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Offa's Dyke Road Trip

How time flies. Already, it was the third annual “Liam’s Road Trip”, which has become a pleasant fixture in the February half-term. The previous two Road Trips were Pennine Way in 2010 (including 2 SOTA activations) and Coast 2 Coast in 2011 (including 3 SOTA activations). Reports and photos for both may be seen at http://tomread.co.uk - which will also host same from the 2012 Offa’s Dyke Road Trip, eventually!

Happily, Liam seems much more agreeable towards walking these days, so snatching some activations along the route was not a problem. Many of them were only short walks having said that. There would have been even more but for the poor weather on the last morning, but nonetheless, eight activations in the four days was a very pleasing return.

Wednesday 15th February 2012 - Day 1

Our first stop after leaving the house was a mere couple of minutes up the road - Weston Bakery on Earlsway where we had oatcakes stuffed with cheese, mushrooms and sausage (me)/black pudding (Liam) for our breakfast. Then it was time to hit the road properly, heading south on the M6 and M5. We enjoyed the song “Man or Muppet” from the new Muppets film, as it was played on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2.

It was a lovely sunny day, so the exit for Kidderminster and Halesowen could not be ignored. Walton Hill G/CE-002 beckoned! From the usual parking area, we took the five minute ascent along the muddy path to the summit. I set up for 40m CW with the FT-817, Mini Palm Paddle and half-wave dipole, just a few metres from the trig point. Liam set up for Nintendo 3DS play, reporting that he had added 8 Playcoins on the ascent.

On 40m CW, I made just 6 QSOs on 7.0315MHz before things dried up. I packed up and switched to 2m FM from the handheld, having wandered 30m or so north from the summit to give better take-off over the Midlands. A further five contacts were added to the log, which included SOTA chaser Peter M1CNL and MT colleague Brian G8ADD.

Liam and I descended to the car, an act which earned my son another two Playcoins for future use. We then got on our way back down the M5, with thoughts of a late afternoon activation after first touching base with the start of the Offa’s Dyke Path.

Not so. Suddenly, as I was approaching Junction 13, my accelerator pedal ceased causing any affect on my progress. Nothing. Zilch. Not a sausage. There was clearly a problem in the diesel getting through. I glided across the lanes until coming to a halt in the hard shoulder, agonisingly 50m short of where the entry slip road at J13 joined the main carriageway. This meant that a breakdown vehicle would need to get on at J12 in order to get to me!

Liam and I crossed over the slip road and went down into a handily placed concrete recess for better safety. I called Green Flag, who were eventually with me just 30 minutes after they said they would. Despite 90 minutes of cold and boredom, Liam remained in good spirits and seemed to enjoy his ringside seat aside a busy motorway! It turned out that a pipe into the diesel fuel filter had come adrift. This was easy for Jason from Green Flag (who was excellent) to fix, but as the problem had caused my last gallon of diesel to leak out (I was due to refuel at the services), it was impossible to restart the engine.

This meant a free ride in the Green Flag van for Liam and I down to the services to collect some diesel, before turning round at J14, back up to J12, and down again to the car, which was now receiving its third visit from police / traffic enforcement officers.

At last, we were on our way again. Liam, revelling in Jimmy’s absence, proved to be a revelation with the road atlas, calling out the directions for me to turn onto the M48 and M4 to approach the Severn Bridge. This cost a toll charge of £6 to cross, and then we were very close to Chepstow. Directions were now a bit tricky, and it took a short while to locate Sedbury. But we did, and we left the car on the roadside as we went for a walk down the Offa’s Dyke Path in order to find its start point.

The start of the ODP, atop the Sedbury Cliffs, was marked by a large stone block. The first section of the walk followed along a remaining visible section of the dyke earthwork, and was quite undulating between the cliffs and the village. After a quick look at Chepstow Castle in fading daylight, we drove to Monmouth, which I had decided would be our first overnight stop. We found a twin room at The Queens Head in the centre of town.

