Region Completion in 31 hours

Well, OK, 30 hours and 59 minutes to be exact.

The annual mid-summer get-together of the British DX Club -

  • provided an opportunity for Jimmy and myself to activate the entire Central England (G/CE) SOTA region in a weekend.

Walton Hill G/CE-002

We left Macclesfield at 6.30am BST on the morning of Saturday 14th July 2007, and made straight for the M6. Progress was unimpeded and we were onto the M5 in no time, after a chat with Steve GW7AAV on GB3VT (Stoke-on-Trent repeater). After leaving the M5 onto the A456, we took a spot of breakfast at McDonalds in Halesowen, then continued the short distance to the parking spot for Walton Hill G/CE-002. This is easy to locate. From the A456, turn off at the signpost for “Clent Hills”, then turn again following the convenient signpost for “Walton Hill”. There is a National Trust car park on the flanks of the hill.

The pull up to the summit is an easy five minute walk. The area is popular with dog walkers. We set up the SOTA Beam on the fishing pole, and pointed it at Connahs Quay, knowing that DSP and AAV needed it as a unique. However, all replies were from local stations in the West Midlands, so we happily worked through these. 14 minutes into the activation, Mike GW0DSP/P called in from Hope Mountain GW/NW-062 for the summit-to-summit and to claim 50% of his remaining CE summits chased. Barry was also looking for us, but couldn’t get us on FM, so we went horizontal SSB and made contact that way. Jimmy M3EYP/P rounded off the activation with a local 2m FM contact for his 4th, and we made the quick descent to the car.

Bredon Hill G/CE-003

Jimmy navigated a cumbersome but ultimately successful route back to the M5, but then it was an easy drive down the motorway. A new local radio station - The Wyre from Kidderminster - was noted, and Jimmy wrote some details for a reception report into my logbook as I drove. The exit was Junction 9 onto the A46, then a couple of turnings up to the village of Kemerton, and then the long cul-de-sac road up to the small parking area at SO955384.

We were already getting behind schedule for the BDXC meet in Twickenham, so I instructed Jimmy to lead the ascent and force a brisk pace. This is a simple walk with little ascent involved, just a few fields of gently rising farmland before turning left and heading out for the summit marked with a large rock and viewfinder.

Graham G4JZF was first up for the second time in the day, and both Jimmy and myself had the summit qualified inside a quarter of an hour. We now went for a speedy descent and drive to our third and final summit of the day - Cleeve Hill G/CE-001.

Cleeve Hill G/CE-001

The drive down through Bishops Cleeve and Cheltenham was not as frutsrating as I recalled it on my previous visits, and we were driving up the long straight tarmac cul-de-sac up Cleeve Hill barely an hour after departing Bredon Hill G/CE-003. There were a couple of parking spots remaining, so we bagged on and set off for the summit.

Cleeve Common, atop this ridge, is a long wide and flat expanse of grass, with an unusually firm surface, and hence the area is almost always in use by hobbyists of many different pursuits. Today, there were cyclists, quad-bikers, kite-surfers, horse-riders, kite flyers, plane spotters, bird watchers as well as us radio amateurs. At the trig point, a chap with a pair of binoculars was trying to watch a nearby Red Arrows display, but was being nudged by two adoring attention-seeking big fat cows. The didn’t adore Jimmy and I though, and soon scarpered when we started to set up.

The trig point here is very useful, with the cap missing, allowing the pole to be inserted and hence used without guys. Ten minutes brought four contacts for Jimmy, and five for me, including G4JZF in the logs once again. Shortly after 3pm local, we were away and driving to London.

Progress on the A40 and M40 was good, and we made good time. Several items of interest were spotted on the VHF FM broadcast band. The Oxford franchise on 107.9MHz is now identifying on air and RDS simply as the rather uninspiring “FM 107.9”. A station, presumably pirate on 87.5MHz, had a scrolling RDS display on the car radio which included “”. 106.6MHz from Slough, formerly Star Radio, was now “Time 1066 for Berks and South Bucks”. London pirates Freeze 92.7 and Unique 101.2 were noted, and mirroring events in Manchester, London’s 102.2 Jazz FM is now (unfortunately) Smooth Radio.

We dumped the car outside the B&B we had booked in Twickenham, and then walked through the town centre to the Barmy Arms on the banks of the Thames. Hand-pulled pints of Youngs, Bombardier and Fullers London Pride were enjoyed, before the group of radio enthusiasts adjourned to the Delhi Durbar restaurant for an excellent meal. More beer (and whiskey) was consumed afterwards at the Fox pub, completing a great night and a pleasing but tiring day.

