With a free morning in prospect, unsurprisingly my mind turned to local hills for a short activation. The forecast was for a dusting of snow overnight and a bright day so the prospects looked good. In the event, on waking I found the car was covered in snow (as was everything else) so I decided to tackle Kinder from the Hayfield side rather than risk an early descent of the Mam Tor pass.
With Radio 1 to help, the drive across was without incident. The parking spot, while icy, was easily accessible (I took care to park facing downhill for an easy getaway). Boots on and with a clearing sky this seemed the ideal day for some cold play on the hills. There was an icy breeze and although my new furry hood kept my head warm, my cheeks were decidedly chilly (made a mental note not to try chaps and thong again in winter).
The snow was undisturbed by humans along the path and, as I broke the trail, I felt that I was on a sort of snow patrol. There were plenty of tracks: I recognised grouse, a fox and a hare (only because I saw the hare). There were other tracks that I was unable to recognise though and they played on my mind throughout the activation - what were they?
I plodded on through the snow to the top. The snow was deeper here and I needed to leave the path to find somewhere to operate. Eventually I found a suitable one of Kinder’s odd rocky outcrops and was able to get out of the wind “Hallelujah” [AB, 2008] I thought to myself. Getting the pegs into the ground for the aerial was problematic and required me to find a rock – most were frozen to the ground but with some kicking, one was freed and pressed into service.
Once the aerial was set up I threaded it into the bothy bag and made myself comfortable. It is surprising how warm they get “you’re hot then you’re cold…you’re in then you’re out” [of the breeze] [KP, 2008]. A short call on 7.032 and the pile-up began. There was skip of all lengths and 40+ contacts were logged in just over 30 minutes. 40m really was a band on the run this morning.
Eventually, the pile-up ran out and I paused for hot chocolate (Green and Blacks – the only one to drink) and a jam sandwich. Packing up, I enjoyed the sunshine and the solitude of the hill. Walking back I noted that only my tracks were there – no-one else. Normally, I would have been accompanied by Mai Ling but she is now back at school; no Kinder Scouting for girls this time.
On my return drive I thought once more about those mysterious tracks. At home, I rang the Peak District National Park. Eventually I got through to one of their wildlife experts. I described the tracks to her and she became very excited. She recognised them immediately and exclaimed that they have never been recorded this far south before. Apparently it was the first clear evidence of the very rare Arctic monkeys in the Peak District.
With thanks to Radio 1.