The landlord, a South African chap, but living in Monmouth for 34 years, was very friendly and helpful, and a keen supporter of live music. He even told me that he is prepared to take a loss on the three evenings of live music he puts on every week, and that he won’t allow any performers to use backing tracks or drum machines. He even added that he refuses to book any band that describes itself as a “tribute band”!

Liam and I followed the landlord’s recommendation to eat at the Mexican restaurant just around the corner, and a fine recommendation it was. My spicy mushrooms and prawns, followed by paella were both superb. Accompanied by a tequila sunrise and a Desperado beer, this was a most enjoyable meal. We returned to the pub and took our seats to watch the Kevin Figes Trio, playing free-form jazz. They were really good and I enjoyed the performance. I didn’t enjoy the typical thigh-tapping and head-nodding from half the audience who were pretending to understand what was going on and pretending to be into it! Jazz music - great! Jazz audiences - yuk!

So despite the car problems earlier, it has been a relatively successful first day. In fact, we it not for the car problems, we would have been further on than Monmouth and therefore missed out on a great meal and music. We retired to our en suite twin room (very reasonable - £35 including breakfast) and watched a bit of snooker before going to sleep.

Tom M1EYP

(TBC)

Thursday 16th February 2012 - Day 2

Liam and I munched through our cooked breakfast at the Queens Head and he informed me that Pandy was the next objective along the ODP route. However, on a bright dry morning, I decided it would be good form to take the short drive back over the border into the Forest of Dean for an activation of Ruardean Hill G/WB-021. After driving around Ruardean and Ruardean Woodside trying to remember where Ruardean Hill was (without the benefit of an OS Map or a JimNav) we eventually found the Sports & Social Club, and parked opposite.

A short walk involving a final ascent of a few centimetres, followed by a descent of a few more centimetres, took us to the grassy area around the beacon. Here I set up, again for 40m CW, on which I made 21 QSOs. With the handheld, I added one more on 2m FM before we returned to the car and headed back into Wales.

Liam directed me to Pandy where we located where the ODP crossed the A465, before returning a little way south to pick up the road for Capel-y-ffin which we knew would eventually lead us onto Gospel Pass. The car park here was quite busy, but we got a space and changed into our boots.

This was probably the easiest 9 points I have ever collected in SOTA. From Gospel Pass, there is an intial pull up onto the plateau, but there follows an extended stretch of flat walking, where the only challenge was avoiding the numerous boggy bits. Most of the families out walking were treating the trig point on Hay Bluff (677m) as their objective, but of course we had to press on. Almost doubling back on ourselves, we proceeded along a flat flagged section until we joined the route of the Offa’s Dyke Path, before making another ascent which takes you above the 680m contour, and into the activation zone.

Opting not to walk a further kilometre south to the summit true, I set up in this area for my 40m CW activation. 26 QSOs were made, followed by a blank on the 2m FM handheld. After packing up and leaving the AZ, I soon met Dave M0MYA and partner on the flat bit between the edge of the AZ and Hay Bluff. We exchanged pleasantries and I revealed that the six foot 14 year old they had passed a few minutes before was in fact Liam. Liam had waited for me, as requested, at Hay Bluff trig point, before we completed the descent to Gospel Pass together.

We now drove down into Hay-on-Wye, where we paused for a steak & kidney pie from the butchers, and a photo by one of the many bookshops. The next objective, according to Liam, was Kington. I decided to ignore Hergest Ridge G/WB-008, but have a look at Bradnor Hill G/WB-011. I made use of the public road that runs up to and beyond Kington Golf Club, and gains quite a bit of height to a parking area, marked as “no public vehicles beyond this point”.

We walked on the allowable pathways between the greens and fairways and found the collection of rocks that marks the summit. The daylight was ebbing away and a cold icy wind was blasting across the golf course. A few feet away from the summit was a wooden shelter with a bench inside it. With no golfers out on the course, I reckoned it coule be our shack. I set up the 40m dipole accordingly so that the feeder could connect to the FT817 inside the shelter, and enjoyed the opportunity to activate out of the wind. The only disruption was the eerie racket being made by the wind outside!

