It was my daughter came up with the idea - she thought of taking a cheap mid-week Sun Holiday with her mates and suggested I did the same with my XYL, Pauline. Her plans came to nothing (they now discourage parties of young women as well as young men) but I gritted my teeth and became a temporary Sun Reader - Ugh!
My third choice of venue and fourth choice of date came up, so we had the 22nd to 26th at Haven Seaview near Weymouth (and no, you can’t see the sea from there!) and added the Sunday night at Ilminster Travelodge, conveniently close to Staple Hill, SC-004. So last Sunday we made good time down the M5, had a Sunday lunch at a pub, and set out for Staple Hill, finding a good car park actually within the AZ. Finding the summit was a different matter, as it seems to be well hidden in a jungle, so eventually I found a suitable stance and set up for 5 Megs…perhaps a bit late at 1510, as I only raised one station. Eventually, after a long chat with a passing ham(!) I gave up and tried 2m FM, getting one more contact. I gave up in disgust - perhaps the trees were too thick for a signal to get out, or the sun had burped, but qualifying that well-thatched tump will have to wait for another day.
The next SOTA outing was Tuesday, and we set out for the Purbeck hills in blazing sunshine,a real shirtsleeve day! The plan was Swyre Head SC-012 to be followed by Nine Barrow Down, SC-013. Swyre head is an easy stroll from the carpark space, perhaps a mile with a height gain of about 50 metres, but unfortunately Pauline’s knees have gone to the point where she took over an hour to cover that mile. I set up on the wall at the summit and made seven contacts on 5 megs and nine on seven megs with three S2S’s. When no more callers could be heard I took a stroll past the barrow and had to chuckle, there was an old and mossy stone seat at the best viewpoint (and what a view!) but some pillock was constructing a stone wall in front of it so that you sat on it and contemplated the stonework instead of the view. It won’t survive the first holiday season! Anyway, with Pauline’s knee problem, by the time we got back to the car it was too late for SC-013, so we headed back for a meal and a trip to the local pub (which was deserted!)
Wednesday was dull, the plan was to head west and activate Hardown Hill SC-011 and Lewesdon Hill, SC-009, conveniently close together and near the main road. Unfortunately as we left Weymouth the mother of all sea fogs rolled in and driving got very difficult in places. Activating would be damp and unpleasant, so we made a quick change of plans and explored the Abbotsbury Tropical Gardens instead.
Thursday saw us still cocooned in fog, so we headed east again, towards Studland with the idea of looking at the chalk stacks of Old Harry at Handfast Point. A walk of about a mile through the fog, but as we approached the headland the sun came out and the fog vanished as if a switch had been thrown, and soon we were sweltering! The rocks were most impressive, of course, but the change in the weather meant that instead of passing Nine Barrow Down on the way back, we could stop at the viewpoint and Pauline could read a magazine whilst I grabbed a quick activation!
I can’t recommend Nine Barrow Down, its a great viewpoint but there is lots of brand new barbed wire there, and the track along the ridge was blocked by barbed wire and an impressively well-endowed bull! I’m getting too old for a sprint finish in front of a bull, so I set up within the AZ but away from the summit. 5 megs netted me a good run of thirteen contacts, but as I worked the last few I spotted a huge fog bank advancing towards the hill. Fog would make the drive to Corfe Castle rather interesting, so instead of moving to 40 metres I packed up and headed back. As I reached the car 15 minutes later the fog overtopped the hill and started to roll down through the trees towards us. We drove back through the Purbeck hills through alternating thick fog and brilliant sunshine: Corfe Castle itself was wreathed in bands of fog, making this, the most impressive ruin in England, look positively spooky!
Friday we had to pack up and leave the caravan by 10 o’clock. I had some thoughts of grabbing Beacon Batch on the way home, but Pauline outvoted me so we visited Montacute Hall instead!
A nice spring outing but far less productive on the SOTA front than I had hoped - but at least I gained a tan!