I got back from the RSGB Convention at around 9pm last night after the drive from Milton Keynes.
I’d set off on Friday morning, arriving at Bletchley Park at around 1pm. I took myself straight to the National Radio Centre (NRC) within the park and saw that the HF station was free and staff were just chatting amongst themselves. I took the opportunity to get on the radio and managed two CW QSOs on 40m operating as GB3RS. Shortly after it was time for a special tour of Bletchley Park directed by Anthony G0LAX, who is a Bletchley Park tour guide and volunteer at the NRC. The tour was very interesting and lasted for about two hours! Unfortunately we all got very wet in the monsoon like weather. Thankfully I’d packed spare shoes, so I was able to swap into dry footwear later on.
I moved on to the RSGB Convention site at Kents Hill Business Park after stopping at a pub for a quick meal. At the convention I met Paul @G4IPB who had travelled by public transport. It was nice to see a familiar face. I had a chance to meet Edward O’Neill who is the editor of RSGB’s RadCom magazine and it was great to chat to him and Steve Nicholls G0YKA about SOTA and building QRP kits. (Steve Nicholls is the RSGB propagation bod).
On the Saturday I attended a few lectures, and the DX Gala dinner, I sat with Paul G4IPB and we had a discussion with Murray Niman G6JYB, also on our table, about the recent Ofcom consultation. I briefly spoke with John, G3WGV as we passed on the stairs!
Sunday’s highlight was the talk by Neil Smith G4DBN about the Great Seal Bug project, featured on TV earlier this year. A close second was the excellent talk by Ian @GI0AZB and Esther @GI0AZA about SOTA activating in Ireland and Northern Ireland. It was nice to meet Esther and Ian for the first time. Ed @DD5LP was floating around all weekend too, he wasn’t too difficult to miss in his orange ICQ Podcast shirt!
At one point during the day, I headed outside to the GB3HQ station and I couldn’t believe my ears when the station calling in was our very own Gerald, @G4OIG!
In all it was a very enjoyable event, despite not winning the raffle!
Edit to add some photos -
Ready for dinner
‘Flossie’ The Camb-Hams mobile shack which was being used for GB3HQ
Nice write up @M1BUU Colin - I’m gutted I missed to attend, the second year running but I am in Germany on business (also getting as many SOTA summits activated in my breaks, hi). It was nice that you managed to operate using GB3RS and made a couple of contacts, and also got to meet a few familiar faces.
Hi Colin - It was great to meet you in person during our dashes between buildings at Bletchley on that tour - I think we can officially call our group the “Drowned Rats”. Great tour but I wish they had made it clear that the tour would NOT include the NRC as despite travelling from Germany I never got to go into the NRC as they were closing up when the tour completed (everything closes at 4 pm). I would have gone in for 10 minutes before the start of the tour had I known, as Martin G0GMB had promised to try and give me access to the GB3RS station when we had emailed each other earlier. I was previously hoping to perhaps make a combined POTA and Bunkers on the air activation from Bletchley Park (as it qualifies for both). Still, with the increased security and building works (and the bad weather as it turned out) it would not have been possible.
On Saturday I was there in my orange ICQ shirt and totally enjoyed the event. Sunday was a nightmare getting to Manchester Airport to get my flight home with a London Euston Station points failure wreaking havoc on the rail network. I did mange to watch part of a streamed lecture on aircraft scatter from the convention on Sunday while on the train (eventually) heading for Manchester. It was demonstrating some software called AirScout. Which looked quite impressive and could be very useful for SOTA VHF/UHF activations.
I guess all the streamed content will be edited and put up on the RSGB YouTube channel - they will be worth watching.
We’ve met before, nice to see you again. Sorry that you missed an opportunity to visit the NRC. I wasn’t feeling too well last year so I went straight to my hotel instead of going to Bletchley Park. I was determined to get to BP this time. I didn’t expect the tour to last so long!
Yes, we met in Friedrichshafen I think ?
You know at these events, like the RSGB Convention, one meets so many people and this was my first time there, so trying to understand where everything was and how things were organised puts some strain on these ageing brain cells!
Hi Colin, it was great to meet you at the conference and as you did, we also popped over to the NRC on the Friday afternoon amid the heavy rain showers!
We managed to chase an EI activator and Association Manager John EI3KA on his way to a weekend event in the Wicklow Hills from the NRC, well worth the visit just for that.
It was great to hear about your kit building and look forward to hearing more about that further down the log.
We really enjoyed the conference and met so many familiar call signs, finally putting a face and name to the call.
Glad you also enjoyed our presentation/lecture, it was great fun working with the Radio Society of Great Britain team trying to get everything together for the day.
73, Ian and Esther.
We’ve met at Newark Hamfest. I’ve never been to any overseas hamfests, indeed I don’t even have a passport. I do like going to new places and I’m not scared of travel, so one day perhaps, I’ll make it to one of the big hamfests.
