Tuesday 15th January 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013
I walked to the summit from the Cat & Fiddle, then a little further along and slightly down the ridge. I wanted to find a spot where the wall backed into the direction of the wind, and a little lower so that the load on the mast would not be as severe. As it was, I ended up snapping the mast in two during setting up anyway - although it was on a section that had been weakening for some time (that I had kept forgetting to do something about!). So the apex of the BH4 linked dipole was 1.5m lower than intended, but all was fine with that. Not fine was the way the various software were interacting on my tablet. As well as WSJT-X 2.0, I’d now also got Log4OM, Log4OM Communicator and JTAlert installed and running. The idea of this was to allow proper logging, with an aspiration for it to become automated as part of a future macro which will also cycle the QSO process to return to calling CQ after that. I was getting the logging dialog box up automatically at the end of a QSO, but still had to manually then click to confirm I want to log the contact. I’d rather that bit was automatic.
A few seonds later, I'd get an error message with the word “Failure” as the headline, telling me that it wasn’t possible to log the QSO to Log4OM, but that the data had still gone into the log file (text file I think). As well as these issues, I'd noticed several instances of someone replying to my CQ call and WSJT-X not automatically launching into the QSO process as it normally would. I had to manually click on the station calling to trigger it. Sometimes it worked, but many times I had to do it manually. I wondered if the other processes running (JTAlert, Log4OM, Log4OM Commuicator) were interfering in some way, so I closed them down. However the intermittent problem persisted.
22 QSOs made on the activation:
2m FM: 7 - including S2S with Neil M0WBG/P on Gun G/SP-013
30m FT8: 11
80m FT8: 4
There was a short shower during the activation, but I kept dry inside my bothy bag at that point. Otherwise it remained dry, but very cloudy, cold and breezy. I walked off the hill at dusk, headtorch in pocket, but not required.
Thursday 24th January 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015
No winter bonus today, nor even any normal points, with all for 2019 having been already collected. But the phone didn’t ring for any supply teaching work this morning, and I needed to do my 10,000 steps to meet my Fitbit target. I recalled that my three local SOTAs added up to that.
Well I completed the round, starting and finishing in Macclesfield, in less than four hours. I started with a Spearing’s meat & potato pie, known locally as a “Macclesfield breakfast”, then drove up the Cat & Fiddle road for Shining Tor. It was a winter wonderland on the Tor - snow cover all over, but consolidated and easy to walk on - perfect. The temperature felt like it was comfortably above freezing, so the white stuff probably wouldn’t be around for long.
I just used handheld and rubber duck from the summit, but nonetheless gathered a rapid nine contacts. Over on Gun G/SP-013, I would be well below the snowline.
Friday 25th January 2019 - no SOTA
Gig: Liam Read & Dan Toft
Venue: Unicorn Inn, Hanley
A last minute gig came in for me and Liam and Jimmy M0HGY jumped in for the ride, mainly on the promise of a pre-gig curry in Stoke! The gig went on later than I anticipated, and this demotivated me for activating The Cloud G/SP-015 on the way home, as I wouldn’t be able to record it on the date of the 25th. I hadn’t completely discounted the possibility though, but Jimmy “advised” me that it would be better to go straight home.
Saturday 26th January 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004 & The Cloud G/SP-015
Gig: Funktion & Co.
Venue: Flying Horse Hotel, Rochdale
I was hoping to go for a walk up Kinder Scout G/SP-001 on this Saturday morning, but the weather forecast was a bit grim, and Richard G3CWI didn’t fancy it either. We did decide however to go for a walk up Shining Tor G/SP-004. While driving up the Cat & Fiddle road, I chased Paul MW0PLA/P who was QRV on 2m FM from Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042.
Richard copied my MO of putting VHF handheld in coat pocket and walking up without a rucksack. It was a pleasant walk despite low visibility, and we hit the limited dry period of the morning perfectly. At the summit I made four contacts on 2m FM. Richard had a fiddle about and listen on 2m on his own HT, but didn’t in the end make any QSOs. The return walk was equally pleasant, and the post activation pint in Wetherspoons, despite it being only 10am and accompanied by a breakfast wrap, was more pleasant still.
Off up to Rochdale later to play some cheesy 1990s pop - bit of a change from Motown, Frankie Valli and Joe Longthorne! But first, an unanticipated afternoon activation of The Cloud G/SP-015.
