G/SC-007 Long Knoll & G/SC-003 Beacon Batch

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO2, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-170 plus RD.

Long Knoll G/SC-007

Today was going to be a leisurely 2 summit activation day starting with Long Knoll SC-007. The satnav took me straight to the small grassy layby at the start of the path.  However, there was a couple of BT Openreach vans parked there (they were doing some underground cable work). So driving a further 200 metres north there is a good off road parking area at the start of the private road to Rodmead Farm ST 86396 38005.  This place as a good hard standing and doesn’t block off any access and it only adds a couple of minutes to the walk.

SC-007 map

SC-007 route up

Looking back down the route

As is well documented, the initial pull up onto the ridge is steep but relatively short.  Once you are onto the ridge it is plan sailing all the way to the summit.  On a clear day, as it was today, the views are excellent.  The only thing of note on the way up was the small herd of cattle with their calves grazing by the footpath – more on them later!  Distance walked 1.2 miles, ascent 370 feet time taken 28 minutes.

After self spotting on 40M SSB it seemed like an eternity before the first station was in the log.  The band conditions were appalling but eventually I was called by DL/PA3FYG/P from DM/BW-235, a good way to start the day off.  I struggled for a while with SSB before switching to CW and letting the RBN spot me.  This proved a bit more fruitful with several stations in quick succession.  Most of the 13 QSO’s were with European stations, the only UK stations was G0EVV, G0TDM & M0IML.  A tune around the band and a return to SSB for a few more calls added nothing to the tally so it was off back to the car.  However, by the time I had reached the location of the afore mentioned cattle, they had moved to graze on the path itself.  Not a problem as I approached they obligingly moved to one side except for 1 who had its back to me.  I quick whistle and the beast turned to stare at me with cold menacing eyes.  The beast looked different to the others, an assumption that was confirmed by looking lower than its eyes.  I was in a stand-off with the bull in charge of the small herd!!!  A hasty retreat was made to a suitable place to cross the fence and the journey continued back to the car without further incident.

long knoll log

SC-007 station

Getting ready to set the station up close to the Trig Point.

Beacon Batch G/SC-003

For me this was a drive back down memory lane.  In my mid teens and early 20’s I spent virtually every weekend and most Wednesday evenings on the Mendips or should I say under the Mendips.  I was very heavily into caving and potholing and the Mendips were my local patch (originally from Yeovil), I was a member of Yeovil Caving Club and the Mendip Cave Rescue Organisation.  It all came back to as I was putting on my boots at the top end of Burrington Combe and the recollection that 40 years earlier I would have been about 200 metres further down the Combe getting into my boiler suit and helmet.

SC-003 map

Next to where I parked the car.  Beacon Batch is part of the larger area called Black Down

Next to where I parked the car.

I had parked up adjacent to the sign for Black Down (Beacon Batch is part of Black Down) ST 48987 58030 however, if this is occupied there is a large parking area 200 metres further down the Combe on the right hand side.  The path is clearly sign posted up past the house on the right to a gate.  Once through the gate there are 3 possible routes. The direct route to the summit is via the broader path in the 2 o’clock.  The path is easy going and well defined all the way to the top.  Distance 0.68 miles, ascent 376 feet, time taken 24 minutes.

SC-003 route up

The left hand and wider track is the direct route to the summit

For a complete change I thought I would open up on 145.500 FM and made contact with G0VFK in Ilminster.  There being no further takers at that time I found a handy tree with a short stump to fix the pole to and set up for an HF activation.  Having tuned around a completely dead SSB section of 40M I set up for CW on 7.025Mhz.  Once the RBN spotted me on Sotawatch I had 5 QSO’s in quick order then silence.  Following a short phone call with my XYL I changed up to 40M SSB and self spotted on 7.120 Mhz. Three QSO’s followed including a S2S with Terry G0VWP/P on Kirk Fell G/LD-014.  Time was now pushing on and there being no further takers I dismantled the HF station and made a quick call on 145.500.  This led to a QSO and spot from Martin G0ENZ which resulted in 2 more contacts in the log.  All in all a pleasant hours had been spent on the summit for 12 QSO’s.

