The Devil’s apron
Legend has it that the Devil was travelling from Ireland across Britain and whilst visiting Shropshire decided to stop for a rest. He was obviously feeling a bit pooped as he was carrying with him a big pile of stones held in his apron. He was planning to fill in a valley on one side of Stiperstones known as Hell’s Gutter. Unfortunately as he stood up from his rest the strings of his apron broke and the rocks were left scattered on the summit. Apparently the smell of brimstone can be detected during hot weather.
Stiperstones has a number of rocky outcrops and the most well know of these is the Devil’s Chair. On the longest night of the year it is said that the Devil sits on his chair and gathers together all his witches and demons to choose who will be King for the year.
The Stiperstones are actually made of a type of Quartzite unique to the area and it is thought that the ridge was first formed with a covering of softer rock that gradually wore away due to weather erosion. The strange formations on the ridge and the boulder field we see today are the result of the rocks being shattered by ice during the last ice age.
Helen GW7AAU had been having a very stressful week at work with the auditors being in while I had just gone through a very busy two months with a six week shutdown followed by a very frustrating start up. I was off for the first weekend in a while and if we had realised in time we would have booked a nice weekend somewhere and done some SOTA. Too late for that, but when she got home extremely late on Friday night she made a suggestion that we do a summit. She needed to feel the wind in her hair. It’s okay from some people.
Helen asked me for suggestions and due to the time of year I suggested Pendle Hill SP-005. My reasoning was that it must be the safest time of year to do a summit associated with witches as they had all been vanquished on All Saints Day (November 1st). After a little discussion we decided that maybe we should look at something a little nearer. Stipperstones WB-003 was slightly nearer and had the advantages that it was a little easier and had a couple of other easy two pointers close by if things went well. It also seemed to fit the time of year for the same daft reason that I had suggested Pendle Hill.
Unfortunately by the time we had decided where we were going there was no time for any preparation other than putting batteries on charge. So Saturday morning started with us downloading routes into both the GPS and sat nav, printing maps and the summit information as well as packing rucksacks and making sandwiches. This was all interrupted due by a number of early bird activators whom I had to work, which delayed us somewhat due to the massive pile-ups.
It was raining in CQ town but I spoke to John GW4BVE on 5mHz that said the weather was fine in Welshpool so I figured we would be okay. He also invited us over to visit, which I was keen to do; I wanted to see “that” tower. Finally we got on the road at just after 11:00 and the first of a number of delays as we realised we had no fuel in the Land Rover. I quickly nipped back into the house for a fuel voucher I had and we then crawled through the Saturday shoppers to the service station. On the road we seemed to get stuck behind every slow mover out there, first and overloaded caravan, then a tractor, an excavator, another tractor, then lorries that never seemed to get out of first gear. Fortunately I picked up my old buddy and partner on some of my first activations Joe G7KDZ on the GB4CR repeater and he kept my mind off both our sluggish progress and the rain. As we neared our destination the rain suddenly stopped and it looked much brighter. My spirits rose as I started to loose the repeater and said goodbye to Joe.
We parked in the car park at NGR:SO369376 and headed up the obvious grassy path leading roughly North West. Just when we were thinking, “isn’t this easy” and “we are nearly there” we reached the boulder field. It is not much of a problem but you really need to concentrate on where you place your feet. I think having damaged my ankle once already this year I was being extra careful, but progress certainly was not as quick as it had been on the grassy section. A lot of the boulders (sharp jagged rocks really) have a thin almost unseen moss growing on them and were quite slippery.
About 20 minutes after leaving the car we reached Manstone rock and set up in the lee of the rocky pinnacle, which offered shelter from what wind there was. The summit was extremely busy and we had to wait for a gap in the muggles before we could string up the dipole. I simply jammed the winders I keep the dipole on into cracks in the rock above head height on the pinnacle wall to hold the ends of the wires so as not to throttle the other summit visitors.
After answering the enquiries of a number of quizzical walkers Helen fired up on two metres and I tuned around on 5mHz. I found Jack GM4COX/P on GM/SS-210 Rubers Law on 5.3715 ssb for a summit to summit after which I moved to 5.3985 and called CQ. Things were a little slow getting going for me and it was explained that everyone was either trying to work Klaus DF2GN or was one channel down with Jack. I wasn’t surprised as both summits were somewhat more rare to most people than mine. Helen was going good guns and soon most of the usual chasers put in an appearance on 5mHz too. Helen had been too busy to come across and work Jack but she managed a summit to summit of her own with Frank G3UUK/P on Pendle Hill G/SP-005 so maybe it was a good decision we that we changed our mind and our summit.
At 1424 Mike GW0DSP called me and said that Klaus was now on ssb and after checking for any stragglers on 5mHz I QSYed to 40m. Unfortunately I was too late for Klaus and was unable to find anywhere quiet enough to call CQ on 40m.
Helen had run out of callers and I was just about to pack up when I was approached by about a scout leader. He had about 30 scouts and half a dozen other leaders with him “We all want to know what you are doing?” he said. Well they did ask! and I held court to a most appreciative audience all of whom had masses of questions. After we had discussed the wonders of radio, had a listen to what I could hear and convinced the leaders that they needed to contact someone to do Jamboree On The Air next year we packed up.
We had to wait sometime for the scouts to move on and then we had a look for and found Charlie GOPZO’s Geocache. We signed the log and swapped a ‘travel bug’ we were holding for one in Charlie’s cache. There is a second cache on this summit but unfortunately the scouts moved to the outcrop where that one is hidden so that will have to wait until next time.
By the time we reached to car the rain had caught us up and we were loosing the light. If it had not been for the scouts we would have made it to our next planned but not alerted summit WB-005 Long Mynd-Pole Bank but the combination of the fine rain and early twilight due to the thick black clouds made it an uninviting prospect. Not that I would have missed my chance to be centre stage with such an enthusiastic crowd of youngsters. If one of them catches the ham radio bug it was worth it. I hope they can get another taste of it again when they do JOTA next year.
We were feeling somewhat damp and I tried to telephone John GW4BVE to say we would not be coming to visit but I only got his BT answer machine then when I tried again later I had no service on my phone, so apologies to John, maybe next time I will get to see the monster beam.
All in all a good day and the real prospect of going back to do WB-005 and MW-013 very soon and another hill added to my ‘easy for the winter bonus’ list, maybe a revisit in January to find that other Geocache, who knows.
A total of 35 contacts so thanks to everyone we worked and to everyone who looked for us but did not make it, better luck next time.
73 Steve GW7AAV and Helen GW7AAU
Just one last thought; if the Devil wears an apron is he under the thumb from Mrs Satan or is he a member of the Masons?