Weather 0, EYP 6

Top of the news bulletins since New Year 2014 broke has been the weather, specifically the storms and flooding throughout the UK. So when Marianne advised I would be taking Liam away for three days at the start of the year, careful study of the forecasts was required.

I calculated that by heading down into Gloucestershire/Bristol on New Year’s Day, basing in Minehead on the 2nd, then returning home via the Cotswolds on the 3rd, I could dodge the storms and visit a number of very easy summits. Several of the summits in mind were ones where I would not get too wet as I wouldn’t have far to walk from the car, and indeed Liam could wait in the car which would be in eyesight range.

It wasn’t a particularly early start on Wednesday 1st January 2014 for I had been gigging with a band the night before for New Year’s Eve. After breakfast at Congleton McDonald’s, we took the M6, M5 and M50 down to Ross-on-Wye and into the Forest of Dean. First stop therefore was Ruardean Hill G/WB-021, and a 12m Challenge activation right beside the Pan Tod Beacon.

Nine contacts were split between CW and SSB in the ratio 2:1. Exactly the same ratio resulted when analysing the QSOs with the USA and England, the only two DXCCs worked on this activation. It was raining during the activation, which was undertaken from the inside of my bothy bag.

Although it would be dark by the time we got there, the next target was Dundry Down G/SC-010. From Ruardean Hill G/WB-021, we drove through Monmouth and Chepstow to the M48 bridge across the River Severn. Now some incredibly heavy rain began to fall, and where the road got close to the banks of the Severn, it looked for all the world that they could burst at any time. Several boulders were on the road having dropped down the steep banks on the sides. I was somewhat relieved to be on the M48 bridge even through it was down to one lane, down to a 40mph speed limit, and closed to high sided vehicles due to the weather.

After a bit of a tedious drive around the southern outskirts of Bristol, I found the village of Dundry and its distinctive church. From the parking spot I made the short walk up the track to the transmitter compound. It had stopped raining, but the ground was waterlogged. Liam sensibly remained in the car!

It was a bit late for 12m being after 5pm and now dark. Thankfully, five US stations did come back to the calls on CW. It proved to be a short activation with the first QSO timed at 1705 UTC, and the last at 1707 UTC! My patch lead between the Palm Cube and FT-817 had weakened at both ends due to the strange stiffness of the cable. One end was particularly bad and broken, causing intermittent service.

We now had a fair old drive back on the M5 and across the A39 to Carhampton, near Minehead. Here we had a room booked at the Butchers Arms. To our horror, we discovered that they were not doing food for New Year’s Day evening. However, the landlord said he would make us some food anyway, and my deep fried king prawns followed by steak and ale pie went down very well.

An Audience with Ken Dodd, then Match of the Day, in our room at the pub rounded off the day, and a good night’s sleep was enjoyed.

Thursday 2nd January 2014 commenced with a full cooked English breakfast at the Butchers Arms, Carhampton, Somerset. Then it was the short drive into Minehead, one of Liam’s all-time favourite places. And disaster! All the amusement arcades were closed for winter! Liam was not amused. I did nip into a car accessories shop though and pick up a 3-pin 3.5mm jack patch lead, intended for portable MP3 players in cars, but just the job for my Palm Cube and FT-817.

As a kind of meagre consolation, we found and had a look round a local car dealership, but it was only a small one and didn’t have a great selection of vehicles. I started to think about what to do instead of seaside amusements. The Butlins holiday camp in the town was closing this day, so that wasn’t an option, but a ten-pin bowling centre in Taunton was a possibility.

In the meantime, it would have been rude not to go up and activate the very nearby Selworthy Beacon G/SC-005. At least it was a nice day, and the North Somerset coast was enjoying the dry sunny break from the stormy weather as forecast. After the very short walk up the easy track, we were at the cairn and trig point, and getting on with what we do. Radio for me, Nintendo 3DS gaming for Liam.

