Sunday 5th January 2020 - Kinder Scout G/SP-001, Shining Tor G/SP-004, The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013
After Kinder Scout G/SP-001, I drove over to Shining Tor G/SP-004, for more FT8 SOTA. I would, naturally, focus on 80m FT8 again, with the added bonus of giving chasers a multiplier in the 2020 Flavours Challenge! But I also wanted to be able to swiftly QSY to 20m for a possible S2S FT8 QSO into the USA, so the SOTAbeams Bandhopper 4 linked dipole antenna was ideal.
The FT8 activity never really got going on this activation, with just two on 80m and one on 20m. But that one on 20m was S2S with Tom N2YTF/P on a W2 summit in the USA - so that was highly pleasing. The weather conditions by this stage on Shining Tor were most unpleasant, but I was about to return to 80m to give the CW and SSB chasers a chance for their Challenge multiplier. Unfortunately I was a bit too heavy handed (yes, I know, it’s happened before) when closing a link and I snapped the wire. Game over. The bad news was that I only had recorded 3 contacts on HF FT8 and hadn’t qualified the summit. The good news was that I had my 2m handie, and this reaped 6 QSOs in just 3 minutes!
After returning to Macc and meeting Jimmy M0HGY and Liam at the pub for tea, I went out again for another couple of activations, starting with The Cloud G/SP-015.
Monday 10th February 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013
Wellington School in Altrincham, where I was doing a long term teaching assignment until April, was on half-term this week. However, some schools' half-term break was a week later, and were therefore in session on this date. I picked up a day's supply at New Mills School, where I had a really lovely and fulfilling day. That was mainly because the students really engaged positively with my teaching, but part of my enjoyment was the Dark Peak towering above the school campus and visible from most places I was during the day!
On my way home I just had to go via Shining Tor for my daily walking and SOTA fix! At the top, it was cold with a dusting of snow. Seven QSOs were made on 2m FM before I went home for my tea - after which I went out again, firstly to The Cloud G/SP-004.
Saturday 21st March 2020 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
Uninspired and disinterested in the Saturday evening TV fayre, I excused myself and went out for an evening stroll up Shining Tor. This was an enjoyable night walk in the cold crisp air, rewarded at the summit with great views over the lights of Manchester.
Twelve stations were worked on the handheld, all on 2m FM. It was a pleasing end to an enjoyable three-activation day.
Monday 23rd March 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013
Social distancing seemed to be getting ramped up. Driving out to a local hill for a local walk still seemed to be OK, whereas driving longer distance out of area to do so would probably be socially unacceptable. But later in the day, even further instructions would be announced by the government that effectively ruled out SOTA.
I had a great walk up Shining Tor. In order to be able to set up an antenna for HF, and be 100% certain to respect social distancing, I positioned myself a little away from the summit, in a pleasant sheltered spot below some rocks, overlooking the Macc-Buxton road, the Macclesfield Forest and the Cheshire Plain.
I left my tablet working automated-fashion on 15m FT8 via WSJT-Z. Interspersed with activity on that mode, I called periodically on my handheld, making QSOs on 2m FM and 70cm FM. It was a delightfully pleasant hour-and-a-half! The activation concluded with nice S2S QSOs with Viki MW6BWA/P on Graig Syfyrddin GW/SW-020 - not a bad old distance with a handheld! That afternoon I returned home, but with the full intention of conducting a couple more activations that evening - starting with The Cloud G/SP-015.
Saturday 16th May 2020 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
It was a super joint activation on Shining Tor G/SP-004 with Jimmy M0HGY.
We set off after 7pm, choosing to utilise the evening time to avoid others and keep social distancing as easy as possible.
44 on 2m FM
7 on 30m FT4
13 on 2m FM
29 on 30m FT4
2 on 30m FT8
9 on 30m CW
Jimmy clearly supported my claim that 2m is alive and well with contacts coming thick and fast throughout the evening. By packdown time, I was thinking “If only I had my backpacking tent and sleeping bag with me, and be in a phase and life in which that was socially acceptable!” This was because I was by this stage getting called and worked by North American stations on 30m FT4. I would have liked to have gone on for hours!
Sunday 17th May 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015
The Peak District, like most National Parks, was suffering “bad press” (or those that flock to them were). Of course, only bad news tends to “make the cut” on TV bulletins. There was plenty of walkers on Shining Tor G/SP-004. Social distancing was being observed impeccably with everyone showing great respect for each other on the paths. Care needed to be taken with gates and stiles of course - but I’d rather have been there than in a supermarket. (Less than 1% of Covid transmission occur outdoors according to a study published the previous week).
