Venue: Inglenook Hotel, Bognor Regis
So I had a late call to do a dep gig with the Ragdolls - a Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons tribute show - in Bognor Regis. Itís a bit of a trek for a one-nighter gig, but I had an offer of free and comfortable accommodation for the night at my sister-in-lawís in Hampshire - and therefore my mind turned to SOTA possibilities. I consulted directly with the G Association Manager, who suggested Leith Hill and Chanctonbury Ring to be part of a feasible route between Macclesfield and Bognor. This worked well, and I had a decent run down to the Surrey Hills for the first activation.
It was useful that Iíd made good time, as that meant a possibility of making a S2S contact on FT8 with Roger F5LKW. I parked at the Starveall car park and walked the 3/4 mile along the easy and mostly level woodland track to the summit. Well, near to the summit. As I would be setting up the SOTABEAMS Bandhopper 4 linked dipole, I stopped just short of the summit and set up on a large expanse of grass with a fantastic view - and hopefully take-off - to the south. With everything set up, I checked the spots and noticed Roger was already QRV on 40m FT8. I was receiving his CQ calls really well, so tried to go back to him. Initially, my system played up and I needed to reconnect some cables and restart the Windows 10 tablet. I tried again, and worked Roger first time. 40m FT8 - 7.074MHz - M1EYP/P on G/SE-002 to F5LKW/P on F/AM-362
I donít know if this was an all-time first FT8 S2S in SOTA. I suspect not, but you never know! Anyway, I was delighted to have made the S2S QSO. I couldnít then raise any further FT8 QSOs for love nor money, but the shine was not taken off the satisfaction. I complete the activation with 6 QSOs on CW. They took me a total of 4 minutes, compared to the half-an-hour Iíd spent getting one QSO on FT8! I then allowed my satnav to direct me to the parking spot for Chanctonbury Ring G/SE-009 on the South Downs near Worthing.
Friday 15th November 2019 - Leith Hill G/SE-002, Botley Hill G/SE-005 & Detling Hill G/SE-013
Gig: 60s Gold - Mindbenders & Steve Ellis
Venue: Winter Gardens, Margate
Like most bands I tour with, Mindbenders are fond of their lie-ins in a morning. Well, that's not for me! So as soon as I was awake and with a mug of coffee inside me, I made an early start on my drive down to Margate (cue the Chas & Dave classic!). Three summits beckoned, all being near enough en route from Croydon, even though no points would be up for grabs as I'd already activated them all earlier in the year.
First up was Leith Hill - well OK, not exactly en route as it meant heading off in the opposite direction! But not too far away from where I was staying - plus I fancied one of their hot baked local sausage rolls for my breakfast!
Just five QSOs on 15m FT8 were made in the activation. But this was not the exciting bit. After serving me my breakfast from the hatch at the bottom of the folly tower, the lady came out to ask what I was up to. The polite discussion became a little more nervy when she asked me if I had written permission. I explained about my previous dialogue with NT and the stated position on "temporary low-impact" activities. But she was unhappy and stated she was going to report me! On the email app on my iPhone, I was able to search and locate the exact extract from NT about permission not being required for temporary low-impact activities, and took it back down to the snack bar. When I got there, the lady was on the phone to her local NT office.
I indicated the email on my phone screen and was invited to speak directly to the local office on the snack bar telephone. The woman at the NT office was much more friendly and completely accepted my position, agreeing that temporary low-impact activities such as the one described did not require prior written permission. She did suggest though giving her office a call ahead of future activations, if only to avoid concern from the snack bar staff! I took the opportunity to immediately advise that I would be back the following two mornings - and she said this was fine.
Anyway, that all sorted to everyone's satisfaction, I packed up and made the short walk back down to the main car park, and from there headed off to Botley Hill G/SE-005.
Saturday 16th November 2019 - Leith Hill G/SE-002 & Botley Hill G/SE-005
This was a day off. But sandwich between gigs in Margate and Ipswich, it made more sense to accept a kind invitation to stay at Jan's place in Croydon, rather than drive home and back again! The rest of the band had a lie-in and lazy day, but of course I wanted to play radio from the hills - even if the hills and the radio were a bit rubbish! I managed to eke four 15m QSOs out of Leith Hill, but it was painfully slow going! In the end, I gave up and went over to Botley Hill G/SE-005.
Sunday 17th November 2019 - Leith Hill G/SE-002 & Botley Hill G/SE-005
Gig: 60s Gold - Mindbenders & Steve Ellis
Venue: Regent Theatre, Ipswich
So, following a day off, it was back to the normal routine of a gig day. Today's driving would be considerable - Croydon to Ipswich, and then all the way back west to Chandlers Ford, Hampshire! From the Monday, we had a family break booked in Southampton. Marianne decided that she would drive her own car down there with Jimmy and Liam, and I could drive straight over from Ipswich and meet them on the Monday morning. Marianne's sister Charmaine, who lives in Chandlers Ford, kindly said that I could let myself in at hers and sleep in the spare room on that Sunday night.
First though, it was a gig day, so I had a couple of SOTA activations to do. Guess what? Yes, Leith Hill G/SE-002 and Botley Hill G/SE-005 yet again - the third consecutive day I had done this pair - and for the third consecutive day, for zero SOTA activator points as well! The day started splendidly with the lovely Jan insisting on making me a cooked breakfast before I got on my way.
On Leith Hill summit, I simply called on the 2m FM handheld, and this time actually made five QSOs - four on 2m FM and one on 2m C4FM. That was pleasing - and I got on my way to Botley - again - but for the last time in 2019!