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SOTA on Tour 3

Wednesday 17th April 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: The Pete Shaw Trio ft. Liam Read
Venue: The Moor Club, Heaton Moor, Stockport

Well, it’s not actually my gig tonight, but this great band have asked Liam to do a guest spot with them. That’s all the encouragement I need to shoehorn this activation report into the ‘SOTA on Tour’ threads!

While Liam was sorting out his wardrobe and ablutions, I nipped out the record an activation. It was quick and easy, for I didn’t even have to suffer the inconvenient delay of putting a coat or jumper on. Handheld, logbook, pencil - and an 8 minute walk up to the summit.

The familiar National Trust white jeep passed me the other way as I was driving through North Rode, and sure enough, when I got up The Cloud I found that the timber rails had been extended a few metres further. They now reach to the rough little stone stairway immediately before the trig point - so very nearly complete.

The activation was easy on 2m FM, with six contacts coming in, mostly ragchew mode, one after the other.

Thursday 18th April 2019 - Billinge Hill G/SP-017

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Viva Blackpool

This was a matinee gig with an 11am soundcheck. A further constraint was running my father-in-law out to Birkenhead for 9am ahead of his sailing back to Belfast. So a drive through the Wallasey Tunnel under the River Mersey, and heading for the former county top of Merseyside was really the only feasible option.

I’d already activated and qualified Billinge Hill in 2019, so there was no pressure to secure four QSOs. Good job really, as I only made two - both 2m FM on the handheld!

Great to work Rob G0HRT and Roger MW0IDX.

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Thursday 25th April 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock

Hmm, Cannock. Not many mountains round there. ISTR it’s one of the furthest possible places from coastline in the UK too - didn’t a couple of blokes from Cannock go on Bullseye once and win a speedboat?

Anyway, The Cloud G/SP-015, handheld, rubber duck, 2m FM, four contacts. The pathworks by the NT are very nearly completed with the log rails now on one side of the steps at the summit and lots of good work level the surface of the path and improving drainage. Top marks.

Back out into more classic mountain country for tonight’s gig - Retford…

Friday 26th April 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Majestic Theatre, Retford

Another venue not exactly conducive to hillwalking. However, the Google Maps route took me over the Cat & Fiddle road, so Shining Tor seemed logical.

Nice walk up in very light drizzle. Windy at the summit though, and raining harder, so not too pleasant.

2m FM handheld activation again. Six QSOs including S2S with Caroline M3ZCB/P and Martyn M1MAJ/P on Bardon Hill G/CE-004. “Are you on The Cloud?” asked Caroline. On this occasion, no :wink:

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We had thought of doing The Cloud on our way to Blackpool but the weather forecast suggested that Bardon was a better bet weatherwise. And so it worked out and we had a pleasant activation managing to get back to the car before the rain got serious. 21 2m contacts plus one 40m S2S for me and 18 HF contacts including 2 S2S plus your S2S for Martyn.

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Saturday 27th April 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Motown Gold
Venue: Nunsmere House Hotel, Northwich

…via Port Vale v Macclesfield Town, Vale Park, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.

If I wanted to meet my old Brownhills teaching mates and then see the game ahead of my gig, I needed to be out shortly after 10am. The weather was atrocious - wind, cold, rain.

Ascended The Cloud, made 5 QSOs on 2m FM, descended. Emptied pockets. Where was my logbook? Nowhere to be seen.

Ascended The Cloud again and found it just off the summit! Phew - especially as it had around 40 activations worth of QSOs in it not yet submitted to the Database!

Now hoping for 3 points - and of course a good gig tonight. Cumbria tomorrow.

Sunday 28th April 2019 - Lambrigg Fell G/LD-046

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Carnegie Theatre, Workington

I’d agreed to rendezvous with the guitarist at Penrith, so this simple summit just off J37 was an obvious choice. I parked at Roan Quarry as usual and walked along and up the grassy trail to the summit.