The previous evening, there were zero other people on the hill. This morning with several - but plenty of space for everyone, and all lovely considerate fellow walkers.
2m FM handheld - 6 QSOs
I then drove over to Gun G/SP-013.
Wednesday 20th May 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015
More splendid social distancing on the hills. The hills are definitely a nice place to do this social distancing thing, and all the other walkers seem really lovely about it. My choice for Shining Tor G/SP-004 was 30m FT8 & CW. That wasn’t really based on any study of likely propagation conditions, but more addiction-based I fear. Anyway, it paid off, with the band providing lots of activity on both modes, though strangely, there was no FT4 to be had on 10.140MHz whatsoever.
30m FT8: 20 QSOs
30m CW: 26 QSOs (S2S - HB/BE-087, DM/BW-067, HB/SZ-016)
2m FM: 6 QSOs
It was nice to meet Tom M0TKG up there, and he was having a great activation on 40m SSB. In the heather, just near to where Tom was operating, I found my sunglasses that I’d lost up here back on 21st February 2019 (yes it was a very sunny day for February!) 453 days later - I found them again. Fully intact, but unsurprisingly in need of a clean! I stayed on the road and went to activate Gun G/SP-013, and then The Cloud G/SP-015.
Before descending, I worked a few on 2m FM, culminating with Simon G7WKX who advised me about the opening to EA on 6m. I was going to go home to pick up the 10m GP before my next activation, but now I could switch thoughts to the “Magic Band”, and the SOTAbeams SB6 Moxon was already in the car!
Friday 22nd May 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004
My 12m GP hadn’t been used in a while, so that’s what I took up to Shining Tor G/SP-004 with me for the joint activation with Alan M1FHM. When I unpacked that, it was in a sorry state, and no wonder, as it was rather sloppily constructed compared to what I would do now. It was therefore no surprise that it suffered several collapses in stiff breeze. Interestingly though, the VSWR indication on the 817 suggested it might be usable on 10m as well.
And so it proved to be.
12m FT8: 5 QSOs
10m FT8: 13 QSOs
2m FM: 2 QSOs
I made a mental note to to remake the 12m GP, better and stronger, and maybe with the resonant frequency nudged up a little higher.
Saturday 4th July 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013
Cold, windy and wet. Again. Another day that would be horrid in winter - in midsummer. Refreshingly good activity for the 70cm SOTA day despite that. I got several 70cm FM S2S:
G1ZAR/P on Bardon Hill G/CE-004
M6BWA/P on Wapley Hill G/WB-016
M0JLA/P on Wapley Hill G/WB-016
G4AZS/P on Heath Mynd G/WB-007
M6BWA/P on Shobdon G/WB-017
M0JLA/P on Shobdon G/WB-017
Having studied the highly depressing weather forecast, I took my backpacking tent along. Even with that there was an unpleasantly damp and cold feel to the morning; it would have been unbearable without it. The activation got off to the worst possible start when I snapped off a croc clip from my newly repaired feeder during set up. So once again, the croc clip was repurposed to clip the coax core to the driven element of the 6-el beam. This meant I was reluctant to muck about with changes of polarisation, and as such, reluctant to venture onto SSB or FT8.
Astonishingly, this fragile assembly survived the hostile conditions throughout the 6 hour activation! Anyway, the results were as follows:
70cm FM: 36 QSOs
70cm CW: 1 QSO
2m FM: 5 QSOs
Monday 6th July 2020 - The Wrekin G/WB-010, Shining Tor G/SP-004, The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013
After getting home from The Wrekin G/WB-010, Marianne and Liam were getting out of bed, and preparing to go walking in the Goyt Valley. I interrogated Marianne about her proposed route, and upon discovering that it would pass over Shining Tor G/SP-004, I invited myself along!
This route is a 9 mile circular starting and finishing at the Cat & Fiddle. The walk goes down to Derbyshire Bridge then follows right down the beautiful Goyt Valley to Errwood Reservoir before rising up to Pym Chair. At that point, the road is left and a mostly flagged path is taken right up to the SOTA summit, before the familar descent back to the Cat & Fiddle pub.
7 QSOs were made, 5 on 70cm FM and 2 on 2m FM. This was just on the handheld, as setting up and bedding down with portable radio doesn’t really work with walks with the XYL (I have discovered).
