on-the-way-to-work activation. My final move was to 7060 SSB. It seems that the QRN was affecting UK stations more than me, but I managed to work Graham G4JZF and Christine GM4YMM through the crashes and QSB. No further takers were found so I departed for my return journey.
Having left the Tunnel for the second time today, I turned onto the narrow roads leading to the summit of Cheriton Hill. This is a large, flat activation area and I quickly found my favourite parking spot in a field entrance towards the western end of the hill. Last time I was there it was easy to drape the antenna across the hedge, but this time the nettles and thistles had grown sufficiently to make it a hazardous exercise. Nevertheless, I soon had the antenna arranged and started listening. The previously-background QRN had, by now, increased to significant levels. Once again I started on 30 metres, but fifteen minutes of CQing found no takers. A move to 7032 gained five QSOs in quick succession, before things went quiet. Mindful of the increasing QRN and the gathering dark clouds, I moved to 7060 (well, slightly below that) for another ten minutes of fruitless CQing. Finally I tried 5398.5. With a struggle I managed two contacts, but, as one of them was Graham G4JZF for his last SE summit, I felt “job done” and departed for home. At least I didn’t get wet, and the threatened thunderstorm did not materialise. I arrived home just after 1500 for a well-deserved beer!