“And where is Woody?” Was my most asked question during the weekend of the conference. Woody was of course safely at home being taken walks by the family while I had a weekend of radio.
A bit like a SOTA activation I managed to plan the route carefully and on discovering the price of a taxi from the station opted for a bus followed by a walk. Navigation was a bit tricky as we lurched around a busy Milton Keynes I was making a rather unusual use of the OS maps app to try and determine which bit of dual carriageway and roundabout was the one that I was after. After finding the right stop I then walked about a km in the rain to the hotel. During that time I saw tens on thousands of cars but not a single pedestrian…
The convention itself was interesting I particularly enjoyed the talks on activating Rockall and Mining Clublog for propagation and of course Ian and Esther on SOTA. The talk on running events in schools was particularly inspiring and might well encourage me to try and get involved, perhaps using my SOTA gear! I also wonder if our database could also be mined for propagation studies, I’m fairly sure that almost everything in the log is relatively QRP so propagation makes a big difference.
The return journey by bus, train and car also worked fairly well, Sunday buses are a bit irregular but I made it to the station with about 15 mins to spare - possibly about the same amount of time as if I had walked directly from the hotel to the station… The trains were a bit of a mess after a problem in London and it was not even possible to get in the door of the carriage where I had a booked seat but thankfully after travelling about 50 miles the train emptied out and I managed not only to get a set but to read the book on propagation that I brought for the journey. It does not seem that many years since I faffed around trying to find my Student Railcard along with the ticket for the guard, it is somewhat frightening to realise this has now morphed into a senior railcard….
This was to be the start of a week of radio, with the planets (or at least the demands of the family) aligning to allow Wednesday and Thursday this week for activations, and having scaled back my plans from a big walk up Ben Lawres and some of its neighbours due to shorter days and being a bit more cautious as I get older to much more modest summits (White Coomb) in the Southern Uplands I was somewhat disappointed to realise that whilst I was away the weather models had converged on a rather sub-optimal solution which has become Storm Babet with the forecasts for 50 MPH gusts and heavy rain so rather disappointingly my plans for the second half of the week may now involve a bit more chasing.
Nice to meet IRL (In Real Life) some of the voices heard over the radio - wonder if we should have a SOTA stand?
73 to all and I’m hoping to generate some more doggy QRM from the summits between QSO’s as soon as I get chance!
Same here, Colin. Right after starting the online live stream, there was a lady operating GB3HQ and Gerald calling her.
You scrub up well, very well.
It is great to see (and hear) friends, but this year I was out of Browney Points.
The operator was Simone, M0BOX.
Good to hear that your journey home was OK. I hadn’t realised that SOTA was designated as an RSGB Special Interest Group (SIG). I was thinking that most hams will know about SOTA so there wouldn’t be much to be gained from having a stand, but then again, there’s always an IOTA stand. It would be cool to have a gathering of SOTA people though. I think we tend to forget that whilst SOTA is very specialised, the SOTA fraternity is very skilled in a number of areas within amateur radio, mostly through necessity due to the number of challenges that operating away from a shack presents. I would certainly be willing to put in some time at a SOTA stand.
OK my mistake - aging brain cells! I think I’ve only been to Newark once and now that I believe it’s being converted into a housing estate, that won’t be a place where I will be again. I believe the National Hamfest will move to somewhere near Peterborough, have you heard anything?
I was speaking to Graham Boor G8NWC, and he told me that an announcement about the 2024 National Hamfest would be made in the near future.
Yes, he is eager to get things rolling again (I was sat next to Graham at the dinner on Saturday night).
ESP in action? I was ensconsed at home and took the opportunity to sneak into the shack between family duties. Unfortunately there was absolutely no chance of getting down the road to the actual convention, so a QSO had to suffice.
It was nice to witness your QSO. I didn’t fancy operating this time as the live stream was pretty much constant, even when not going out on the external feed, the live video from the operating position was being shown on the internal screens.
It was a bit of a mixed convention for me, it had a different flavour from previous years. Of course, any event like the convention needs input to get an output, it depends upon your own interactions and the people that attend. I know that for most, SOTA is just a part of their ham radio hobby, for me SOTA is the major part. Of course it’s widely known that I like building my own equipment too, my interests put me into a niche within a niche hobby. I am interested in DXing and DXpeditions but life choices and circumstance prevent me from having the station needed for DXing and having the funds to go on radio trips. I’m not bitter, the life choices are my own and I don’t feel like I’ve made any seriously bad ones, I’ve always done the best I could at the time.
I’m sure I would probably feel the same. It must be set up for the mainstream to attract the numbers. Like yourself I’m a SOTA addict and while interest in such activities as ours is on the increase, it is still a minority interest. Your minority interest within a minority interest takes dedication and can only be applauded.
I attended the Blackpool Rally and must have been the only person to leave having bought nothing more than a drink. The social side was what I was interested in and I’m sure the Convention would be the same for me.