Thursday 21st February 2019 - Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
A change of plan at home after I returned from Gun G/SP-013, and a glorious sunny afternoon gave me the opportunity, and idea to have another crack at testing out my 30m GP and HB1B. I invited Richard G3CWI out on the trip, more for his antenna analyser than his company between you-and-me, but don’t tell him that. Main thing is that I did remember to take the Travelmast and earbuds out of the house this time.
The walk up Shining Tor was very pleasant in the sunshine, but there was a fair bit of breeze which concerned me with regard to deploying a 10m mast. We checked some mapping to determine the extent of the AZ on the lee (north) side of the hill, and continued downslope after the summit to get a little more shelter. We found a good flattish grassy spot to the right of the path, and where we determined the wind would not be too disruptive to the large vertical antenna.
The aerial went up and was found to be resonant on 9.6MHz. I cut off some of the vertical element, and the CF moved up to 9.880MHz. Repeat a couple of times, and I got it to 10.110MHz - perfect! I verified that the SWR indication on the FT-817 was good right across the band, and started activating. 9 QSOs were made on 30m CW, and everything seemed to be working nicely. I then swapped the FT-817 for the HB1B, and thoroughly enjoyed using that rig for the first time in nearly two years. It’s such a pleasant rig to use, and 5 more 30m CW QSOs were made.
Walking back over the summit on the way back to the car, I put out a few calls on 2m FM with the handheld, resulting in three further QSOs. The return journey was punctuated with a refreshment stop at the Stanley Arms, Bottom o’th’ Oven. Jennings Cumberland - always a favourite for a sunny SOTA day.
Friday 26th April 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004
Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Majestic Theatre, Retford
Another venue not exactly conducive to hillwalking. However, the Google Maps route took me over the Cat & Fiddle road, so Shining Tor seemed logical. Nice walk up in very light drizzle. Windy at the summit though, and raining harder, so not too pleasant. 2m FM handheld activation again. Six QSOs including S2S with Caroline M3ZCB/P and Martyn M1MAJ/P on Bardon Hill G/CE-004. “Are you on The Cloud?” asked Caroline. On this occasion, no.
Sunday 12th May 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015
So far in 2019 I had done 66 activations of my local three SOTA summits. Jimmy M0HGY - the G Association Manager - had done none - zero - nada - nul pwa. But, to be fair, he had been mithering me for a weekend day out to do them for a number of weeks. The ducks all lined up, finally, for this particular Sunday, and we got them done.
It was a very nice day here in Cheshire. Blue sky and dry all day. A little chilly to start off with for the first one, but then shirt-sleeve order for the rest of the day, and factor 50 applied for the last one! We spent the longest time on Shining Tor G/SP-004, with both Jimmy and I fielding large pile-ups on 2m and 30m respectively. We actually swapped stations at one point on this summit too, with me working a number on 2m FM, and Jimmy logging four QSOs on 30m FT8 - his SOTA activator debut on the 30m band.
It had really warmed up by the time we were on Gun G/SP-013.
Sunday 26th May 2019 - Winter Hill G/SP-010 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Norton House Country Club, Sheffield
That night’s gig in Sheffield meant another obvious summit choice - Shining Tor G/SP-004. The musical director had requested an early soundcheck, and when I got to the parking spot, just short of the Cat & Fiddle, I realised I had a time window of only 75 minutes. My ascent walk was timed at exactly 30 minutes, so I could relax for the activation (which would still be a fast one on 2m FM with the handheld) and return walk. Six contacts were made, including a surprise call from Jimmy M0HGY at the home QTH.
I was at the venue in good time and completed soundcheck. We then had about 90 minutes to seek out some food, so I used Google Maps on my phone. A fifteen minute walk to the Sportsman Inn was indicated, and as it was a lovely afternoon, I managed to persuade the band to go for a walk. It was a very pleasant walk around the outskirts of Sheffield, with plenty of green space on one side and great views over the city centre from relatively high ground. The steak and ale pie with mash, greens and gravy was first class too.
Monday 10th June 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004
Gig: Joe Longthorne
Venue: Buxton Opera House
Well this was an easy choice. The summit halfway between home and gig! Nice to have a gig that was 25 minutes away rather than 5 hours away too!