beacon batch log

SC-003 station

Set-up under the shade of the tree

SC-003 trig

The trig point

SC-003 view north

The view to the north across the Bristol Channel

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G/SE-002 Leith Hill & G/SE-005 Botley Hill

Monday 13 Jul 2015

The original plan for today had been to activate Cheriton Hill, Detling Hill, Botley Hill and Leith Hill but following a change of plan on Sunday evening I decided to only activate Leith and Botley Hill’s leaving the other two for a later date.  First thing Monday morning the alerts had been changed and I set off planning to travel up the M3 then anti clockwise round the M25 to Botley Hill then work back to Leith Hill on the way home.  However, just after leaving home a traffic report stated that the M3 north bound was closed due to an accident so a quick re-programme of the GPS and we were off cross-country to the A3 and up to Leith Hill first.

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 2Ah SLAB, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle.

Leith Hill G/SE-002

Having made fairly good time on my journey across country I arrived at the parking area for Leith Hill TQ130433 at 0800 UTC.  The path up to the tower at the summit of Leith Hill is an easy walk up a gentle incline, only one other person was encountered on the way up and they were returning to the only other car in the car park.  The weather had been heavy rain all the way over and it was starting to ease as I reached the tower, unfortunately at this height I was well into the cloud so visibility was very low and the atmosphere was extremely damp.  Distance travelled 0.5 miles, ascent 130 feet time taken 12 minutes.

se-002 leith

The summit plateau was empty of people and the tower did not open for another 45 minutes however, I felt it prudent to move into the wooded area to the north of the tower in order to conceal my activation.  With the station quickly set-up I self spotted on 40M SSB and called and called and called to no avail.  A tune around the band suggested that conditions were marginal so a switch to 40M CW using KU6J to spot my calls resulted in 6 very quick QSO’s followed by silence.  By this time the rain had come back on heavily so a quick pack up and return to the car was followed by a warming cup of coffee from the flask – so much for the long hot summer!!

leith hill log

Botley Hill G/SE-005

SE-005 botley car park

Titsey Estate Car Park Sign

The journey from Leith Hill to Botley Hill took about 50 minutes, the final approach to the summit road, conveniently called The Ridge, was via Chalk Pit Lane – an incredibly steep road straight up the side of the North Downs.  The AZ at Botley Hill is fairly large and I had decided to activate from a similar location to that used by Richard G3CWI.  So I drove to the east end of The Ridge and turned right onto the B269, within a few metres and immediately before the mini roundabout I turned right into the Titsey Estate car park TQ398554.  From here I walked across the road and picked up the eastbound  North Downs Way Footpath which took me into the woods and away from the road.  Once nicely isolated I found a convenient clearing and set-up the station. Distance travelled 200 metres, ascent 16 feet time taken 5 minutes (I had to stop to re-tie my boot lace!).

se-005 botley route

A quick tune round 40M confirmed that conditions had not improved at all since earlier this morning so the plan was to open up with CW and let KU6J spot my call.  This resulted in 5 QSO’s a 7 minutes then again silence.  I tried calling several more times but got no response.  I was also having a few problems with my palm paddle missing some characters and adding others which may have been down to rain or moisture getting it the works.  To be honest the rain had not really let up all morning and I was not enjoying myself so I decided to pack up and go home.

botley hill log

There are certain hills that I don’t enjoy and will never activate again and Botley Hill is one of those.  Today was frustrating because from leaving home to getting back took 7.5 hours to spend 17 minutes walking a distance of 0.75 miles and a total ascent of 136 feet.  The reward was 20 minutes operating for 13 QSO’s and 2 points.  I must pursue my XYL’s request to go to North Wales for a holiday next year – time for some real walking but not before a weekend in Dartmoor and Exmoor for a potential 12 points plus bonus if I leave the trip till late December then repeat in January for a further 6 point plus 6 point bonus.

