Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

SOTA on Tour 3

Friday 31st May 2019 - Longridge Fell G/SP-014

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Lytham Hall

Plenty of time ahead of soundcheck available to me on this day, so I decided to treat myself to an activator point - a decadent rarity for me!

It was mild and settled as I parked at the path entrance. I decided to walk in my T-shirt with handheld, pencil and logbook. No coat, no jumper, no food, no rucksack, no portable antenna, no 817. It was most pleasant! 23 minutes to walk to the summit.

Five QSOs on 2m FM made from the summit, including S2S with Nick G4OOE and Dave G3TQQ on Black Combe G/LD-030.

The return walk took 22 minutes, and I was on my way to the Fylde coast chatting on 2m with Tony G7OEM who, surprisingly, had missed me on the summit.

Great gig that night for Joe’s 64th birthday.

Saturday 1st June 2019 - Gun G/SP-013

Gig: Motown Gold
Venue: Branston Hall Hotel, Lincoln

Gig in Lincoln. The direct route would have taken me past Shining Tor G/SP-004. But I didn’t have time for that. The closest summit to the venue was Normanby Top G/TW-005. But the extra fuel for that detour threatened to make the gig uneconomical. Gun ticked all the boxes.

You know the routine. Walked up with a handheld. Activated. Walked down. Went to work. Quite boring really, but kept the digits ticking over on my Fitbit tracker. Just two contacts on 2m FM.

Super gig with a ten piece line up of Motown Gold, and especially fine bandwiches served up too - Lincolnshire sausage, bacon, black pudding, cheese and mushroom on large white rolls. Due to my diet, I restricted myself to just three.

I was determined to get home without stopping for a nap, knowing that I would be up early to head out to GW with Jimmy M0HGY. As it transpired, I received some shocking family news early in that journey and remained wide awake and focused throughout as a result!

So holidays are over, and its back to work.

Saturday 8th June - Wendover Woods G/CE-005

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Grove Theatre, Dunstable

The highest point of the Chilterns was the obvious choice for a SOTA activation associated with this show.

By the time I got there, there wasn’t realistically time to set up HF and play on my favourite modes (FT8 & CW). I walked to the trig point on Aston Hill with my Yaesu FT70D handheld and called CQ. I made a grand total of one QSO on 2m FM!

It was then a typical workday for me - load-in, set-up, soundcheck, dinner in Wetherspoons, play the show, drive home.

Hoping to make more QSOs in my next activation - not that it’s possible to make less…

Sunday 9th June 2019 - Gun G/SP-013

It was a really good show in Dunstable. I love my job!

I attempted to drive home but made it as far as the A50 near Uttoxeter, between Derby and Stoke - near Alton Towers. At that point I succumbed to that pinnacle of showbiz glamour - a kip in the car in a lay-by. (I actually keep two pillows in the car for this very purpose).

When I awoke it was about 4am BST, and my warped and slightly obsessive mind immediately turned to the greyline DX SOTA opportunities. I added G/SP-015 as a waypoint to the satnav route, but when this directed me through Leek, I exchanged this for G/SP-013.

I set up the 30m vertical with elevated groundplane monster antenna on the 10m SOTAbeams Travel Mast, by the hawthorn tree made famous by Mickey 2E0YYY.

It was a beautiful morning with a lovely sunrise and mist filling the valleys below, albeit rather chilly. VK and ZL briefly appeared on the WSJT-X band activity window, but none worked. I did get a 30m FT8 contact into the USA though which was a nice surprise at this early hour.

I made a total of 54 QSOs on 30m FT8 / CW, and one on 2m FM.


Monday 10th June 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Buxton Opera House

Well this was an easy choice. The summit halfway between home and gig! Nice to have a gig that was 25 minutes away rather than 5 hours away too!

The weather forecast was awful, but in the event, the downpour slid by to the west of me, no more than about 500 feet away! Luck was on my side.

On summit I made ten QSOs on 2m FM with the handheld. Although I was getting good reports into Blackpool, Stafford and Ellesmere Port, Richard G3CWI in Macclesfield 5 miles couldn’t hear a whisper from me. I was confident I’d be able to hear him so I suggested he make use of Hack Green, but he wasn’t having any.

OK, showtime…

Wednesday 12th June 2019 - Worcestershire Beacon G/WB-009

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Artrix Theatre, Bromsgrove

Great Malvern was another 20 miles or so south after Bromsgrove, but this was still an obvious summit to pair with this gig. The timings worked out perfectly. The hour I spent ascending, activating and descending was pretty much the only dry hour in the day! I was anticipating full waterproofs but in fact was in shirt sleeves throughout.

I parked on the Beacon Road car park at the south end of the hill. The price for this is now up to an eye-watering £4.40.

Five QSOs made on 2m FM with the handheld.

Great gig in Bromsgrove that night, and then onto some digs in Oldbury. The photo above is the band wishing my son Liam a happy 22nd birthday via the medium of Facebook!

