Having spent the past few months activating in South Wales and along the Welsh Borders, I fancied a local day out. I didn’t want to drive too far so went the Chanctonbury, Black Down, Butser triangle, a lovely series of hills all achievable with just 100 miles of driving. The other advantage of doing local hills is I can have a lie in (not getting up till 6am) and I can get home quickly (30 minutes) rather than the usual 3 hour drive after a day in the hills. So leaving home at 06:30 hours I set off along the M27/A27 for a hours drive to the start of the first hill picking up a Breakfast Wrap enroute.
FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-8 plus RSS 2M dipole.
Chanctonbury Ring G/SE-009
After the hours drive I arrived at the Washington Car Park (TQ 120120). I set off up the obvious hardcore track signposted South Downs Way walking past the Gas Pressure Reduction facility to a junction in the track. The main hardcore SDW path carries on to curving to the right but straight ahead is a footpath through a gate which offers the steeper but shorter route to the top. The footpath leads up through chalk/flint working and continues up to the high point. I slight drop in the path take you across the cattle grid adjacent to the SSSI Dew Pond then a short climb up to the Trig Point. I last did this hill 11 months ago on my return to SOTA and hill walking after a few years break and what a difference a year makes. Last year I struggled to get up here having to stop regularly, today I only stopped for the view and felt fresh at the top. Distance 0.92 miles, Ascent 429 feet, Time Taken 25 minutes.
I moved away from the trig and set the station up on the fence line by the Dew Pond. Now I knew today was going to be difficult radio wise because the Earths orbit was passing through a strong solar wind and the K index this morning was 4! This was borne out on tuning around a fairly quiet 40m. I self spotted for 7-ssb and called, and called, and called and was eventually answered by EA2CKX but then nothing again. Changing to 7-cw and self spotting (no RBN Hole today) I called for about 5 minutes then started a good run of contacts for 12 minutes with all bar one being outside the UK. It appeared that UK propagation was non-existent.
One everything was packed up I decided to take the hardcore track back to the car and set off for Black Down, 45 minutes to the north west.
Black Down G/SE-003
Once I pulled into the car park (SU 920308) I gave the XYL a quick call then set off for the trip point. The hill is typical of many forestry commission locations with a myriad of footpaths taking you everywhere except where you want to go. The aim was to walk to the trig point which on this hill is not the easiest to find in amongst the trees. However, armed with my trusty GPS I soon made my way to the trig. Distance 0.85 miles, Ascent 104 feet, Time Taken 20 minutes.
I located a suitable tree as a support in a cleared area fairly close to the trig and set of the station. Despite the problems earlier with SSB I still chose to self spot and open up on 7-ssb. First into the log was Victor GI4ONL and this was followed by a steady flow of European contacts with the only other UK station being Ken (AXY) in Edinburgh. Changing to 7-cw expecting a few more stations but I was disappointed with nil response.
Heading back to the car I came across this strangely coloured Daffodil which, according to the South Downs Ranger, to whom I tweeted the photo, could have been caused by a an insect eating at the petals!
Butser Hill G/SE-004
The final hill of the day is Butser Hill, my local hill. Parking up at the car park (SU 711199) I decided to walk in my shoes as this is a very easy hill and it was dry. Leaving the car park I passed several paraglider enthusiasts either kitting up or soring in the updrafts that occur on the west side of the hill. A little further along I stopped to speak to some Radio Control Glider pilots who knew my late Father in Law – also a very keen RC Glider pilot. It seemed rather appropriate to activate this hill today as it was just after the anniversary of his passing and his ashes are scattered across the area I set up my station. Distance 0.6 miles, Ascent 121 feet Time Taken 15 minutes including time chatting to RC pilots and photographing a C-130 Hercules Tactical Transport aircraft flying below us!
By this time the bands had really died, on first investigation the whole of 40m was silent! However, not to be put off I self spotted for 7-ssb and called, and called – you get the drift by now. Eventually Pa0B called in followed by DL8DXL then the proverbial silence again. After 20 minutes and 2 contacts I changed to 7-cw and struggled to 2 more into the log including an English station Roy (SSH). A further call back on 7-ssb secured one more contact but that made just 5 contacts in over half and hour, so I decided to call it a day go and watch some more gliders and home for an early shower.
All in all it was a very gentle day out and nice to sit on the first hill Chanctonbury Ring and soak up the warm spring sunshine. Whilst I have already visited these 3 hills it was nice to make a return trip as they are right on my doorstep. The radio however, was up to its usual terrible state. A lot of the reports I got reported a lot of very deep and rapid fading and it was strange to work so few UK stations today.