The weather forecast was awful, but in the event, the downpour slid by to the west of me, no more than about 500 feet away! Luck was on my side. On summit I made ten QSOs on 2m FM with the handheld. Although I was getting good reports into Blackpool, Stafford and Ellesmere Port, Richard G3CWI in Macclesfield 5 miles couldn’t hear a whisper from me. I was confident I’d be able to hear him so I suggested he make use of Hack Green, but he wasn’t having any. OK, showtime…
Gig: Liam Read & Dan Toft
Venue: Swan With Two Necks, Macclesfield
It actually wasn’t the gig that influenced this SOTA choice, but the day’s supply teaching in Buxton. On the way home from that, a warm and bright afternoon encouraged me to wander up Shining Tor. 2m FM handheld, six QSOs. Chatted with two paragliders on the descent. They were deliberating on whether to launch from the path corner above the tea rooms, or to move up to the Cat & Fiddle. Home for tea then out for another gig.
Tuesday 3rd September 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015
The day commenced with an emergency rescue effort - Jimmy M0HGY had uncharacteristically missed his liftshare to work, and also the bus. Therefore, Superdad launched into action, scooped him up from Broken Cross roundabout, and got him into work in WIlmslow ahead of time. That meant I was now out and about myself with a morning to kill. So - obviously - I went for a walk up Shining Tor!
In a round trip of just less than an hour, I walked up from the Cat & Fiddle, made five contacts on my 2m FM handheld, and walked back down to the car. With the prospect of an evening contest activation on The Cloud G/SP-015 ahead of me, I decided to sneak Gun G/SP-013 in before going home for lunch.
Monday 9th September 2019 - Gun G/SP-013, The Cloud G/SP-015 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
I dropped Liam off at Space 4 Autism in Macclesfield for his social evening. Twenty minutes later, I was parking near to the Cat & Fiddle pub on the A537. Another thirty minutes later, I had completed my walk to the summit of Shining Tor.
A pleasing activation ensued. Using just the FT-70D handheld and rubber duck, I made 16 QSOs in 18 minutes. This was a pleasing enough return in itself, but even more so with half of the QSOs being on C4FM (Fusion) mode. After walking back to the car and driving back to Macclesfield, I picked Liam up bang on 9pm.
I was out of the house at the start of the day, but could think of little else than a walk up Shining Tor. Well, I did also think about breakfast. I visited TTS Meats, a kind of wholesaler / cash & carry place on an industrial estate, but with a shop and cafe open to the public. I succumbed to temptation and indulged in the Belly Buster Breakfast. Oh dear. I definitely needed to walk that off now. Or at least make a start on it.
My main agenda item was to give Jimmy's MFD a run out on the new feeder. He had been complaining of intermittent SWR issues, and I was pretty sure I'd identified the feeder cable as the culprit. The secondary agenda item was to compile a healthy log on 2m FM after yet another bout of moans online about "VHF not being what it once was"!
Both objectives achieved. A bumper log of 39 QSOs on 2m FM, and Jimmy's antenna and the new feeder all behaving perfectly. There would now be a bit of a gap before going out for the 6m contest night on The Cloud G/SP-015 later.
It was time for a much overdue "date". A mutual day off, clear of all other agendas, meant that Marianne and I could head off into the Peak for lunch and a long walk. We agreed on a walk we have done before, figuring that the Goyt Valley would be stunning on such a fine sunny afternoon.
We first made for the Peak View Tea Rooms, just short of the Cat & Fiddle on the A537 Macclesfield to Buxton road. We both plumped for the "Special cream tea" - sandwich + two scones with jam & clotted cream + tea/coffee. This was very pleasant, as it always is at this establishment. We then shifted Marianne's car up to the Cat & Fiddle, which would be the start and end point of our circular walk.
We walked down the lane to Derbyshire Bridge at the head of the Goyt Valley. We then turned left to walk down the one-way lane through the valley, enjoying the lovely scenery, especially around the River Goyt low down to our right. We continued through the valley, past Errwood Reservoir and up onto Pym Chair. We then turned left to follow the PROW up the ridge to the summit. I just operated on my handheld for a few minutes at the summit, before we completed the walk back to the Cat & Fiddle. About 18km.
Marianne and I rounded off our outing with a beer at the Stanley Arms, Bottom of the Oven, on the way back to Macc. A nice cool pint of Brakspears Oxford Gold went down a treat.
Saturday 14th September 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
Marianne was off out to work. Jimmy M0HGY and Liam weren't interested in anything other than lounging around at home. So I made up a flask of mulligatawny soup and treated myself to an afternoon on Shining Tor. I really enjoyed the familiar walk, in lovely weather. I didn't enjoy my SOTA Pole snapping in the wind when I started setting up on the summit!
I was able to fashion together a mast of about 3m height from my broken pole. I deployed the SOTAbeams Bandhopper 4 linked dipole antenna on this, and everything seemed to work fine. I did wonder how 80m would get along with the aerial being so low, but I needn't have worried.