15 QSOs were made, and there was no response to a call on 2m FM. We walked back to the car in the last shreds of daylight and drove down to Kington. One more driving leg was completed into Knighton, where I found a twin room over a pub - the George & Dragon Inn. We walked down the road to a nearby curry house for our supper, which was excellent, before returning to the pub for sleep.

I reflected that I had now done four SOTA activations in two days of Liam’s Road Trip, and he was still really happy and enjoying himself. What a marvellous design concept the Nintendo 3DS is!

Tom M1EYP

(TBC)

Friday 17th February 2012 - Day 3

After breakfast in the George & Dragon Inn, Liam told me to head for Brompton Crossroads as wet set off from Knighton on Day 3. But first, I deviated east for an activation of View Edge G/WB-018. The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 kept us entertained with the amusing Top Tenuous feature.

We drove up to the previously use parking spot opposite View Edge Farm, but were quickly advised by the resident that we must not park there. Initially, he went on to tell me that the nearest parking spot was 2 miles away, but I explained I only wanted half-an-hour on View Edge. He suggested I park in front of the (non-opening) gate for View Edge Quarry a little way down the lane.

Next to this gate was a walkers gate, so we went in here to explore. It was possible to ascent up to the same level as the field behind View Edge Farm, from where I had activated on my last visit, and comfortably within the AZ. It was time to unleash the dipole and the 3DS!

34 QSOs were made on 40m CW, followed by none on 2m FM. We cleared out of the quarry and drove down to Craven Arms, and onto Brompton Crossroads, which was pretty devoid of any interest.

The next objective was Buttington Bridge near Welshpool, so that meant another rendezvous with the Offa’s Dyke Path was in order - this time at Long Mountain-Beacon Ring GW/MW-026. We parked in a lay-by on the top road and walked up the access track to the transmitter site. We then climb up the earthwork of the Iron Age hillfort and into the wooded area within the Beacon Ring.

I found a bit close to the trig point with slightly lower tree density and set up the 40m dipole. Support from chasers was excellent again and 20 contacts were made. Unsurprisingly, nothing again on 2m FM, even though I emerged from the wood and stood atop the earthwork bank before calling.

After driving down to Buttington Bridge for a few photos, Liam advised that Llanymynech was the next port of call. However, a late afternoon activation called!

We drove down the A458 alongside the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway before turning right up the hill to Welshpool Golf Club, the home of Y Golfa GW/NW-061. I parked in the car park and went to speak to the head greenkeeper. This was to ask for permission to park while we went for a walk to the summit, and to ask where the summit was, because I had no map, no Jimmy and no idea! And I’m glad I did because we were sent off in more or less the opposite direction to what I had felt it might be!

This was a longer walk to how I remembered it, yet still only a short walk. In contrast to Bradnor Hill G/WB-011 the previous afternoon, the course was quite busy with plenty of golfers out braving the cold and wind on this particularly exposed golf course. Liam baggsed himself the trig point as a backrest and shelter, so I huddled in beside him as best I could after ereting the dipole.

41 QSOs were made on 40m CW, and again there were no replies to my call on 2m FM. After descent, two more “official” Offa’s Dyke Path stopping points were visited, in Llanymynech and Chirk Mill. In between, we also took a drive up to Chirk Castle for a look at that in the dusk.

With darkness fallen, we decided to call it a day and drove into Chirk itself to seek out accommodation. We found a pub called The Stanton House Inn and after enquiring, were offered a twin room for £25, not including breakfast. Seemed OK, and we didn’t fancy shopping around, so we took it. Oh dear.