I returned to 20m for a change. Six QSOs on FT8, the highlight of which was 9K2HQ - Kuwait. Seven contacts added on CW, including N4EX and KI4SVM.

I went to SSB to bag the S2S with EA1GTX on EA1/LE-153, before making a single QSO on 2m FM before descending.

Lovely gig this evening in Workington, and interesting to see who’d been at the theatre before us.

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Monday 29th April 2019 - Blencathra G/LD-008 & Little Mell Fell G/LD-037

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: FTH Theatre, Falkirk

I awoke without alarm at 0545 BST so gathered my things and vacated the room at Travelodge Cockermouth without disturbing my roommate.

It was an absolutely gorgeous morning in the Lake District. As I ascended Blencathra the surrounding valleys were filled with thick mist, with blue sky and sunshine above.

I was the first person to the summit but I met many more walkers on my way back down. I only took my handheld but this was sufficient to make 6 QSOs on 2m FM and one on 2m C4FM.

I then navigated across to Little Mell Fell. The ascent was short but steep, but on this one I took the SOTAbeams Bandhopper 4 and spent a bit of time on the summit.

40m FT8 - 8 QSOs
40m CW - 8 including 2 S2S
40m SSB - 6
80m FT8 - 1
2m FM - 1

I then nipped into the Rheged service station for some nice lunch items, then up to Falkirk for the gig.

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Bit quieter on the summit than a couple of weeks ago!

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Tuesday 30th April 2019 - Hutton Roof Crags G/LD-052

After Monday night’s show in Falkirk, I drove south with the guitarist who had left his car in Penrith. The journey coincided, conveniently with the weekly broadcast of Late Night Liam on Canalside Radio. Obviously, we were way out of the 102.8 coverage area, so I got the webstream on my smartphone and played it through my car’s audio system using Apple CarPlay.

I’d done OK up to this stage and thought I might be able to continue on home. It was only midnight and there was about 2.5 hours driving to go. However, as I rejoined the M6, now without the company of a pint passenger, the fatigue hit hard. I pulled into Tebay services for a nap, setting the alarm on my smartphone so as to avoid outstaying my welcome - and copping for a £60 fine!

Back on the motorway around 0230 BST and I soon realised I was still too tired to drive. So off at the next junction and made for where I knew would be a dark quiet car park to get my head down. At the Plain Quarry car park near Burton-in-Kendal I reclined my seat and deployed the two pillows I keep in my car. The next thing I knew it was 0830 BST on a bright sunny morning!

Plain Quarry just happens to be the standard parking spot for Hutton Roof Crags G/LD-052, so a stroll was now in order before heading home. The ascent was very pleasant especially the limestone pavement areas. There were some impressive and contented looking cattle grazing on the hillside. I couldn’t imagine there was much grass in amongst the limestone, which is probably why they were mainly munching on the bushes!

I only bothered to take the handheld, but it was hard work. Nearly an hour and a half to collect the four QSOs. I briefly considered joining the negative lobby who love to preach that 2m is dead these days - but I was rescued from that appalling fate by a sudden rush of seven additional QSOs within 14 minutes.

A pleasant surprise was my friend and HEMA founder Mike G4BLH/P, S2S on Gummers How G/LD-050.

I write this at Forton services - better get off home now!

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Wednesday 1st May 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013

Gig: Liam Read (Open Mic)
Venue: Swan With Two Necks, Macclesfield

With the likelihood of doing supply teaching work, I needed to put in an early morning walk in order to attach an activation to a gig!

I put my suit and tie into the car and got off to the usual hill. During the journey I got asked for, and accepted jobs at three different schools in Norrh Staffordshire. One by one, each cancelled! I kept my phone on as I walked up The Cloud in case of any further offers, but none came through, so it’s looking like a day off from maths teaching!

Three QSOs on 2m FM.

It then transpired that Jimmy M0HGY needed a lift to work in Wilmslow so I thought I’d collect some brownie points by sparing Marianne that task. Still no supply work transpired so off to the Staffordshire Moorlands.

