NP-031 Birks Fell - Activation report (long)

We had intended to activate this on the first day , but on hearing rumours that there would be tavellers from afar I decided to leave it ‘ till later. Actually we had friends round the night before and I probably would be unfit to drive well into the morning.

We set off earlier than normal as it was the first day back for schools. We needn’t have worried as there only teachers working. Oh the joys of ‘Baker Days’ how I miss them – not.
The decision had been made to tackle this hill from the Litton side – not as some have alluded to for the pub – but so we could drive after the walk to the farm, at the start of the track up Horsehead moor, Halton Gill which sells the best free range eggs you will ever taste. You can tell they are free range because the hens are usually on the road or half way towards Pen-Y-Ghent.
This was to be our first activation since April, Susan had kept fit with Gym, Swimming and Pilates. My only excersise had been short dog walks and marching up and down examination halls at Leeds University. So I was feeling not a little apprehensive as to my fitness when the ground was not level.
We parked by the roadside in Litton just after the pub. The track is clearly defined by a finger post ‘ Buckden ‘. It passes Litton Hall and through a farmyard – glad the dogs were well tied up – and soon becomes a green lane. This dips over a bridge or ford , there was no water in the beck, and rises gently onto the fellside. After a track off left, don’t take it it goes nowhere, through a gap in the wall there is a clear track left to the summit plateau. This path rises with the wall on your left but surprisingly the ridge you see at its start is actually the summit plateau. On reaching the top you go through a gate and to your right is the trig point. This is not the true summit (but like most of the top is in the activation zone as defined in the SOTA rules – come to think of it Horse Head gate and trig point are surely in the activation zone ?) . Continue on the now paved path until you pass through a gap in the wall. There is ahead a large cairn which marks the descent into Buckden. Looking left there is the remains of a wall along the ridge. Follow this wall keeping it on your right. Having looked on Google earth I thought there was a track on here – on the ground there was a light path , the apparent track being lighter yellowish grass. This indistinct path takes you to the far end of the tarn. The tarn itself is quite beautiful, especially if you pick a sunny day as we did and the swallows are feeding over it. Tansy loved it and insisted on another paddle on the way back. From here it is rough grass to the summit , marked by a mound of earth about 1m high. Plenty of room for an antenna farm. We did notice a ruin in the wall to the south, it had no roof but would afford shelter from the wind on all sides during a winter ascent.
The BVE/HJD design linked dipole was erected by 10:55 UTC. The first call on 60m was answered by Alistair GW0VMZ who was not his usual signal, 60 seems to be very variable lately with the usual strong signals being very weak. He was followed by G3RMD,G0HNW,GW0DSP, and GM4FAM. Graham G4JZF was heard but couldn’t hear me. Changed to 80m and Graham was first at 58. Followed by G3RMD and G4OBK.
No further callers so changed to 40m. I had posted 7.062 +/- but the band was full from 7.055 to 7.100 with very strong stations. I called a couple of these in the hope of a contact but was not heard. After walking around for what seemed ages I managed to get a signal on my mobile and posted a spot on 7.118 but after much calling got no replies. During this time I called CQ SOTA on 2m FM with my handheld on 500mW (battery was low) and worked Lee M0LMP with ease !!!
After 40m I set up the SOTA beam but alas the PL259 dropped off . So it was out with the ‘KKI collapsible slim jim and onto 2M FM. Mick 2E0HJD was first with an end stopping signal next GW0DSP (59 both ways) , G4CPA (53/54) and last GW4EVX (53/57). All these were using about 1 watt as I hadn’t noticed the lead from the battery pack had dropped out and the 817 battery was nearly flat. No more calls on 2m so a quick call (actually 10 minutes) on 4m for no replies. Station closed at 12:45 UTC.
The descent was the reverse of the ascent – we were just too late for a pint in the pub.
To Halton for the eggs and then drove a scenic way home between Pen-Y-Ghent and Fountains Fell, Malham Tarn, Malham and home via Skipton and Ilkley.
The pre prepared Chicken Balti and Bottle of Rioja were enjoyed on arrival.
Both Susan and I (and I think Tansy who is 12 years old (84 in dog years)) thought this was an excellent hill to climb and activate – but we did have perfect weather.

Roger G4OWG (pictures on FLIKR)

In reply to G4OWG:

Excellent report Roger - very graphically described and a set of excellent photos on Flickr as well to compliment it.

73, Gerald

In reply to G4OWG:

Brilliant report Roger and a superb signal on your second choice antenna and 1 watt, I think I can hear any sig from that summit even on microwatts with the antenna removed, hi.

73 Mike

P.S. Thanks for sharing your photos with us on Flickr, it gives those who have never visited the summit the chance to see what it looks like including the route.