It was awful. The room was very basic and not particularly comfortable. Dirty cups and cutlery had been left behind in there. It was not en suite, with a shared bathroom situated next door on the landing. This bathroom didn’t have a working light in it! And to use the telly, you needed to ask for the remote control from the bar “because people keep nicking them”.

Liam and I walked a little way into Chirk village and got a table at the Chirk Tandoori for a very satisfying meal. As we returned to the pub, it was absolutely packed with noisy people. For some reason “Gavin and Stacey” came to mind. A band was setting up, but I didn’t really fancy watching them amongst a very lively crowd.

No worries though, we wouldn’t miss anything. As Liam and I settled into our beds and turned out the lights, the band started up. The Statements were actually a pretty decent band, playing tight cover versions of both newer and classic rock, from Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight amd Stereophonics, to Bad Company, Guns & Roses and Oasis. But my goodness, they were loud. I was reminded of Motorhead at the Manchester Apollo in 1984.

Remarkably, Liam was fast asleep a good 30 minutes before the band finished playing! When they did finished, the din continued with the shouting of the punters, which soon morphed into a series of furious marital disputes and waging of vulgar insults. It sounded like friends of the couples, rather than acting as intermediaries and counsellors, were waging in with vehemently stated opinions of their own. We may have been on the Welsh side of the border, but the majority of the language was definitely Anglo-Saxon.

Eventually, I got to sleep. Thank goodness for tiredness.

Tom M1EYP

(TBC)

Saturday 18th February 2012 - Day 4

After escaping the clutches of Chirk, Liam instructed me to drive to Llandegla, and delivered perfect directions for me to do so. Just north of the village, we visited the End of the Line Cafe at a salmon fishing lake up in the hills. After a sausage, cheese and black pudding bap, with a mug of tea, it was time for more driving.

Listening to the excellent Sounds of the Sixties show on BBC Radio 2, the presenter Brian Matthews mentioned a good friend of mine, BDXC member Mike Terry in Bournemouth. After a couple of photos in Bodfari, we approached the village of Cwm. The Saturday morning weather had been hideous with heavy rain and hail, cancelling all thoughts of activating Moel Gyw GW/NW-053 and Penycloddiau GW/NW-054. (Moel Famau GW/NW-044 and Foel Fenlli GW/NW-051 were being saved for a ten point winter bonus day out with Jimmy M3EYP).

But now the weather suddenly brightened up, and there was some time to spare. So I headed up to the very nearby Mynydd y Cwm GW/NW-076. Liam and I found a more direct route up to the summit off the main track than that which Jimmy led on the last visit, so it was a very short walk. We set up for our respective summit activities right by the memorial cairn on the summit. For the fourth day running, Liam had managed to clock up ten Playcoins towards his Nintendo 3DS campaign.

On 40m CW, I recorded 21 QSOs, with one more following on 2m FM with the handheld. We descended to the car, with Liam keeping up the excellent fast pace he had maintained throughout the four days. We drove up to Prestatyn and located the large marker stone for the end of the ODP. We had a snack lunch of steak and onion pie in the cafe part of the amusement arcade, before Liam had a quid’s worth on one of the car racing driving games.

A look at the sea and the wind farm was in order, but I was keen to hit the road - Macclesfield Town were at home! I found it hard work finding a way down to the A55 from Prestatyn, but once on there, then the A494, M56 and M6, progress was rapid. Throughout the drive I chatted with Richard G3CWI/M on his way to Gun G/SP-013 (again! I just don’t get these folks that have an obsession with a single summit) and Jimmy M3EYP. I picked up Jimmy in Macclesfield while depositing Liam, and made my way to the Moss Rose for the match with Aldershot. We were rubbish and lost 1-0. Bother.

Tom M1EYP
(TBC)

In conclusion, many thanks to all the chasers that worked me on these activations. In particular, thank you to Roy G4SSH who was first in to work me and spot me on many of them!