Immediately after getting back to Macclesfield, I skipped my evening meal in order to go straight back out again, this time to The Cloud G/SP-015.
Saturday 11th July 2020 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
I’d not done a campover activation for a while, so I took an opportunity to do so last night. Having already done a couple of activations during the day, and then added a long circular route with Marianne, Jimmy M0HGY and Liam, the good thing was that I wouldn’t have difficulty sleeping!
By the time I’d ascended Shining Tor G/SP-004 and pitched my backpacking tent, it was already gone midnight BST. I called on 2m FM on the handheld and worked Jimmy M0HGY and Dave 2E0IXM. I returned to the tent, set out my roll mat and sleeping bag, then assembled the main station and commenced the new UTC day activation at 0005z.
Sunday 12th July 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004
I spent the rest of the UTC day setting up the main HF station, arranging things in my tent, getting the mat, sleeping bag and pillow etc in position. By 1am local - midnight UTC, I was ready to get back on the air. Several stations were worked on 20m CW and SSB in the IARU contest, including a good number of North Americans. However, the band was somewhat tedious in the contest, and so I decided to get some sleep.
Three hours or so later, I was awake again. I made use of the auto-sequencing mode on WSJT-Z and set the station off working on 20m FT4 and allowed myself to relax a little more. After a little sleep, I got going on SSB again, working 30 more stations. Switching to CW, 42 QSOs were logged. I attempted to run on a clear-ish frequency, but just one QSO resulted. I managed a S2S with OK/SP9AMH/P on OK/MO-057, but then took down the HF station. Before descent, I worked 9 stations on 2m FM including two more S2S - GW4TQE/P on GW/NW-060 and MW1HAX/P on GW/NW-012. Total of 101 contacts for the activation.
Saturday 18th July 2020 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
So I headed out to Shining Tor around 10.20pm BST, and was on summit, with the 20m GP erected and the backpacking tent pitched about 90 minutes later.
Shining Tour G/SP-004 - 4 QSOs, all 2m FM
Even though this was technically the activation for 18th July (2310 to 2324 UTC), it was after midnight BST, and so my son Jimmy M0HGY, working me from home, was the first to wish me a happy birthday.
Sunday 19th July 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015
I got into the tent and started setting up the Yaesu FT-817 with Tracer LifePO4 16Ah battery, Windows 10 tablet, paddle, microphone etc. I had with me my new Anderson PowerPole Y-Cable and PowerPole to cigar-lighter socket adaptor. That’s when it dawned on me that I hadn’t thought to also bring charging leads for the tablet or iPhone - doh! So that station improvement would have to wait alongside the new 17m antenna. I'd opted for 20m for the overnighter on Shining Tor as I was hoping to attempt S2S with the FT8 activation alerted from BV-land. However, by the time I was in the tent, that alert had been deleted, and so that activation was presumably cancelled. Interestingly, even at 2am local, I could still see the lights and hear the footsteps of walkers passing by my tent on the summit!
I got going with some FT8 and FT4 operating before getting some sleep. After waking up to a glorious sunny dawn - with amazing views - I operated on CW, eventually switching to SSB, lured by S2S opportunities. There was also a little operation on 2m FM with the handheld.
Shining Tor G/SP-004 - 65 QSOs
20m CW: 24 QSOs - 1 S2S
20m SSB: 23 QSOs - 6 S2S
20m FT8: 12 QSOs
20m FT4: 1 QSO
2m FM: 5 QSOs - 1 S2S
S2S: EA6/MA-047, SV/ST-065, G/CE-002, GW/MW-030, I/TN-315, EA5/AT-045, 9A/DH-105, GW/NW-011
The weather was in total contrast to the previous day. A text from my XYL wished me a happy birthday, and instructed me to enjoy my day on the hills and not rush back home. I kept an eye on the time anyway, as we had dinner booked in a restaurant for 5pm. Next up was Gun G/SP-013.
Tuesday 28th July 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013
I decided to take on an ambitious circular walk from the Cat & Fiddle, taking in Shutlingsloe before then approaching Shining Tor from Lamaload.
©Crown copyright 2020 Ordnance Survey. Media 010/20
I started at the Cat & Fiddle pub on the main A537 Macclesfield to Buxton road. There is parking available on the opposite side of the road to the pub, or 200m back down the road at the start of the path to Shining Tor.
Cross the road to take the bridleway over the moor directly away from the Cat & Fiddle.
