Two days in The Scottish Borders

With vacation to use and the Winter approaching there appeared a few days good weather coming up. I noted that if I could polish of 3 G/SB summits I’d only have one left to complete the region. An overnight stay was booked as the three summits, G/SB-006 Shillhope Law, G/SB-007 Tosson Hill and G/SB-010 Housedon Hill are a bit too far apart and in walking distance to complete on a November day.

Then just before I was off, Paul M0SNA contacted me to say he was now in England again. We quickly arranged to meet up and climb Housedon Hill the next day. Paul had other arrangements so could only make the first of my hills. The plan was we’d meet at 10am at the parking area and activate together. Job done!

Housedon Hill G/SB-010

I pulled in at the nearest parking for Housedon Hill and didn’t fancy driving down what looked like a private drive. I knocked at what are now holiday cottages and the occupants didn’t mind me parking outside their cottage and I put on boots etc. waiting for Paul to arrive. There’s no cell coverage down here but we’d agreed that we’d both keep a watch on 145.500 in case of cell issues. On went the handy and Paul’s voice appeared. I wasn’t sure but it sounded very windy where he was. Due to a slipup Paul thought we were meeting on the summit at 10 not in the car park and thinking he was late had dashed up the hill. I set off to meet him there.

I followed Phil G4OBK’s route which was simple and I think it took under 30mins to get to the top. Compare to the pictures, there has been some felling and I thought Paul was in the wrong place. But no, he was at the summit and he too had thought he should be much nearer the trees. Anyway he had finished and so I borrowed his 40/20/10 EFHW and KX2 setup. Just a moment to get the inbuilt keyer turned off and my paddle and memory keyer connected. I then did 40m which worked well. I did try 10m but whilst there was lots of FT8 to be heard, nobody came to my spot and calls. Then down to 20m and a few more worked.

The wind was rather cold and I had packed a variety of fleeces and jackets. I had a Berghaus Down jacket with me which did the business. We then decided as we hadn’t seen each other for nearly 2 years and we both had plenty of contacts that we’d pack up and have a coffee and chat in nearby Wooler. A few minutes packing and a few minutes descent and we were at our cars. I was surprised how steep the slopes are. I didn’t notice on the way up, driven by the excitement of activating a new summit! No cell coverage in the valley but nice and strong at the summit.

We found a nice cafe in Wooler and had a drink and chat, really good to meet up after such a long enforced break. After that Paul returned home but we planned to do some joint activations later in the week. I made my way to Rothbury on the main roads rather than letting my car GPS take me down assorted tiny lanes which it picks if I ask for the “quickest route”. It never is but maybe the car expects me to drive like I had stolen in.

A rather large mushroom. You need a lot of eggs and bacon to go with this monster. EU44 sized boot for scale.

There may not be any massive hills in Northumbria but it’s very pretty, from halfway up Housedon Hill.

Paul M0SNA stands by the cairn. 5m pole with 40/20/10m EFHW rigged as inverted L.

The Cheviot G/SB-001 lost in the clouds. The WX was warmish and sunny when we started but it got windier and cloudier during our short spell on air.

Borders Broadband. A community broadband system. Wireless links to and from more sites on the dishes and a panel antenna to provide wireless internet access to the 7-8 cottages down in the valley. I met the estate owner walking out and we discussed the amazing effect getting a 25mbps internet connection has for places that had effectively no modern comms before.

Tosson Hill G/SB-007

The unexpected coffee break pushed my timings out. I was intending to do Shillhope Law next. But having arrived in Rothbury, it’s at least 30mins to Shillhope from here and with the time now later than I planned I would run short of light on a summit with no good paths. Tosson Hill car park is about 10min from Rothbury and having studied the routes, I was sure I could be back onto the good underfoot forest tracks by the time I needed my headtorch. So Tosson Hill won.

I parked at the Simonside car park and made sure I had coat, chocolate, head torch and more water having drunk some on the previous summit. After that I took the forest paths. I realised I had taken the wrong one when I passed the TV transmitter mast but it would lead to the right place eventually, just a bit further. After a lifetime of walking such that I thought it must be nearly Christmas I finally emerged onto the right track. It’s a hell of way again to the summit now but there’s no climbing to speak off. Once off the bulldozed paths the recent rains became apparent. The path is a boot warn trench in the heather and grass and it was wet and very muddy. This continues forever. Well it seemed like it.

I finally arrived and a convenient sign post was pressed into service to support the antenna. I was conscious of time so was impressed at the precision I deployed the antenna and radio. Then the pole collapsed. Twice. I was frustrated but finally got running on 20m. I located my headtorch and put it on and checked it worked. I wanted to be sure it was OK before allowing it to get much darker. Plenty of contacts and best DX was SV3IEG on 20m SSB.

I’d set a must stop time and when it came I stopped and packed up. It seemed to be a huge walk and maybe it was for 1pt but the scenery was pretty on a good sunny day and without the Somme-like mud this would be a cracking walk. Packed up I started the walk out. I made sure I took the correct paths this time. What surprised me was how little light you need to yomp along forest tracks. Guided by the waypoint beeps of the GPS, I didn’t need the headtorch until 30mins after sunset. I have a cheap Decathlon rechargeable that has red, eco white and bright white. Eco white lasts 16hrs and was more than enough for the tracks. This is the first time I’ve ever done a walk that needed a headtorch in 15 years of SOTAing.

