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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!