G/SE-011 Wilmington Hill, G/SE-010 Firle Beacon, G/SE-014 Cliffe Hill, G/SE-006 Ditchling Beacon

Monday 6 Jul 2015

Mrs CFS is becoming very generous at the moment and is allowing me to go activating on a very regular basis.  We are starting to watch our weights a little so she sees this as good exercise for me.  Who am I to argue!  I had 3 possible target areas to travel to.  The first is the SE summits that border the M25, then there are the SC summits around Beaminster and Bridport, and finally the 3 SE summits immediately to the west of Eastbourne.  Yes I know there are 4 SE summits immediately west of Eastbourne but Ditchling Beacon is reserved for when I take my XYL to Brighton for some beautification.  The 2 SC summits will be activated when I take my Mother in Law and her friend through to Weymouth in a couple of weeks time and I quite fancied the South Downs on a sunny warm day so it was off to Wilmington Hill, Firle Beacon and Cliffe Hill just to the west of Eastbourne.

Equipment

FT-817 5W, 2Ah SLAB, linked dipole 60m, 40m & 20m on 7m SOTA Pole and palm paddle key.

Wilmington Hill G/SE-011

Left home at 07.15 for the 1hour 50 minute drive to Wilmington Hill car park.  After an uneventful drive I parked up in the car park at TQ 531032 and set off up the South Downs Way (SDW) path across the road.  The path is easy with a steady rise in elevation however, at the point where the SDW heads south to skirt the hill I struck out straight for the top of the ridge followed by a short walk to the trig point.  There is a fence running along the north edge of the hill within 20 feet of the trig which made the ideal place to make camp. Distance travelled 1.2 miles, ascent 477 feet, time taken 30 minutes.

wilmington hill se-011

A quick check of Sotawatch sent me to 60m for a S2S with Mal GW6OVD/P on Garth Hill G/SW-034, one more QSO was made on this band before self spotting on 40m SSB.  6 contacts were made on a very poor band with limited propagation and heavy QSB.  After calling a few times with no reply it was a quick pack up and off back to the car.  The journey down only took 20 mins allowing enough time for a cup of coffee and half a sandwich.

wilmington hill log

SE-011 route up

The South Downs Way can be seen going to the right – head straight up the hill to the trig point.

SE-011 set-up

Station set-up next to fence just north of trig point

Firle Beacon G/SE-010

The drive from Wilmington Hill took just 12 minutes along the A27.  Make sure you turn off for Firle Village and Palace then as you enter the village take the right fork sign posted Firle Beacon.  This road takes you right up onto the ridge and a sizable car park TQ 468058.  Of course because of the easy access and large car park this is a very popular hill and even on a Monday during term time there were about 10 vehicles parked up.  The walk to the summit is a gentle rising path commanding magnificent views to the north and south.  Again, as with Wilmington Hill, there is a fence within 20 feet of the trig point ideal for the mast support.  The fence is also about 50 feet away from the SDW footpath so I remained slightly out of sight and undisturbed.  Distance walked 1.2 miles ascent 161 feet time take 20 minutes.

firle beacon se-010

This time started on 40m SSB with a self spot and straight back to my first call came Mike G6TUH who lives just down the road.  It became clear that the bands had improved slightly and this was borne out by the size of the pile up.  Overall 18 QSO’s were completed in 20 minutes before the contacts dried up.  This included a S2S with John M0VCM/P on Hutton Roof Crags G/LD-052 and 6 DXCC or 7 if you include Karl M3FEH in Cornwall!!  The sun was now starting to get high in the sky and the heat was rising but the gentle southerly breeze was most welcoming.  It was interesting to hear all the reports of rain across the UK whilst I was basking in sunshine, blue sky with about 1 okta of cloud.  The next summit was even closer, close enough to have facilitated communication by semaphore or aldis lamp.  So it was back into the car and off to Cliffe Hill.

firle beacon log

SE-010 footpath to summit

Footpath to Firle Beacon

SE-010 from SE-011

Firle Beacon taken from Wilmington Hill

SE-011 from SE-010

Wilmington Hill from Firle Beacon

SE-010 summit trig

Firle Beacon summit trig

Cliffe Hill G/SE-014

As I drove up though Glynde towards Glyndebourne I became a little concerned about the fact that there had been a festival at Glynde Place and that there were a number of police signs saying this road was a ‘tow away zone’.  However, once I got as far as the opera house the signage had gone away and it was back to normal. Just under half a kilometre past the opera house is a turning on the left into an unmade track, single file wide.  The surface looked good enough and I had read of some amateurs driving up this lane.  The drive was OK for my Avensis and I got to the turning/parking space about three quarters the way along the track.  From here is was over the style and I took the track heading up to the right along the edge of the woods.  Clearing the woods the track continued up hill towards the Lewes Golf Course which occupies the summit.  Entering the  golf course I tentatively made my way to the trig point.  However, having had a near miss from an errant golf ball, I decided that discretion was the batter part of valour and made my way off of the golf course but remaining within the AZ. Distance walked 1 mile, ascent 275 feet, time taken 22 minutes.

