Out of the blue came a last minute invitation for Jimmy and I to join Richard G3CWI and daughter Mai Ling on a two day SOTA trip and campover in the western Lake District. This was received enthusiastically, and preparations were soon underway.
Domestic priorities meant that we embarked at the ‘luxurious’ time of 10.30am on Friday 29th May 2009. With breakfast already a distant memory, and a long drive ahead, it meant that lunch was taken at the roadside in the Lakes, somewhat unusually before any walking had been done! G3CWI and daughter were on posh Marks & Spencers sandwiches, while M1EYP and M3EYP were quoffing broccoli and stilton soup.
The first target of the expedition was Whitfell G/LD-032. As we headed into the vicinity on the country lanes, we noticed a large gathering outside a pub, all in white shirts and black ties. Parking looked difficult, so we first tried the end of the cul-de-sac and closest point to the path start, Bigert Mire SD178926. The cluster of cottages here were all deserted, and there was no-one around to ask at all. We decided to retreat and find something back on the lanes.
After finding what seemed to be a suitable roadside spot, we were approached by a farmer on a quadbike. He invited us to drive back up the road, turn left and park in front of one of his gates. He told us that all the local residents were at a funeral, presumably the gathering we had seen at the pub.
From this new parking spot, SD179922, it was only a short walk back up to Bigert Mire, where by now people were returning home from the funeral. On the way up the road we were asked to assist in blocking the way of five errant sheep as they were channeled back into their field, and then pointed in the direction of the bridleway behind the farmhouse.
The first part of the walk was easy going on a solid track, but this faded away into rough pasture after five minutes. The distance to cover was short, and Whitfell loomed up in front of us, and slightly to the left. At the stile, we regrouped, redistributed some weight from Jimmy’s pack to mine, and refuelled on some Eccles cakes.
It was also time to apply some suncream, as the sun was blazing down in oppressive fashion. Except I had forgotten mine. Richard had plenty - Richard to the Rescue!
From this point, Jimmy, Richard and myself chose to contour around the hill to its far side, then to turn sharply and attack the summit. Mai Ling however turned left there and then and aimed for the direct approach up very steep grassy slopes. Ultimately, her decision was correct, as contouring around to the other side offered very little advantage, despite what it initially looked like on the ground, and indeed how it appeared on the 1:25,000 sheet.
Richard operated on 40m CW, me on 20m CW, and Jimmy on 2m FM. After having a look at the spots, I QSY’d to 20m SSB and worked a summit-to-summit to a TK Corsica activation, which was very pleasing. Jimmy tried to tail-end this to repeat the feat, but QSB kicked in and it didn’t appear that the TK activator got Jimmy’s callsign correct. Oh well, just another of SOTA’s many “gotaways”.
The descent was reasonably quick and easy, especially by following Mai Ling’s steep grassy route back down to the bridleway. We drove up to the Old Post Office campsite in Eskdale, and pitched our two 2-man tents right by a stream. It was a lovely little spot, albeit a little crowded on this very busy site. Thankfully, and perhaps unusually, it was completely midge free.
Right on the side of the campsite was the Bridge Inn, and this was the target for our evening meal and samples of the extensive selection of Jennings Ales. The steak & kidney pie with fresh veg and roast potatoes was a truly stunning dish, and I would definitely eat at this hostelry again. We also made a note of the fact that breakfast was served to non-residents - useful to know for the future, if not on this trip.
Jimmy and I slept in our new cheap £17 tent from Sainsburys. It was single skin, no flysheet, and I wouldn’t really want to put it to the test in lesser weather. But it was warm and dry, and it did the job of giving us a night’s sleep without the considerable time implication of putting our deluxe four-man tent up.
We retired to our tents after hot chocolate, looking forward to our main expedition the following day.