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Road Trip 4

The February half-term Road Trip has become a tradition in this household. The idea is that Liam and myself “do” a long-distance National Trail route - but in a car. That is, Liam gets all the benefits of being away on an adventure with his dad, nice meals, B&B stops and a rare chance to have sole control of the road atlas, but without all the walking. Well, not too much walking anyway!

Liam will be 16 during this year, and moving onto college education, so for how long, if at all, the February Road Trips continue I cannot be sure, but this year’s - the Pembrokeshire Coast Path Road Trip - was another classic.

For our previous Road Trips, consult the following webpages:
Road Trip 1 - Pennine Way - http://tomread.co.uk/pennine_way_road_trip.htm
Road Trip 2 - Coast 2 Coast - http://tomread.co.uk/c2c_road_trip.htm
Road Trip 3 - Offa’s Dyke - http://tomread.co.uk/odp_road_trip.htm

The full webpages, with photos, for Road Trip 4 will follow in due course. In the meantime, here are the reports, including activation reports. (In subsequent posts in this thread…).

Tom M1EYP

Road Trip - Day 1 - Saturday 16th February 2013

We’d had a late night on the Friday as a result of going to watch the incomparable John Shuttleworth at Buxton Opera House. Hence it was a rather decadent departure time of 10.30am for our 4th annual Road Trip. Liam was in charge of the road atlas, and directed me along the M56 and down the A483 to Welshpool.

During the drive, it was fun to listen in to Mickey 2E0YYY’s activation of Titterstone Clee Hill G/WB-004, including two contacts with him on 2m FM. One as M1EYP/M near Oswestry, and then as MW1EYP/M near Welshpool. We then turned west and headed through Newtown and over to Aberystwyth.

From here it was A487, A485 and B4576 to Llangwyryfon, taking the second left out of the village to climb up the narrow twisty lanes to a wide grassy parking area on the shoulder of Hafod Ithel GW/MW-029. From here it is an easy stroll of less than five minutes up to the trig point. Two ladies were sat there as we arrived. As we started taking photos, they asked if we wanted them to move out of the way. “It depends how you feel about appearing on my website next week” I replied. They decided to stay where they were!

Liam and I dropped off the summit a short distance to get some marginal shelter from the cold breeze. Liam, as ever, spent his newly earned playcoins awarded according to the pedometer in his Nintendo 3DS, and settled into a session of gameplay. On 40m CW, with the (single band) dipole and HB1B, I rattled off 22 QSOs in 15 minutes. After packing away, a call on 2m FM from the HT added one more to the log, the very same station that Jimmy had worked from here the previous summer.

Back in the car we completed our journey to St Dogmaels, the official starting point of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which is near Cardigan. We marked the occasion with some photos and a drink in the adjacent pub, before driving down to Newport and then Goodwick as directed by Liam.

We now made our way to Porthgain, and The Shed fish & chip restaurant that we had wanted to visit. I started with mussels, then went on to cod and chips, most enjoyable. It was now past 9pm and we hadn’t secured any accommodation for the evening. The hostel in Trefin was full, but just down the road we got in at a lovely B&B attached to a large art & design studio. The proprietors were also professional book packagers and authors.

Liam went to bed, while I watched the FA Cup highlights on the telly. Day 2 will follow…

Tom M1EYP

Road Trip - Day 2 - Sunday 17th February 2013

The day started with a magnificent breakfast at the Park Court Barn B&B in Trefin. The landlady Gill, also a prolific author and book packager, served up fruit juice, cereals and toast and a pot of tea. This was merely the prelude to a monster feast of sausage, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, saute potatoes plus other sauteed vegetables like carrots and aubergine. That aspect was unusual, but also completely delicious. Before we could leave the table, Gill then presented a plateful of cakes - two each of cherry cake, blueberry muffin and of course Welsh cakes. There would be no lunch today!

The next port of call along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path route was Whitesands Bay, which provided some nice photos on a gloriously sunny morning. Next was the curious inlet at Solva, and then it was SOTA time. We drove into Haverfordwest on the A487, and then into the Preseli Mountains on the B4329.

At the highest point of the road, we pulled into the parking area, then battled to put our coats on! The wind was cold and had incredible force, despite the otherwise beautiful visual appearance of the day’s weather. Liam and I set off along the boggy path alongside the trees before an even boggier section across to the gate. 200 yards or so of gravel track provided brief relief, before returning to boggy tussocky terrain.

The gradient began to increase, and moreso as we turned the corner, following the fence. At the top of this section, we took care passing through a kissing gate, for the ground beneath it was submerged in two inches of water! Once through the gate, we headed uphill towards the summit - and all the false ones before it!