1 Like

Thursday 13th June 2019 - Caer Caradoc G/WB-006

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Garrick Theatre, Lichfield

I fancied Caer Caradoc. No idea why. It was a fair drive from the digs in West Bromwich, but still possibly the closest as-yet unactivated summit in 2019.

It was hammering it down with rain but I went anyway. The initial climb up a narrow steep valley was more cascading waterfall than footpath. I made the top in good time, and, inexplicably, enjoyed it.

Five QSOs on 2m FM with the handle. Then a tricky descent back down the waterfall!

Now in the pub opposite the theatre having dinner.


Friday 14th June 2019 - High Vinnalls G/WB-012, Callow Hill G/WB-014, View Edge G/WB-018 & Burrow G/WB-014

No gig - day off

So with a day off based in the West Midlands, I decided to head out and bag a few Shropshire (ish) activations while the other band members and crew were having a lie-in and a lazy day.

I headed first for Ludlow, and the very pleasant High Vinnalls G/WB-012. This is actually just over the border into Herefordshire. En route I worked Andrew G4VFL/P who was activating Hergest Ridge G/WB-008.

I parked in the usual car park and followed the Vinnalls Loop trail to the summit.

My first QSO on the 2m FM handheld was Andrew again, but not S2S as he was traversing across to Bradnor Hill G/WB-011. Three more QSOs followed to achieve the qualification, including Rod M0JLA and Viki M6BWA.

Next it was a much shorter drive up to Craven Arms, and Callow Hill G/WB-015. I took the longer but much more graded path up onto the ridge - not the stupidly steep direct PROW I used on my first visit back in 2003! As I was walking the final section across to Flounders Folly at the summit, there was a very loud noise from the adjacent field which sounded like a helicopter, but I couldn’t see due to the trees and high bushes.

The weather had brightened right up and I was being treated to some rare warm sunshine. Just four contacts made on 2m FM, including S2S with Andrew G4VFL/P on Bradnor Hill G/WB-011.

An even shorter drive next over to View Edge G/WB-018 on the other side of Craven Arms. I parked beside the quarry and walked up to the highest point attainable within that enclosure. This was still a couple of metres lower than the actual summit, which is in dense woodland on the other side of the fence, and not reachable.

The contacts came very slowly on this one, but I was only using a handheld with rubber duck of course. Eventually, after just under an hour of operating, I had five QSOs logged.

Another short drive now took my to the small village of Hopesay for Burrow G/WB-014. I parked opposite the church and set off along the path between two hedges and out onto the fields. I worked my way across to the track beside the wooded area, and then into the Iron Age hillfort.

By the time I’d reached the highest point, atop one of the earthwork ramparts, I was very tired, and dispensed with the idea of moving on to Heath Mynd G/WB-007 for a fifth summit of the day. The appeal of a few pints, games of pool and a curry, not to mention a shorter and easier return drive to West Bromwich was winning the day.

Four contacts on the 2m FM handie meant that I did not need to unpack the HF gear from the rucksack. The first QSO was with 2E1ICK/P doing a weekend of operating from Mow Cop, coincidentally on the same site that Richard G3CWI was staying in his motorhome. The qualifying contact came from Andrew G4VFL/P, S2S from Wapley Hill G/WB-016.

After descent, I drove back to the Coal Shed pub in Oldbury, West Bromwich where I had been staying. I met Andy, the bandleader, plus Steve and Tracey, two fans of Joe who owned the pub. We all went out for a very good curry later on.

Saturday 15th June 2019 - Walton Hill G/CE-002

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Alban Arena, St Albans

I awoke in my digs in West Bromwich to a text from the bandleader asking me to pick him up from his digs at 1pm, where breakfast would be waiting for me. There wouldn’t be time to score any new activator points for 2019 within that time window, but I was content to do a repeat activation of the most local summit - Walton Hill G/CE-002 in the nearby Clent Hills.

It was a damp misty morning as I parked up and set off along the muddy trail. The summit was achieved within ten minutes; it is a very short walk. I set up the 30m groundplane antenna. I was in and out of the bothy bag frequently as light - and thankfully brief showers came and went.

Interestingly, the 21 QSOs I made were split exactly evenly - 7 each on 30m FT8, 30m CW and 2m FM. I then met the bandleader for breakfast as arranged and we drove down to St Albans for that night’s gig.

It was a great gig too. I’d never played in that theatre before but it was an amazing venue, really unusual, and with fabulous acoustics. I was amused to find that a certain Eric and Ernie had previously inhabited the same dressing room!

As usual, I tried to make it back straight after the show, and as usual I got as far as the A50 between Derby and Stoke before needing to take a nap! I got back at 4am in the end!

Well this isn’t going well at all!

Wednesday 19th June 2019 - no activation

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

Transcribing work during the day was unexpectedly extended ruling out an afternoon SOTA before the gig. I intended to go out after dropping Liam home to grab the cross midnight UTC double activation opportunity instead.

I forgot that working non stop for 16 hours can make one quite tired. As such, when I got home, I went to bed.