cliffe hill se-014

Using the boundary fence of the golf course to support the mast, I was about to put out a self spot when Mike G6TUH calls me up to see if I have arrived yet.  He must have a sixth sense which became even more scary later.  I opened up on 40m SSB and again the conditions had gone down hill but still managed to get 8 QSO’s in the bag before the band went very quiet.  It was at this point that I realised that I still had plenty of time left on my day pass so I made the decision to go to Ditchling Beacon G/SE-006 as it was on the way home.  A quick pack up and off back to the car.  I have mentioned before that when I lived in Scotland I would go out all day to activate 1 mountain whereas in the south of England I now have to do 3-4 summits (pimples) in a day to make it worthwhile.  One advantage this has is that I am now becoming very proficient at making and breaking camp fairly quickly, something that will become very handy when the weather starts to deteriorate.

cliffe hill log

Cliffe Hill from Firle Beacon

Cliffe Hill from Firle Beacon

Looking back at Wilmington Hill and Firle Beacon from Cliffe Hill

Looking back at Wilmington Hill and Firle Beacon from Cliffe Hill

Station set-up at Cliffe Hill

Station set-up at Cliffe Hill

Ditchling Beacon G/SE-006

As I said at the start, this was going to be activated at the end of July whilst my XYL was having some beautification in Brighton.  Well plans were meant to be changed and whilst I was this close and passing it made total sense.  In hindsight it worked out better because I have been trying to work out how to activate Crowborough without having to make a special journey just for that one summit.  Well problem solved, that is the target now for the end of July when my wife is in Brighton.

Ditchling Beacon was about a 20 minute drive from Cliffe Hill and I got parked up in the NT car park along with a about 20 other vehicles.  One of the other vehicles just happened to be an ice cream van so a 99 was enjoyed before setting of on my mammoth journey to the trig point.  Ditchling Beacon is a nature reserve and the main footpath headed straight off into the wilderness completely bypassing the trip point.  So it was possible to get next to the trig and use the adjacent fence to support the mast.  Again a quick assembly and I was ready to go.  Distance walked 600 feet ascent 45 feet time taken 3 minutes.

ditchling beacon se-006

I thought, for a change, I would put a call out on 2m FM.  After a couple of calls I got Al G4RUL in Eastbourne but no one else.  So it was off to 40m SSB but unfortunately the frequency I had been using all day, 7.123 MHz, was now occupied.  A tune around was made and a new QRG was selected, 7.165 MHz, and a quick unannounced CQ SOTA call was made.  Now for the scary bit, earlier I had said that Mike G6TUH had a sixth sense, well this proved it because after the one quick CQ Mike came straight back to me for a report and a quick chat.  I told Mike that I was probably low on battery power (I had only planned for 3 activations so had a 2AH battery) and wanted to qualify the hill before it died.  So Mike kindly spotted me stating my battery was low and I was able to manage 10 more QSO’s before the battery finally packed up.

ditchling beacon log

Summit Trig at Ditchling Beacon

Summit Trig at Ditchling Beacon

All in all it had been a great day out.  I had managed to activate 4 SE summits and prove that Mike is in league with the ‘dark side’.  The band conditions were at best very poor but this didn’t prevent me from easily qualifying all the hills.  The scenery and weather had been fantastic and I had experienced the South Downs at their very best.  I would like to mention and thank Mike G6TUH, Damian M0BKV, and Jim EI9GLB who all managed to work me on all 4 hills.  Also to Don G0RQL and Geert PA7ZEE who both managed 3 of the 4 hills.

By gm4cfs Posted in SOTA Tagged