The most difficult summit to activate in Wales.
Many UK activators will know how difficult it has been over the years to obtain permission from the Powis Estate to gain access to the summit of Upper Park near Welshpool. From a personal perspective, along with my regular activating partner Paul G4MD, we have approached the Estate on a regular basis since we completed all the other Welsh SOTA summits in March 2010. A variety of responses were received, but effectively all said that access to Upper Park would not be granted.
In more recent times, a number of individuals have been able to gain access with permission, so it was renewed hope that I wrote to the Estate Manager in March last year. I was particularly keen to try to get consent for access as soon as possible as Paul was due to undergo major surgery in a few months. Unfortunately, despite providing reassurances in respect of our intentions and our professional background, the answer was disappointingly that access still would not be granted. However, following a further exchange of letters, an olive branch was offered to the effect that if I could organise a group event of between 10 and 20 people, with everyone paying £20 for a charitable cause selected by the Estate, then that could be accommodated. In July, I replied advising that I would be happy to undertake this and noted that I would be back in touch once I had progressed matters.
Unknown to me, Ben GW4BML was also in discussions with the Estate Manager to the same end, since he had become aware that there were a number of activators that were on the cusp of completing all the Welsh summits, with others not far behind. In every case, Upper Park was the sticking point preventing completion. In September Ben contacted me to inform me of the progress that he had made with negotiations with the Estate and we agreed that since he was local to the summit, he would take matters forward, with Paul and myself becoming part of the group. In due course the event was arranged for 2nd April, with Allan GW4VPX coming on board to assist Ben with the arrangements.
Ben asked the group to meet up at the designated parking area at 09:00 BST and everyone was present in advance of that time, keen to get up onto the hill. After introductions, we all set off along the route that had been prescribed by the Estate, each at our own speed. The route was on a track all the way to the summit, a distance of around 2.8km with a well graded ascent of some 200 metres. Once everyone had reached the summit area, a little after10:00BST, Ben organised a group of four to descend to a predetermined position out of the activation zone to act as chasers so everyone could qualify the summit on 2m FM. To enable those making the descent to qualify the summit, others descended and the original group moved back up to the summit. We then had an hour or so to make further contacts on our preferred bands without the pressure of needing to qualify the summit.
With 15 of us on the summit, there was a bit of negotiation on bands, but everyone was able to make further contacts on their chosen bands. I recognised a joint interest in 30m CW with Mike G0HIO, so I contacted Mike and advised that I would start on 17m CW. 17m was also the band of choice of Carolyn G6WRW, so she made a start on the band as soon as she was able, leaving it free for me by the time I had set up. Everything was very relaxed. I later moved to 30m CW once Mike had carried out his activation. Between us, with the exception of 6m, we covered all the bands between 80m and 70cm. The level of cooperation was excellent keeping interference to a minimum.
The summit has a large activation zone of open grassed areas interspersed with woods which enabled us all to spread out. Paul G4MD produced a map of the AZ based on the Ordnance Survey which was shared with the group so we could decide where to set up. Thankfully the weather was kind to us throughout, cloudy and fairly mild. The sun did not appear until later in the day.
Viki M6BWA operating on 2m and 70cm FM
Rod M0JLA operating 15m SSB
Shane G6WBS operating 20m SSB
Robert M0RWX chatting to Kevin MW0KXN with Shane G6WBS in the background
Neil G0WPO in relaxed style on 40m SSB
Carolyn G6WRW in even more relaxed style on 17m SSB
Gillian M0OVW and Jordan M3TMX setting up; more candidates for 40m and 20m SSB
Kevin MW0KXN and Ben GW4BML
Mike G0HIO and Linda
Paul G4MD set up for 80m and 60m along a convenient fence line
Gerald G4OIG working 17m and 30m CW
Mr Brown, who kept us all in order
On the descent
Group photo at the parking spot (some had already departed to activate more summits)
Discussions with the Estate revealed that requests for access come from many individuals and groups, more or less on a daily basis. Responding to all these requests takes time. Anything that can be done to reduce the amount of requests is naturally going to be much appreciated by the Estate. To this end, it is suggested that any future activations should be arranged on a similar basis to this event and I understand that Ben is willing to advise on this and assist wherever possible. Individual requests are unlikely to be granted. It is appreciated that this is unusual for SOTA, the majority of summits being easily accessed on established footpaths, with many on Open Access Land. This is definitely not the case for Upper Park which is entirely on Estate land and in this instance, the Estate set the rules for access. I would ask activators to note that this is a working Estate and the timing of any events will need to fit in with the normal activities of the Estate. There is a wide variety of wildllfe also to consider, not least in respect of breeding times.
As previously noted, the £300 raised will be going to the charity chosen by the Estate. In real terms the £20 donation was a small price to pay, given the cost of fuel to actually get to the area. Naturally those of us that have now achieved completion of all the Welsh summit are extremely pleased, which given the 13 year wait for Paul and myself is somewhat of an understatement!
73, Gerald G4OIG