Summary: (40m CW – 2m FM)

15 Feb - G/CE-002 ---- 6 – 5
16 Feb - G/WB-021 — 21 – 1
16 Feb - GW/SW-041 – 26 – 0
16 Feb - G/WB-011 — 15 – 0
17 Feb - G/WB-018 — 34 – 0
17 Feb - GW/MW-026 – 20 – 0
17 Feb - GW/NW-061 – 41 – 0
18 Feb - GW/NW-076 – 21 – 1

Total: 40m CW - 184, 2m FM - 7 … 191 activator QSOs … avg 23.875

Biggest thank you goes to my son Liam who was brilliant company throughout the four days. We had a ball.

Tom M1EYP

Just a note to say that I hope to get around to entering these activations, and several more dating back to December onto the SOTA Database sometime this week! I expect the number of QSOs involved may be over 1000 (groan!) - I should really keep on top of this.

But those missing asterisks on chaser logs should appear sometime soon.

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:
!

I expect the number of QSOs involved may
be over 1000 (groan!) - I should really keep on top of this.

I can think of much better ways of spending a couple evenings, Tom :frowning:

You have my sympathy.

73 Mike
2E0YYY

In reply:

Arthritis and eye-sight issues apart, anyone should be able to enter around 6 QSO/minute without really trying. You only need to enter a time and callsign into the database before hitting OK.

It’s not exactly challenging especially as the keys have been in the same place on a keyboard for the last 115 years or so. We’ve all had plenty of time to learn where they are.

:slight_smile:

Andy
MM0FMF

If it was 1, 2 or 3 activations, I would probably use the manual entry interface provided on the SOTA Database site. However, as it is more like a double figures number of activations, I will prepare a CSV file to upload. Especially as for those activations that have doubled as VHF activity contest, I can copy and insert my log as emailed back to me by the VHF contest committee!

1000+ QSOs it might be, but I don’t expect it to be a big job to be honest.

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

In conclusion, many thanks to all the chasers that worked me on these
activations. In particular, thank you to Roy G4SSH who was first in
to work me and spot me on many of them!

Hi Tom,

Looks like your reporting has been hijacked - there is absolutely no mention of food in the first two lines of this posting which is a clear indication that you couldn’t have written it!!!

Good reports though (the previous three that is!!!)

73

Barry GM4TOE

In reply to GM4TOE:

I can confirm the bad news Barry: I have searched the thread for the 'EYP key-word “soup”. Not a single mention. Clearly the report was written by an imposter.

73

Richard
G3CWI

In reply to GM4TOE:

Must be on the supper sloth thread.

In reply to G1INK:

Excellent Steve. I have been trying to work out how to make a gag out of that since it appeared, but you got in first!

Apologies to all eager followers of the SBlog (Soup Blog), but it didn’t feature on Liam’s Road Trip. I did have a rather nice bowl (polystyrene cup) of leek & potato with my chicken balti sandwich from the school canteen today, if that makes anyone feel any better.

Anyway, it is high time that Jimmy and I did a LD weekend bagging uniques. I am also supposed to be meeting Colin M0CGH for a joint activation when I can find a suitable date. Rest assured, soup will feature in either case, and the flavour recorded for posterity on here.

Tom M1EYP

Just done the activator log upload for 20 activations dating back to Boxing Day 2011. It wasn’t as many QSOs as I had estimated, but over 600. The main thing is I am now back above G3CWI in the activator table!

Anyway, back to the Offa’s Dyke Road Trip, another big thank you to the chasers for their excellent support of my activations. Especially, the following stalwarts who worked me on 3 or more of my summits:

3: DJ5AV, DL2EF, DL3HXX, G3RDQ, G3TJE, G4OBK, G4OOE, GI4SRQ, OK1DVM, ON4FI, PA0WDG, S51ZG

4: DL4FDM, DL6UNF, F5SQA, GI4ONL

5: DF5WA, G3XQE

6: DL1FU, G0NUP, G4FGJ, G4SSH

Tom M1EYP

All reports and photos now online at http://tomread.co.uk