Much of the route, while windy, had not matched the force of wind experienced at the car park. However, the area around the trig point even surpassed that, so after photos, we were soon retreating downhill to find a relatively sheltered activating spot. I then had tremendous difficulty in erecting the 40m dipole. A weak section in the pole completely gave way, and the wind was just too strong anyway. Ultimately, I had to set the dipole with its apex at a mere 2.5m above the ground, on a pole at less than 50% of its normal height.

I did manage to make four QSOs in just two minutes on 40m CW, but that was it - no further callers. No doubt that the reduced height had a negative effect, but I’d got the points, so couldn’t complain! I packed away the gear and invited Liam to get himself a head start while I did so. Returning to stand at the trig point, I did add two 2m FM contacts with the VX7R.

Several interested passers by asked questions about my activity, and were interested in the answers. I got on my way, and attempted to eat up the gap between Liam and myself with a brisk walk. I never caught him, until reaching the car! A car with a magmount on the roof pulled into the car park. The registration plate was G4VPX, and the driver introduced himself to me as Allan GW4VPX, keen SOTA chaser and in planning to activate these local summits. We escaped the ferocity of the gales and windchill outside, by sitting in Allan’s motor (with the heater on) for a natter.

Once back in my own car, I was in QSO with Steve MW0BBU, who I had worked on both 40m CW and 2m FM from the summit a little earlier. Steve kept me company as I drove down to Little Haven, then Dale, and Neyland. The next place on Liam’s itinerary was Angle on the western end of the Pembroke peninsular. Navigational difficulties meant that we missed the sunset there by just a few minutes, but there was just about time to visit Bosherston before nightfall fully set in.

Flicking around the car radio between BBC Radio 2, Radio Pembrokeshire, Radio Carmarthenshire/Scarlet FM, Real Radio and Nation Radio, Liam was keen to determine, via frequency analysis, a “theme” for the Road Trip. Nothing was really going out along in front, unlike previous years (see Pennine Way and Offa’s Dyke Road Trips), but Emeli Sande’s “Clown” and the theme from ‘Skyfall’ were contenders, as were James Arthur’s “Impossible Song”, and, remarkably (and quite appropriately), Queen’s “Radio Gaga”.

We tried to find overnight lodgings in Pembroke Dock, and settled for the Welshmans Arms. It was only £40 for a twin room, but moreover it was almost next door to a curry house. After showering (and confusing the pub dog Henry, who no longer “recognised” us), we adjourned for a superb curry, which I accompanied with a King Cobra - a 750ml bottle of an 8% version of the beer.

We could hardly walk, we were so stuffed with food as we hobbled back to the pub. It was hard work trying to stay awake during the ITV FA Cup highlights, and I snoozed through most of it. We both had a fantastic night of sleep and slept soundly through to beyond 9am.

Tom M1EYP

Road Trip - Day 3 - Monday 18th February 2013

We didn’t have far to go on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path Road Trip - two stops in fact - but we had plenty of plans to keep us busy. The first stop, Tenby, was a favourite of Liam’s from our family holiday of summer 2012, so we spent a morning there. The pub we had stayed at did not do breakfast, so we partook in the Bar & Grill on Tenby’s south beach.

Out of the cold, we could enjoy the spectacular views of the sunbathed coast through the large windows of the cafe. A full traditional breakfast for me, and pancakes with bacon and maple syrup for Liam were accompanied by mocha and J20 respectively.

We took the steep walk up into the town centre and passed through the town wall. Liam soon found the amusement arcade, and I won a quick quid on the Word Soup game. This was then used to part pay for a two player race on the driving game. I was leading until the final bend, when my son took me on the inside and crossed the finishing line first. I was gutted. Liam was jubilant.

Again, chatting with Steve MW0BBU on 2m FM, we drove down to Amroth, the official end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. We took the necessary photos, and cracked on with some SOTA for the second half of the day.

The first stop was Brandy Hill GW/MW-037. After driving through Red Roses and towards Tavernspite, we took the sharp right onto the minor road across Brandy Hill towards the transmitter site. We parked on a pull in opposite an open entrance into the field adjacent the transmitter site, and walked across the short grass to the trig point.

JCBs and tractors were buzzing around the field, possibly working on the major new bypass that appeared to be being constructed in the area. We parked ourselves in the corner of the field, mainly to get a little shelter from wind, and I erected the 40m dipole. I had remembered to replace the pole, so that the thing would stay up at full height!

This turned out to be a satisfying activation. In the sunshine of the day, and sheltered spot, we were able to dispense with coats and hats. Furthermore, I made 29 QSOs in 17 manic minutes on 7.024MHz CW.

By the time we were back in the car, it had just turned 3pm. Sunset was about 5pm, and most daylight gone by 6pm, but I had plans for two more activations in the day. We couldn’t hang around!