Thursday 20th June 2019 - no activation

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Viva Blackpool

I must have been tired. I overslept - almost unheard of for me. With a 1100 BST soundcheck ahead of a matinee show, there was no chance of an activation en route. And staying over at the bandleader’s place in Blackpool, no chance for one after either. This was getting worrying.

Friday 21st June 2019 - Arnside Knott G/LD-058

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Motherwell Concert Hall

Sort of overslept again. Eight hours sleep - again, most unusual for me. I had a cooked breakfast at the Dunes Cafe in Blackpool before getting on the road north.

I parked in the NT car park and walked up one of the steep gravel tracks to the summit. It was quite hard work gathering the four QSOs with just the handheld, but I did do and was pleased to include a S2S with Graeme M0OAT/P on Fairfield G/LD-007.

Now off to Motherwell.

1 Like

Saturday 22nd June - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Serious Hat Band
Venue: Swanley Hall, Burland, Nantwich

Back to my “home” summit after another few days on the road. Lots to do ahead of the Benelux trip and another gig, but I was determined not to allow another SOTA-free gig day; I dislike it when that occurs!

Gorgeous sunny lunchtime. A new waymarker post appeared since my last visit. 2m FM handheld- 4 QSOs - including the King and Queen of Heald Green - standard.

Then in town to get my car valeted ahead of the Benelux road trip. Stumbled across some live music - The Caribbeans, from Leeds - so parked myself and enjoyed a bit of calypso.

Three sets of pretty up-to-date pop music to perform later, then finally time to contemplate some much anticipated holiday time. Of course, the SOTA will continue, but the reports will be in a different thread as the Fender Jazz is not invited!

Saturday 6th July 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Empire Theatre, Consett

I had hoped to activate something more interesting up north en route to County Durham, but it took me too long to secure overnight digs, and this after sleeping in until 0930 local.

So The Cloud, in drizzle. Four QSOs, all 2m FM on the handheld. My digs are in Newcastle-upon-Tyne so will see if I can remember any of the Geordie lingo I picked up in my student days!

Sunday 7th July 2019 - Burnhope Seat G/NP-003 & Cross Fell G/NP-001

My overnight digs were in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, which brought back memories of my student days nearly 30 years ago - eek!

I hadn’t brought any maps or offspring with me, so I needed to stick to simple routes I knew well. So it was first to the lay-by on the Durham-Cumbria border.

Here I found that the helicopter dropping stones on last year’s visit was for a new tunnel for the stream under the road, not flagged paths as I had assumed.

The ascent took about an hour. I couldn’t raise a smile on 2m FM, albeit just with handie and rubber duck. I set up for 20m CW and qualified easily.

A bit more bog hopping on the descent, then off to Cross Fell G/NP-001.

I pulled in at Hartside Top cafe for lunch but was surprised to find it operating from a burger van. The cafe was gutted by a huge fire last year, news that seems to have passed me by.

My route was the high level Pennine Way path from Great Dun Fell and passing over Little Dun Fell and down through the saddle at Crowdundle Head.

This time, I found I could easily qualify with the 2m FM handheld, so the rucksack was never even removed, let alone unpacked.

Lovely weather all day, a nice 14 activator point haul to add to my Benelux baggings, and back home for a curry and pint with Jim and Liam.


Wednesday 10th July 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004

Gig: Liam Read & Dan Toft
Venue: Swan With Two Necks, Macclesfield

It actually wasn’t the gig that influenced this SOTA choice, but the day’s supply teaching in Buxton. On the way home from that, a warm and bright afternoon encouraged me to wander up Shining Tor.

2m FM handheld, six QSOs.

Chatted with two paragliders on the descent. The were deliberating on whether to launch from the path corner above the tea rooms, or to move up to the Cat & Fiddle.

Home for tea then out for another gig.

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

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Viva Blackpool


Friday 19th July 2019

Stingwern Hill GW/MW-030
Y Golfa GW/NW-061
Long Mountain-Beacon Ring GW/MW-026
Heath Mynd G/WB-007

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Brook Street Community Centre, Tipton, West Midlands


Saturday 20th July 2019 - Great Whernside G/NP-008

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Middlesbrough Theatre


Sunday 21st July 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Ben’s Band With No Name
Venue: Swan With Two Necks, Macclesfield


I’m on the road again the next few days. I haven’t got a gig Friday night as of yet, but have got a pass-out to stay out and have a day-off. SOTA possibilities?

Not really. Irritatingly, my gigs are:

Macclesfield - Peterborough - day off - Milton Keynes - Blackpool.

Annoyingly, I can’t envisage anything more sensible than spending my night off at home! Isn’t the East of England rubbish?

Wednesday 24th July 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Gig: Liam Read
Venue: Swan With Two Necks, Macclesfield


Now to decide where to activate on the way to Peterborough - sigh…

Thursday 25th July 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Key Theatre, Peterborough


Saturday 27th July 2019

Gig: Simon Faulkner Band
Venue: Bistro Live!, Milton Keynes


Sunday 28th July 2019

Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Viva Blackpool