Wendover Woods G/CE-005

After breakfast at the B&B, we got away before 9am local. We drove out on the M4 then up the M25, before heading out towards Aylesbury on the A41. Again here, our turnings were conveniently signposted “Wendover Woods” and we followed the roads uphill to the Forestry Commission site.

We parked on a lay-by a short distance along the access road and followed the public footpaths out onto Aston Hill and the trig point there. This is a short distance away from the true summit in busy woodland, and only a few metres lower.

First up, yet again was Graham G4JZF, as we launched our activation on 2m SSB. M0JDK and G4MOP followed before we hit the wall of silence. We were in no rush, so I decided to deploy the 40m dipole and the paddle for the first time in the weekend. Only one station was worked on 40m CW before the crowded band and QRM got the better of me, but it was GW0DSP, hence completing his G/CE region for summits chased, as well as me getting my 4th contact.

By now Marc G0AZS had arrived, and he captured the moment on his camera in between setting up his own station. That left Jimmy with one contact to find, so he went hunting on 2m FM while Marc got cracking on 5MHz. I overheard Mike GW0DSP working Marc; he must have been making doubly sure that he got his elusive summit! “Got one Dad!” came the excited cry from Jimmy as he successfully broke a QSO on 2m to get his fourth contact.

By now, Jimmy and I were suffering very badly with hayfever in this field of long grass surrounded by tall trees. We packed up and drove down to the central Wendover Woods car park, and made for “The Cafe In The Woods”, a relatively new establishment. The first item on the agenda had to be an ice cream each to freeze out the insides of our mouths. That done, we now treated ourselves to a lovely toasted brie and bacon sandwich for lunch. Marc joined us in the cafe after completing his own activation, and we had a chat over a mug of tea.

“At the trig point, a chap with a pair of binoculars was trying to watch a
nearby Red Arrows display”

I was watching the display myself but from the airfield itself: RAF Fairford. Had a great day !!

Jimmy assured me he could remember the quickest route back to the M1, so I trusted him and followed his directions. When we hit the town of Dunstable, I realised he had been faultless with his navigation this time, and we were soon heading north on the M1.

Bardon Hill G/CE-004

It didn’t seem to take long at all to get up to our target of Junction 22, and we realised that we were making very good time, despite our relaxed approach to the day. Jimmy insisted on directing me via Copt Oak to approach the Vercor Close parking spot from the north.

As we walked outwards on the bridleway, also know as the “Ivanhoe Way”, we noticed two men ahead walking slowly with black sticks in their hands. We wondered what they were doing. I speculated on water divining, while Jimmy through they were dog leads. As we got closer, we could see that they were guns. They said that they were hunting for pigeons and squirrels to make a pie with! We passed them as the path turned to the left, but looking back a minute or so later, we could see that they had been joined by two police officers!

Jimmy and I continued to the summit, keeping a nervous eye on the weather. Thick grey cloud shrouded the land and towns in all directions, wind was picking right up, and I suspected that one of the threatened thunderstorms and heavy downpours could be closing in. We had been lucky all weekend to have avoid all the bad weather, managing to remain completely dry.

Listening on my Yaesu VX-7R to the medium-wave broadcast band revealed regular static crashes, so I decided to activate handheld style and not hang around too long.

There were not any replies to our calls on S20, but we broke an existing QSO on S19 to get the four contacts each. As two of these were SOTA chasers anyway, that was not a problem! After leaving that net back to its frequency, a clutch of stations followed me to S18 where I worked down the mini-pile-up. This included Graham G4JZF completing his set of working us on all five CE summits in the weekend, and Steve 2E0KPO who was able to inform me that the storm was 25 miles to my East, and heading in a direction that would not hit me.

All the same, it was nearly 5 o’clock local, rather cold, and the end of a long and tiring weekend. No more stations called in, and it was time to go home. It took us 20 minutes to walk down the hill, and a further 1 hour 45 minutes to drive to Macclesfield via the A50 through Stoke. Jimmy and myself took dinner at the excellent Weston Balti Raj on our estate, and yet again saw a certain G3CWI, someone obviouly pleased with our recommendation judging by the amount of times we see him there!