I was surprised that this activation proved tricky on 12m. There didn’t seem to be any response from the chasers to my self-spots and RBN spots, and a very sluggish 23 minutes was required to get the four contacts - three on CW and one on SSB.

We drove back down to Minehead and treated ourselves to large steak pasties from the Oggy Oggy shop for lunch. We discussed more about the possibility of going to Taunton that evening for some entertainment and started to drive out of Minehead via the promenade. That’s when we noticed that the amusement arcades were all open! It turned out that they weren’t closed for winter after all - they just didn’t open until after 10am!

That took care of the next couple of hours, and Liam was pleased. This put me in a much stronger position to suggest that we round the afternoon off on Dunkery Beacon G/SC-001. It was a bit of a trial and error method of finding the right road out of Minehead up to Exmoor’s highest point without the “JimNav” in the car, but we eventually made it to the parking spot at SS904420.

The path opposite led straight to the large burial cairn at the summit. It was very windy at the top, with significant windchill. Liam and I huddled on one side of the cairn to get the best shelter we could. The activation was much easier than earlier on Selworthy Beacon G/SC-005 from a radio point of view. 18 QSOs were made, all on 12m CW, and inside 21 minutes. 16 of the 18 contacts were into North America, and all with regular chasers familiar to my logbook.

We walked down to the car in the last of the daylight, but it was dark by the time we drove back into Minehead. We did a couple of pubs for refreshments, which included a spectacular pint of mulled cider in the first - delicious! In the second, The Hairy Dog, we played some table football and watched some freestyle motorbike stunt riding on the big screen.

This killed sufficient time for us to start thinking about our evening meal. The Alcombe Tandoori was conveniently situated about halfway between Minehead and our accommodation at Carhampton. It had a very stimulating menu, and my meal of mussels in Bangladeshi gravy followed by steamed fish in potato and aubergine broth was superb.

Telly viewing in the pub room this evening was a documentary about scammers which seemed to have Liam laughing his head off. I struggled to stay awake through the programme. In fact I failed to do so, but did manage to get a sound nine hours of sleep.

Friday 3rd January 2014 started with another lovely cooked breakfast and pot of tea at the Butchers Arms, Carhampton. The day of respite from the weather was over, and the big storm and flooding was now due. As much as I would have like to have consider the more local and convenient summits like Periton Hill G/SC-006, Wills Neck G/SC-002 and Beacon Batch G/SC-003, the heavy rain was hitting the area hard as promised by the Met Office.

I reckoned I could dodge the storms by driving out East to Walbury Hill G/SE-001 then switching back up to Cleeve Hill G/CE-001. This did mean a heck of a lot of driving, but Liam loves a long drive, so that wasn’t a major problem. Our route used the M5 and M4 before heading down through Hungerford. A combination of guesswork and mapwork got me to the parking spot at SU379615.

My storm dodging strategy appeared to have worked and Walbury Hill was bathed in sunshine and blue sky. For my operating spot, I selected SU378616 just by the junction of the public footpath and public bridleway, and around 15m lower the the summit true. Where the car was parked was possibly just inside the AZ itself, at a height of around 273m or 24m lower than the summit!

It was just six QSOs on 12m, five on CW and one on SSB. Nothing else to report or mention, so next to Cleeve Hill G/CE-001 for the final summit of the excursion, and a sixth new multiplier in the 12m Challenge.

From Walbury Hill G/SE-001 on Friday 3rd January 2014 we found our way to the A34, which we followed north to Oxford. The A40 towards Cheltenham afforded some spectacular views of the extent of the flooding, with the farms either side of the road being transformed to vast lakes as far as the eye could see. The A40 really felt like an isolated causeway through the middle of a huge sea at times.

Liam was getting to grips with the navigation and faultlessly guided me to the right turn for Whittington. Soon we were driving up the hill to Cleeve Common, and parking outside the radio station at the top. Again it seemed I had beaten the weather and dodged the storms with my chosen route and timings, and just a simple activation of Cleeve Hill G/CE-001 remained.