We returned to the A477, then took the A40 to Carmarthen. A short spell on the A484, followed by an even shorter one on the B4309 took us onto the B4306. At the top of the road, we pulled into the wide area at the start of a farm track. There is plenty of parking space here, but I have heard that the farm up the track doesn’t appreciate motors going any further up that track!

I had been telling Liam about the naughty horse, attached to a stake in the field by a very long tether the last time I was here. Sadly, there was no sign of the horse, all that remained was the stake. Sounds rather familiar at the current time, does it not?

This is a very quick 5 minute walk, curling around an easy grassy route to the summit of Mynydd Llangyndeyrn GW/SW-039. Again, wind was a problem, but not after we dropped a few feet to a nice little spot sheltered by rocks. 40m CW was the business again, and 23 QSOs went into the logbook in an 11 minute operating period.

Two QRZ? calls brought nothing further, so we quickly packed up to squeeze in a third activation of the afternoon, and a fifth of the road trip.

We continued along the B4306 through Pontyberem, then took the second right up Sylen. Parking was easy in a wide, but clearly unused access drive by a locked and tied-up gate. This was right next to the transmitter access road to Mynydd Sylen GW/SW-036. Liam and I wandered up the road and plonked ourselves down on the tarmac between the transmitter masts and the trig point. No shelter was available, and it had gone 5pm, so it was getting rather chilly!

A tractor was working on the field in front of us. We were on a PROW, but that does not automatically give anyone permission to erect a temporary antenna, so I wondered if we met get approached. In the event, we didn’t, but I didn’t really want to be hanging around.

However, hang around we did. It seemed Jimmy M0HGY had not got my text requesting an alert be placed, thus enabling automatic spotting by the RBN. Spotlite seemed very slow and unreliable, although I did eventually get something through. Skip was lengthening, and the bands were noisy and congested.

After a long period of unanswered calling, it was music to my ears when DL7URB responded. That headed up a run of five QSOs in four minutes - but that was it - no further calls! The sun had set, twilight was running out, the wind had picked up and we were both very cold. Plus, we were going to try and return home that night. Time for a sharp exit!

Liam’s directions were excellent as we made our way home via Llandovery, Brecon, Leominster, Kidderminster, M5 and M6. We listened to ‘Just A Minute’ on BBC Radio 4, with Paul Merton at his brilliant best. Liam had never heard the show before, but loved it. At Leominster, we decided to take in an evening meal at just past 9pm. We went into an “OK Diner” and enjoyed buffalo wings, tower burgers with bacon, cheese and chilli con carne, chips and cookies and cream milk shakes. After three very easy summits, we were definitely in the red on the calorie count!

We reached Macclesfield at 1.15am and went straight to bed! Many thanks to all the chasers that supported the five activations. The theme to the trip had been Emeli Sande’s “Clown”.

Tom M1EYP

Hi Tom

Thanks for your informative and humorous report of your half term road trip.

It was nice to meet up with you and put a face to the voice and also for giving me your advice on activating my local summits.

Regards to Liam and tell him he’s a better photographer than his father. Hi.

73 de

Allan GW4VPX

In reply to M1EYP:

Thanks for an interesting read Tom from which I could visualise the ascents and the summits very well. Certainly Mynydd Sylen at dusk struck a chord as Paul had real difficulty with getting contacts on HF and ended up finishing the activation on 2m.

73, Gerald G4OIG

Day 1 of Road Trip 4 (Pembrokeshire Coast Path) is now up on my website.

Go to http://tomread.co.uk and click on Road Trips on the left menu pane.

The photos to accompany the story are on there, and day 1 includes a SOTA activation of Hafod Ithel GW/MW-029.

Tom M1EYP

Day 2 of Road Trip 4 (Pembrokeshire Coast Path) is now up on my website.

Go to http://tomread.co.uk and click on Road Trips on the left menu pane.

There are loads of cracking photos on this page, and included is a SOTA activation of Foel Cwmcerwyn GW/MW-011, and a chance meeting with Allan GW4VPX.

Tom M1EYP

Day 3 (the final day) of Road Trip 4 (Pembrokeshire Coast Path) is now up on my website.

Go to http://tomread.co.uk and click on Road Trips on the left menu pane.

Lots of photos again on this page, including three SOTA activations - Brandy Hill GW/MW-037, Mynydd Llangyndeyrn GW/SW-039 and Mynydd Sylen GW/SW-036. But also photos of beautiful Pembrokeshire beaches, morning coffee, arcade action, quiz machine success, proper breakfasts and American diners!

I hope you enjoy it - if you do, please sign the guestbook. If you do not, then please do not sign the guestbook hi :wink:

Lots more new SOTA action photos to follow very soon on my website - I hope to get them all published online before I’m out snapping again (wx permitting) on Monday.

Tom M1EYP