A very satisfying and enjoyable weekend. I had done all these summits several times before, and Jimmy had walked up them several times before, but not since he became licensed. Hence he needed these as Activator Uniques, and now has them. Over our curry, Jimmy started to plan how we should travel down on the Friday to next year’s BDXC event, and activate some of the South-East SE summits on the Saturday and Sunday. There’s no stopping this boy. All I could think about was a good kip.

A SOTA region completed in 30 hours and 59 minutes - with some time off for good behaviour!

In reply to M1EYP:

I left work in Ellesmere Port at about 06:45 BST and having seen Tom’s post about listening on GB3VT I tuned the Alinco in the car to 145.725 and called out for the Macc Lads and true to his word Tom was on station en route. I was most impressed with the coverage of this repeater and I chatted Tom all the way home to my drive in CQ town. On the drive I noticed that VT was still 5/9.

In the house I made a quick coffee and tried to figure out how to get the IC706mkIIg on to repeater mode. I had almost just about done this when Tom gave another shout, by the time I finished setting up the repeater closed and I failed to get in. I thumbed through the manual to find out how to either send CTSS tones or a tone burst while looking up the tones from the list on my PC, but by the time I had it figured out there was no reply. It shows how often I use repeaters, but a pity I would have like to see how far we could have held it. On the main antenna GB3VT is 5/9+60dB.

Having failed to re-establish my QSO with Tom I pointed the beam in the right direction and then retired to bed for a couple of hours. I got up in time for Webmon to announce Jimmy’s self spot saying they were going to 2m SSB, but I could not find them there. I was still searching the SSB section when Barry M3PXW reported to me via 70cms that you had just finished on 2m FM. After giving mission control a good rollicking for not spotting either the FM or SSB frequencies I went back to bed but could not sleep. I got back up and decided not to let any more points escape. I felt terrible, I had been up for what seemed like days and I only managed a couple of contacts I should have stayed in bed from when I got in. At least Sunday was better (See my reply to Marc G0AZS) in some respects.

Thanks to Tom for the chat and congratulations to Tom and Jimmy on the activations sorry I could not work you on any of them.

Regards Steve GW7AAV

In reply to M1EYP:
Great to meet you and Jimmy and an even greater pleasure to end up activating on the same summit.

I must admit I was a tad worried when you left for the cafe that someone may mistake your hayfever for me having battered you about a bit. I’m very impressed that you both stuck at it as you were clearly suffering. Well done!

73 Marc GØAZS

Several at work today have accused me of fighting at the weekend such is the state of my eyes!

Hi Tom

A superb report Tom

Congratulations to yourself and Jimmy on what was obviously a very well thought out, planned, and highly successful weekend.

Thanks to both of you for the s2s contact from G/CW-002 the first unique that I was "hope"ing for, hi.
I wasn’t taking any risks and it seems that I made the right decision to get on a summit to chase you. (see Super Saturday on Hope Mtn. thread)

I thought that Wendover Woods G/CE-005 had got the better of me yet again, because there was not a whisper from you & Jimmy on 2m-fm.
At that point I had already assigned myself to the belief that you had at least halved my requirement to complete another set of summits.

Then it appeared!! that magic spot that you were to QSY to 40m-cw and I think the lads in our local 70cms net will confirm my “slight” excitement at the prospect of another shot at G/CE-005.

40m had been in strange mood to be fair, with lots of activity buy watery sigs from EU and I couldn’t believe my luck when I heard your cq sota call at 539 and no takers, well, I didn’t need asking twice, I dived straight in and danced a not so pretty jig when I heard your 519 report come back to me.

Thanks a million Tom & Jimmy

73 Mike GW0DSP

In reply to M1EYP:

Well, OK, 30 hours and 59 minutes to be exact.

Good work Tom and Jimmy. Coincidentally, when Geoff M3SFN and myself did it, we also got it in “a minute under” in 12 hours and 59 minutes!

I wonder how quickly it can be done? Perhaps its already been done quicker? If a couple of trundlers like me and Dad can do it in 13 hours, the SOTA Gods ought to be faster? CE is a very big area though, and driving time makes for a big part of it.

Wendover Woods was hard work on 144 SSB, and ate into a lot of time. A good day on 80m would make life easier (though we didn’t have HF capability at the time). We finished on Walton Hill (relatively close to the home QTH) and about 11pm local time - it was only by the grace of M0JDK, G3RMD, M3SDE and G0ELJ still being awake that we got away with it.

All in all, it was a brilliant day’s activating, with Cleeve and Bredon being the nicest. The drive down from Bardon to Wendover was probably the least pleasing bit.


Dave 2E0BYA.