Back at the car it was now cold but I was at my very nice Pub/hotel in a few minutes and relaxed in a great hot shower before hitting the bar. Well why not?

After emerging from dense Pine forest, Simonside Crags appear. All of a sudden you are really in mountainous countryside!

A better view of the crags, if I had more time I’d have gone for an closer inspection.

Nearing the end of the decent tracks. You can see the path as the thin brown stripe between green and dark brown vegetation. Note the edge of the plantation about 1km away.

Here’s the view back to the forest from the summit. Only about 1.25km. So 2.25km over grotty but essentially flat ground. It just seemed to take forever to walk. 30/20/17 dipole deployed.

Summit cairn and trig. I wandered back and used the handy signpost to support the antenna rather than deploying guys in the heather.

MM0FMF sporting a fine Decathlon head torch. The wind had subsided enough to not need big jackets.

A view to the Chatton TV mast. Getting dark now.

Shillhope Law G/SB-006

After a fine evening of eating and drinking followed by a fine breakfast I made the trip up the tiny back roads to Wedder Leap Car Park. The WX forecast when I book the hotel was for 2 days of sunny but cool weather. That changed to a sunny morning and cloudier afternoon. The WX for today was on one website, sunny periods and on another very heavy showers. Hmmmm.

It was murky as I booted up in the car park. I crossed the bridge which is made from strong looking I beam steel girders so I was concerned the handrails rattled and shook as I walked on it. Is that a hint to lose more weight? I followed Phil G4OBK’s route but he did in Winter. Whilst it was November there was huge amounts of dying bracken that was chest high in places that I had to wade through. Should have stopped 3km back and taken the longer route I thought. I got to the gate and crossed it but the stream was in spate and the ground swallowed my feet. Nope, not this way then. Back over the gate and I continued up through the bracken. I was unpleasantly damp now. After much swearing I finally got out of the bracken as the slope subsided.

That’s when the drizzle started. Drizzle isn’t normally a problem but this was driven by 20mph North winds. Not nice. I pressed on following the path and was shortly at the summit. Proper rain arrived now. I was cold and wet. But we did have 4g coverage. I was impressed because apart from the fence I used to support the antenna I couldn’t see anything man made, it feels properly remote up here. With constant rain I worked 40m CW only and on the 4th QSO I thought “sod it” and shutdown. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t nice. There’s no point doing this if it isn’t fun. Of course once I’d packed up it brightened up. A few photos of the cairn and I decided to take the track out to the North that ends up at Barrowburn. I could see from my map there was a bridge across the river.

The strong wind had nearly dried me out as I walked out until on the final descent when another heavy shower hit. I thought I was going to have to ford a big stream at Barrowburn that was high with all the rain. Then I saw the footbridge. Phew. Back to the car. Another (undeserved) chocolate bar and off to Ros Hill. However, the WX was cloudy, heavy shower, cloudy, heavy shower etc. and as I have done Ros Hill before, I drove straight back home.

Shillhope LAw summit trig point.

Shillhope Law from the road. Wedder Leap bridge is by the group of trees.

Unfair because the weather clouds your judgement but Shillhope didn’t make me want to come back and do it again. However Tosson Hill reminded me in many ways of it’s neighbour, Long Crag G/SB-008. Both are the kind of hill that are well worth repeating.

So no great DX, but plenty of contacts and 3 uniques. It’s a nice part of the world and I really should come here more often. And only one G/SB summit to activate now…the one with the fearsome reputation, Sighty Crag, G/SB-005


Thank you, it’s an area tucked away and overlooked I think - although I come from Carlisle so was on the doorstep but that was pre-SOTA of course.

I activated Shillhope Law back in June, starting off from Shillmoor & taking a route over Inner Hill. Quite a straightforward ascent over rough grass & heather near the summit, no nasty bracken! The weather was good which helped to make it an enjoyable quick 2fm activation one which I hope to do again. PS-I also did Tosson Hill the day or so after Shillhope Law, I agree it is a bit of a trudge. Great views over Coquetdale looking towards the Cheviot.


I think Shillmoor looks a better route than the one I took over Wedder Leap.

1 Like

Indeed it is, but considerably longer and you are exposed to the wind all the way. Even after 15 years, I remember the cold rain stinging my cheek as I ascended. I used the shelter around the trig and watched the rain coming over the top to hit the top of the trig which was higher while I remained relatively dry behind the shelter wall, such was the force of the wind.

It was great reading about summits which, along with the Welsh Border summits, were part of my early experience of SOTA when I still wore jeans and waterproof over-trousers, a wooly jumper beneath my anorak, carried an aluminium mast and an aluminium 5 element 2m yagi with an RG-213 feeder. SOTA nostalgia at its best. :grinning:

73, Gerald

2006 vintage photos of the track up from Shillmoor and my set up on the day, such as it was…


Housedon is a nice peak and fun to activate.

I’d like to have done Shillhope as I’ve never been but I had arranged to take charge of a borrowed 25 pdr as a part of another hobby pursuit.