2m FM handheld-style again. I was going to do 30m FT8 & CW but a phone call came from the XYL advising me that we were going for a bluebell walk at Rode Hall (which never happened in the end…).

This time just two QSOs. But another SOTA activation nonetheless.

Sunday 5th May 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Simon Faulkner Band
Venue: The Great House at Sonning, Reading

When the enquiry came in for this, I thought it said it was a reading gig. Turned out it was a Reading gig! To my surprise, the only feasible SOTA summit on the 180 mile journey was The Cloud!

2m FM handheld - 9 QSOs. Very busy summit. Cloudside car park full, so had to park down Red Lane a bit.

After descending, two lambs in the opposite field were not at all camera shy! Now to get some miles in. Will be calling on 2m FM while /M.

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Thursday 9th May 2019 - Walton Hill G/CE-002

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Playhouse Theatre, Weston-super-Mare

In the original tour schedule, we should have been at Torquay and Barnstaple this week too, but they both got rearranged. A pity, as I was really looking forward to spending some days on Exmoor, one of my very favourite areas for SOTA.

Beacon Batch G/SC-003 would be convenient though, or even the horrible Dundry Down G/SC-010. Then the guitarist asks if he can meet me at Droitwich and travel together from there!

Thus the SOTA options reduced again in both variety and appeal and the standard for going anywhere on the M5 it had to be. The Clent Hills, just off Junction 3.

Chucking it down with rain as I arrived at the parking spot on Walton Hill Lane, so hung around in the car for a while before putting on the full waterproofs. Easy stroll to the summit, where the rain eased off.

Seven stations worked on 2m FM commencing with MT colleague Brian G8ADD, and concluding with a S2S with M0KEA/P on Kinder Scout G/SP-001.

I will now be QRV on 2m FM from the car as I head south west if anyone fancies a natter.

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Saturday 18th May 2019 - Gun G/SP-013

Gig: Simon Faulkner Band
Venue: Bistro Live!, Leicester

Back on the road again with a couple of bands. I’d spent too much time during the morning adding new material to my website, meaning I only left enough time for a handheld 2m FM activation en route to the East Midlands.

I worked 12 stations even so, concluding with three consecutive S2S. An unexpectedly satisfactory activation!

Sunday 19th May 2019 - Wendover Woods G/CE-005

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Brick Lane Music Hall, London

It’s the other way round today. Afternoon gig, all done. Now on the way home, and calling in on this summit for a quick activation.

I should be QRV in 15/20 minutes or so. 2m FM.

Update: summit activated @ 1724z. Just one QSO - with Dave G1MZD in Northamptonshire. No other callers, but an enjoyable chat with Dave. 59 both ways with me just using HT + RD.

Saturday 25th May 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Winter Hill G/SP-010

Gig: Liam Read Band @ Swanload Festival
Venue: Swan With Two Necks, Macclesfield

Gig: Simon Faulkner Band
Venue: Rivington Hall, Bolton

Well what a busy day this turned out to be. My son Liam had the honour of being the opening band for this year’s Swanload Festival. That was a 3pm slot, so I nipped out during the morning to get my exercise in.

It was a very nice warm sunny ascent of The Cloud G/SP-015 to kick off with, and five 2m FM contacts on the handheld when I got to the summit.

Next it was over to Gun G/SP-013, and another enjoyable short stroll in the lovely weather. Unlike a little later in the day though, the band was quiet. Just two QSOs made in this activation.

Next, the Liam Read Band opening up the Swanload Festival. A well received set of live music including covers of Joy Division, Radiohead, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Beatles and Kinks.

Next, it was a swift pack down, load in the car, drop my mum home (she had been to see her grandson perform) and get on the road to Bolton. I had a wedding gig with the Simon Faulkner Band, so this had the usual fayre of Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake etc. A very nice carvery supper too - so this was a good gig!

