G/SE-009 Chanctonbury Ring, G/SE-003 Black Down, G/SE-004 Butser Hill

south downs
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.

Equipment

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.
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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.
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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.

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The Dew Pond SSSI

 

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.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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.
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RC Glider pilots

 

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Paragliders

 

Summary

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.

73 Glyn
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G/DC-001 High Willhays, G/DC-005 Christ Cross, G/SC-004 Staple Hill, G/SC-008 Win Green

Friday 8 April 2016

cropped For the second outing of April, it was time for a wee change and a chance to draw G/DC towards a close this year.  Three summits remained to be climbed to complete the region, Brown Willy G/DC-002 would be climbed when we visit relatives in Cornwall later in the year.  This left my primary targets for the day, High Willhays G/DC-001 and Christ Cross G/DC-005 with Staple Hill and Win Green as secondary hills on the drive home.  Leaving home at 0430 the route took me down the A303 and A30 to Oakhampton, then up through the army camp to a parking space at SX 590912.  High Willhays lies within a live Army Firing Range so it is always important to check that the range is accessible to the public, this information is available at Okehampton Range Open Access Days or by calling Freephone 0800 458 4868.

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-8 plus RSS 2M dipole.

High Willhays G/DC-001

From the Okehampton Army Camp follow the single track tarmacked permissible road to the end where there is plenty of parking area.  Thanks to Phil (G4OBK) for the access info. Setting off at 07:50 the way to the top is very straight forward and easy going, just follow the hardcore track to the cul then turn left along the grassy track to the top.  It was just a shame that the visibility all the way up was no more than 20 metres so it was not possible to get a view of the High Willhays/Yes Tor ridge.  Distance 1.83 miles, Ascent 560 feet Time Taken 45 minutes.

route

A self spot and call on 2-fm produced absolutely no calls whatsoever.  So set of the HF on the rock recommended by Phil and tried to self spot for 7-ssb.  However, there seemed to be a problem with the #DroidSpot today as the spots were registering as having been sent but were not making it to the Sotawatch.  A check of Sotawatch showed that MW0KCB/P had spotted for 7.160 MHz however, he was to be heard so I called on freq and got WABer M6NTM almost straight away.  This was quickly followed by G0RQL who spotted me (Tnx Don) and a total of 9 QSO’s made it into the log before switching to 7-cw for a further 4 QSO’s.
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During a series of ‘Tweets’ the previous evening I discovered that Colin M1BUU was also planning to activate High Willhays today.  However, no sign was seen of him by the time I got to the car.  It later transpired that he had seen me in my car driving off the moor at the Army Camp!

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Phil’s Stone

 

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Parking at the end of the permissive road.

 

Christ Cross G/DC-005

It was an hours drive to Christ Cross where I parked up just down from the junction (SS 965050).  Through a rusted and broken field gate there was a piece of old farm machinery which served perfectly for securing the mast.  I tried self spotting for 7-ssb but #DroidSpot was still not working properly so relied on RBNGate and called on 7-cw.  I could hear a few very faint calls but nothing intelligible.  Eventually I made it with one station but then nothing at all.  Were the bands really that bad?  QSYing to 7.160 hoping for some WABers I managed one very weak QSO but again nothing else on a very quiet dead band.  A quick call on 2-fm provided a couple of mobile calls to qualify the hill later followed by a local pedestrian portable QSO.  I tried one more time to raise more on 60m and 20m but with no joy.  It was then I became aware of someone stood behind me.  It was Alex G0JZE who had just arrived to activate the hill.  His was the first mobile call I took whilst he was driving up the hill!  After we spent some time chatting I packed up and Alex started to call on 2-fm.  It was whilst I was packing up that half of my linked dipole parted company from the T-piece!  Was this the real reason why I couldn’t hear anyone very well – I was using a broken aerial!
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Whilst this is a cheats summit (a drive-on) it was a significant summit for me as it was my 100th unique summit in 103 summits activated.

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Alex G0JZE

Staple Hill G/SC-004

 

The drive home was going to take me fairly close to Staple Hill and later Win Green, so it made sense to activate these two hills as well.  They had both been activated last year but were worth 2 more points to the tally.  Like Christ Cross Staple Hill is also a drive on summit so I parked up in the forestry gateway at (ST 232163) and moved along the fence a couple of hundred metres so a suitable operating position.  The first order of the activation was to carry out a Battle Field Damage repair to the dipole.  A quick call on 2-fm produced a QSO with G0VFK in Ilminster but nothing further.  So using RBN again I called on 7-cw and managed 3 further QSO’s.  The bands were definitely dead but were slightly better with a properly work aerial!