I walked about two thirds of the distance between the radio station and the trig point on Cleeve Common. This is essentially flat, with the summit less then 5m higher than the car park, and about 400m away. Ten contacts were made, aplit in the ratio 4:1 between CW and SSB. The same ratio applied to non-UK to G, although those non-UK QSOs were themselves in the ratio 7:1 between USA and Spain.

Despite driving back through the Midlands during Friday rush hour, we had an easy drive back to Cheshire. Marianne advised that we needed to eat en route, so we dined at the Weston Balti Raj just before getting home.

The calorific intake far outweighed energy expounded on these six activations, so from a fitness point of view, the trip was a disaster. However, to have got six SOTA activations done during three days that have generally precluded activating in the UK was a tactical triumph, and Liam had an enjoyable trip too. Bonus.

Many thanks to all chasers.


In reply to M1EYP:

Well done, Tom, I listened for short skip but no luck.

Don’t give the weather Gods the idea that it is a competition - they cheat!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

It’s good that we are SOTA and not “Beaches on the Air”.

HNY to all de Ken G3XQE

Indeed Ken. Nonetheless the beaches have been full of idiots not respecting the dangers and ill equipped to look after themselves these past few days. Thank goodness you never see those types on mountains.


In reply to M1EYP:

Oh Tom, surely that was satire! Reading some of the Mountain Rescue team reports curls your hair! I remember the first time I did the Snowdon Horseshoe, I was followed up Crib Goch by four teenage girls wearing beach playsuits and flip-flops. Fortunately they had the brains to turn back when they reached the first scrambling.


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

In reply to M1EYP:

Oh Tom, surely that was satire! Reading some of the Mountain Rescue
team reports curls your hair! I remember the first time I did the
Snowdon Horseshoe, I was followed up Crib Goch by four teenage girls
wearing beach playsuits and flip-flops.

Thats just your charisma, Brian :o)


The parking spot was unusually empty as we approached Cloudside on Sunday 5th January 2014. The same couldn’t be said for the summit which was as busy and crowded as ever despite the cold, damp and windy conditions.

I initially selected a sheltered spot ten feet below the cliff on the edge of the summit plateau close to the trig point. However, when I spotted little lads playing on the path directly above my head, I decided that I didn’t want to risk any stones getting kicked off and onto my head, which has already seen its fair share of unwanted impact in recent times.

Instead, I went to another favoured spot, just to the left of and before the final steps to the summit. Up went the 12m elevated groundplane antenna, while Richard G3CWI set up further along, using the cliffs as shelter as I had originally intended (but not at a point with a footpath directly above).

The weather was cold and damp, and the damp soon turned to light drizzle. That sent me inside my bothy bag. It was quite amusing when I overheard a lady say “Do you think there is a body in that orange bag?”.

19 contacts made on the activation comprised 12 on CW and 7 on SSB. Best DX was Matt VK2DAG, but other interest came with QSOs into TA, ER and 4 into the USA. Other DXCCs worked were G, LY, RA, SV, UR and YO.

I packed away, but was cold, hungry and thirsty. Therefore, it was necessary to visit the Harrington Arms on the way home for beers and pies.


In reply to M1EYP:

19 contacts made on the activation comprised 12 on CW and 7 on SSB.
Best DX was Matt VK2DAG, but other interest came with QSOs into TA, ER
and 4 into the USA. Other DXCCs worked were G, LY, RA, SV, UR and YO.

I didn’t get to my rig in time to catch you on CW. I could just hear you on SSB in Kenya when the QSB was favourable (which was for about ten seconds every few minutes) but never quite well enough to give you a call…

Oh, and the weather here’s fine, mostly sunny, with temperatures around 25 to 28 C. :wink:

73, Rick 5Z4/M0LEP