Of course Rivington Hall is in the shadow of Rivington Pike. Well not at that time of day, but you get my drift. Rivington Pike is on Winter Hill G/SP-010, although a fair distance away from the actual summit. Liam had accompanied me on this gig, and shortly after midnight, we were packed down and loaded up. I fancied a cross midnight UTC “double bubble” (for the chasers, not for me) activation, and Liam was up for a little adventure too.

I used the service road for most of the distance to the summit, meaning only a trivially short walk remained for the “final ascent”. It was 2352z by the time I was in position with my handheld switched on, so I needed to get a QSO quickly in order to be able to record an activation for the current UTC day. Unnervingly, there was no response to several CQ calls on S20.

I found a QSO down on S10, and invited myself in. This resulted in a QSO and a big sigh of relief! When I called again on S20, this time I was answered, so like Gun G/SP-013 earlier, it was a two QSO activation!

Sunday 26th May 2019 - Winter Hill G/SP-010 & Shining Tor G/SP-004

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Norton House Country Club, Sheffield

So, cross midnight UTC (1am BST), and time for a new activation of Winter Hill! 2E0TLD was the only station to benefit from “double bubble” by working me in both activations. A few more stations materialised on air though, and this time four QSOs resulted.

I walked back down to where Liam was waiting in the car, and we set off home.

That night’s gig in Sheffield meant another obvious summit choice - Shining Tor G/SP-004. The musical director had requested an early soundcheck, and when I got to the parking spot, just short of the Cat & Fiddle, I realised I had a time window of only 75 minutes.

My ascent walk was timed at exactly 30 minutes, so I could relax for the activation (which would still be a fast one on 2m FM with the handheld) and return walk. Six contacts were made, including a surprise call from Jimmy M0HGY at the home QTH.

I was at the venue in good time and completed soundcheck. We then had about 90 minutes to seek out some food, so I used Google Maps on my phone. A fifteen minute walk to the Sportsman Inn was indicated, and as it was a lovely afternoon, I managed to persuade the band to go for a walk. It was a very pleasant walk around the outskirts of Sheffield, with plenty of green space on one side and great views over the city centre from relatively high ground. The steak and ale pie with mash, greens and gravy was first class too.

Hi Tom, Rob and I enjoyed Sheffield gig mention as we were married 56yrs ago at St.James Church opposite The Norton Country Club and about 20 mins. walk from my Mums home. Rob was at RAF Norton just along the road. Think the remains might just be there. Great to see the photos of Liam performing. Thanks Tom brought back lots of happy memories.Keep the gig reports coming. G4RQJ and Audrey.

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Hey, fancy that!

I had to read that three times. I kept seeing “Rob and I enjoyed Sheffield gig” and kept thinking “I didn’t see you there” and “Why didn’t they tell me they were coming?” I got there eventually…!

I’m having a day off from both gigs and summits today, but will resume both tomorrow!

Tomorrow is now today.

Tuesday 28th May 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Bellavista Restaurant, Milnrow

It was chucking it down as I drove from home to Cloudside. By the time I’d arrived at the parking spot it was quite a nice day, albeit somewhat cooler than recent days.

Anyway, it was pretty quiet on the radio. Just one contact from each summit on 2m FM. I could have broken into other ongoing QSOs to try to further populate the logbook, but decided not to bother.

I suspect many radio amateurs in the North West are becoming pretty bored by my CQ SOTA calls from The Cloud on S20, and one or two actually somewhat irritated I don’t doubt! I should probably try to get on 6m FT8 at this time of year though really.

Wednesday 29th May 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Liam Read - Open Mic
Venue: Swan With 2 Necks, Macclesfield

Limited time window meant I had no choice but to exit the parked car into heavy rain. I had been sat at Cloudside listening to BBC Radio 5 Live and hoping for a break in the weather. It didn’t happen.

So, wet I got, but my gig day activation obsession was maintained. I operated for three minutes on my handheld from the summit, and actually made six QSOs on 2m FM. It’s clearly too easy this SOTA business…