Win Green G/SC-008

The journey to Win Green had been torturous with a lot of very slow moving traffic on the A303 due to the mass migration home of the Easter holiday crowd slowed even more by the scourge of the motorist – the caravanner.  Parking up at the car park (ST 92347 20485) I moved along the southern boundary fence and attached my aerial to a convenient post.  Again due to ongoing issues with #DroidSpot I went straight for 7-cw and  very quickly managed 5 QSO’s into the log for the final qualification of the day.

Summary

The main aim of the day had been to activate to two new summits DC-001 and DC-005 and I doing so bring up my 100 uniques.  Both goals were achieved with the addition of to a couple of revisits enroute home for a further 2 points.  I struggled whilst on Christ Cross due to a combination of a broken aerial and a broken sky.  But perseverance paid off and the hill was qualified.  High Willhays is a very easy walk with the majority of it along proper hardcore paths.  It was just a shame that the fog and low visibility was against me today because I love the views over the Dartmoor National Park on a clear day.  I will however, be back next year.

Thanks for all those that braved the poor propagation to work me.  Always very much appreciated.

73 Glyn G4CFS

 

GW/SW-003 Fan Brycheiniog

Friday 1 April 2016

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The line of the footpath can clearly be seen

 

Had hoped to have done this summit before the 15 Mar but there was only so many days I could get away and it wasn’t to be.  Having started to plan several mini expeditions for the forthcoming spring season I realised that most would require a lot more daylight to complete than was currently available.  As a result I decided to complete the GW/SW 8 pointers by taking on Fan Brycheiniog in the western Black Mountain region of the Brecon Beacon’s.  Parking at SN 853217 where there is room for about 3 cars.  There are other suitable parking places very close by.

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-8 plus RSS 2M dipole.

Fan Brycheiniog GW/SW-003

route

Setting off at 0830 I followed the very ephemeral footpath that likes playing hid and seek all the way up (now you see me, now you don’t!).  Initially I headed towards the derelict sheep pens following the up the left side of the juvenile River Tawe.  Crossing the river via well placed stones I made a beeline for the main summit cliff which was barely visible due to low cloud.  In just over an hour I arrived at the lake side and had a brief chat with a guy who had camped out overnight.  He advised me that the path to the summit was very icy in places and the large patches of snow had started to turn to ice.

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Heading off up the obvious footpath that runs diagonally up the side of the cliff I soon encountered the ice.  The way ahead was treacherous but with care the ascent was made onto a very windy and cloudy summit plateau with visibility about 20m.  The track headed off up slope to the right until the stone shelter then the trig point slowly appeared out of the mist.  The path to the summit was also very icy and to the side was a good 2 feet of iced snow, all of this with a gusting wind trying to blow me towards the drop back down to the lake.  Distance 2 miles, ascent 1230 feet, time taken 1 hour 40 minutes.
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After the duty photo call I hunkered down inside the stone shelter but this didn’t provide much protection from the cold and even with thermal gloves on I lost the feeling in the ends of my fingers with 15 minutes, even the hot coffee didn’t help.  The decision was made to see what happened on 2-fm and leave the HF till I come back on a summers day.  A selfspot for S20 quickly brought MW0PJJ into the log followed by Don G0RQL.  Over the next 12 minutes 5 further stations made their way into the log before 2m went very quiet.  Apart from my fingers I also noted that my left GTX boot leaked!! so after sitting in the shelter for about half an hour my left big toe had frozen and had no feeling either.  Enough was enough and I quickly packed up and very carefully headed off the summit.

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A slightly bent VHF aerial clearly seen poking out of the stone shelter

 

Once the very careful descent of the cliff path was negotiated I had warmth and circulation flowing again to my fingers and toe and spent a pleasant 5 minutes talking with a D of E assessor who was out with a group of teenagers.  He was keen to know the state of the path and the summit plateau and following our chat decided to re-route the group elsewhere.  The rest of the descent was uneventful and was most grateful for more hot coffee once back at the car.  Having changed into dry warm clothes I noticed that after several hours of the summit being shrouded in cloud, the summit suddenly cleared and I was finally able to get a photo of the whole hill.

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It always happens to me – I get back to the car and the cloud finally lifts!