Somewhat appropriately for a Flora Fauna referenced location, I made 44 contacts on a variety of bands and modes. This included six summit-to-summit QSOs, so it was a very pleasant operating session. I returned home, tucked into a take-away curry with Jimmy and Liam, then Jimmy and I walked up to the local pub for a couple of pints with friends.
Saturday 26th October 2019 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
Gig: Motown Gold
Venue: Ye Olde Bell Hotel, Barnby Moor, Retford
After Gun G/SP-013, I drove via the A53 to the usual parking spot close to the Cat & Fiddle pub. I'd just heard the fantastic news that Forest Distillery of Wildboarclough had agreed to take the keys of the Cat and reopen it as a pub, cafe, shop and distillery, with tours.
As expected, there was a fair few puddles to avoid on the ascent route, and the clag was still dominating the views! Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable walk, and I was continuing to maintain a good pace after the earlier two hills.
Another simple 2m FM handheld activation at the summit, and four QSOs were made. Somewhat satisfyingly, I completed all three activations inside a two hour timeframe! Now it was time to get off the hill and complete a rather lengthy drive over to Retford for my gig.
I'd last gigged at Ye Olde Bell Hotel, Barnby Moor some 24 years earlier with Alan Shaw's band "Galerie". It seemed an entirely different experience getting to and from there assisted by satnav and not by regularly consulting a road atlas! Somewhat refreshingly, our last set concluded at 11pm, and I was able to get on the way home, safe in the knowledge that the end of British Summer Time would afford me an extra hour's sleep before getting up for the Wales-South Africa World Cup Rugby semi-final.
Sunday 8th December 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015
It was another peaceful and bright morning as I set off from Doncaster Racecourse. I had set the satnav for the home QTH, with G/SP-004 inserted as a waypoint. I had no idea which route the technology would calculate, but I was pleased as it took me to the Yondermann Cafe at Wardlow, Derbyshire. I enjoyed a big cooked Yondermann breakfast and coffee, before resuming the drive.
For Shining Tor, I parked in the usual spot just past the Cat & Fiddle and continued my habit of walking up with just a handheld in my pocket. Six QSOs were made before I descended and completed the journey home to Macclesfield. Later on, I went back out again and activated Gun G/SP-013 and The Cloud G/SP-015.
Gig: Christmas Live!
Venue: Doncaster Racecourse
Another of my rituals (one or two of you may have noticed this) is that I am compelled to do a SOTA activation on the way to a gig. Well I was back off to Doncaster for another in the series of “Christmas Live” shows. The weather was bobbins. I would walk up Shining Tor G/SP-004 with my handheld, but it would not be pleasant. I plucked up courage to undertake the walk with a hearty cooked breakfast in the Peak Vew Tearooms, near the parking spot - but the view out of the window was doing its best to put me off!
The walk up actually wasn’t too bad. No response to my CQ calls, so gatecrashed the net on 145.425MHz - all people I know - and made four QSOs, including two active SOTA chasers. Contrastingly, it was horrid for the return walk. My waterproof trousers were not waterproof against horizontal sleet. Probably time for a new pair! I dried off in the car before continuing the commute to Doncaster.
The following day - Saturday - there would be no SOTA. The band had been invited to the race meeting at Doncaster Racecourse, with complimentary passes to the County Enclosure. Well I've always been sports mad, so I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity like that, even though it meant there would be no SOTA on a gig day! It was a good day and lots of fun. I won on a couple of races, lost on a few more, and made an overall loss on the day as a whole. However, the loss I made was far less than the value of the complimentary ticket I'd been given for the meeting, so it was not the end of the world!
That night of course, I had my bass guitar around my neck, and back in the business of earning money, rather than losing it!
Gig: Liam Read Band Bandeoke
Venue: Swan With Two Necks, Macclesfield
Like seven days ago, I overnighted in the lodge at Doncaster Racecourse, then drove home on the Sunday morning via an activation of Shining Tor. It was certainly cold and wintry on the hill, and I was in no urge to hang around once the calls dried up afer three QSOs on 2m FM. In any case, I had another gig that night, with my son Liam's band, doing the Christmas Bandeoke night at our local live music venue in Macclesfield.
Sunday 22nd December 2019 - Shining Tor G/SP-004
For the third consecutive Sunday, I drove home from Doncaster via Shining Tor to get some walking in - and a SOTA activation!
For the third consecutive Sunday, I lazily took just a VHF handheld in my coat pocket, and just operated on 2m FM. Seven QSOs in five minutes was not a bad return!