At the signpost, turn right to follow the path down into Danethorn Hollow.
There are a few path options forking off around here, and most reunite again!
However, as a general rule, try to stick to the path that is directly beside the brook.
At the junction of paths, bear right to follow the track through the gate, passing a waterfall on your left.
There is a nice spot for a lunch break just before the footbridge over Cumberland Brook.
Continue down Cumberland Brook, and the summit of Shutlingsloe begins to loom high on the horizon ahead.
Cross the footbridge over the brook and continue down the path to Clough House. Pass through the farmyard and across the field to cross the wooden footbridge to the lane.
Pick up the public footpath directly over the lane and follow up to and beyond the house at Banktop. Double back on yourself onto the access track to Shutlingsloe Farm. As the track enters the farmyard, bear left to follow the public footpath up to Shutlingsloe.
You can bear left or right for the final approach, but both end up at the summit. Both are steep in places but the right option is probably more pleasant.
Stop for a rest or spot of lunch on the summit if required. Continue over the summit to join the steep flagged stairway down towards Macclesfield Forest.
Bear right after passing through the wall to follow a rough path over towards the forest. There is some meshing to walk along but many of the sections are very boggy.
Enjoy the fine views over the forest and reservoirs on your left as you pass over a small rise then descend to join the main forest track.
At Standing Stone, enter the car park and join the permissive path leading out from its back corner.
This is a lovely section of winding gravel path through the forest.
This is a very bendy path and you may often feel as though you're going in the wrong direction - have faith!
At the junction, follow the signpost for the path to Forest Chapel.
At Forest Chapel, turn left before the church onto a rough byway. This is Charity Lane, the other end of which is a proper tarmac road at Walker Barn.
After only a short distance up the byway, take the public footpath to the right and follow up to the farm at Whitehills.
The PROW is not well signed through the yards at Whitehills, but emerges from a gate at the back of the property and heads down to a wooden footbridge.
The footpath on the other side of the footbridge is not at all distinct. Simply contour around the small hill and work your way towards the next farm at Greenways.
The public footpath enters the yard at Greenways via a wall stile then down the access track to the road. Cross over the road and straight onto another public footpath. Do this again when you reach the main A537 Macclesfield to Buxton road very shortly after.
The path now joins the road down to Lamaload reservoir, which you walk down all the way until the reservoir is to your left. Look out for a public footpath leading off to your right by the Hooleyhey road sign. I was intercepted here by Richard G3CWI who brought me a very nice piece of Pandan Chiffon cake!
Take that path up beside the wood and take the right fork as you leave the wood behind.
After a stiff climb, there is a pleasant kilometre or so of ridge walking to be enjoyed before the final climb to Shining Tor summit. Eight QSOs were made on 2m FM with the handheld
From Shining Tor, take the main path back down to the Cat & Fiddle. The route is complete.
Tuesday 11th August 2020 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
I arrived on summit on beautiful sunny, warm and still Tuesday late afternoon. I'd checked the weather forecast carefully as there was a significant possibility of a storm that night. Thankfully it looked like it was going to give me a wide berth. Wrong! This was very much the calm before the storm!
Almost as soon as I'd set up the tent and got myself inside, it was descended upon by a huge swarm of midges. It actually sounded like a heavy hail shower hitting the tent canvas! Unfortunately, it was necessary for me to leave the tent to adjust something on the beam antenna, and I got absolutely attacked! It was horrible - but not as horrible as what would occur later!
The 70cm FM contest and then the UK activity contest both went well, and 104 QSOs were recorded for the activation. Towards the end, PE1EWR in the Netherlands was worked, which was a pleasing contact on 70cm. Stations in Scotland and the Isle of Man also contributed to what would be a reasonably competitive pair of entries.
After the contest concluded, I turned my attentions to working on MSK144 for the possibility of some DX meteor scatter contacts. The night was the peak of the Perseids meteor shower - but rumbles of thunder had been getting louder, and sheet lightning flashes more frequent. Ultimately, I took the defensive decision to disconnect my radio from the antenna, and lie the antenna and mast down on the ground.
Lightningmaps was my essential “peak” time viewing from around midnight through to 3am local. I would see (unmissable) the lightning flash from inside my tent, then within a second, it’s exact location would appear on the website map on my phone screen. I watched as the intense concentration of lightning strikes slowly edged East and North from Shropshire and Stoke-on-Trent. I figured I had time to abandon the MS S2S attempt, disconnect the antenna and lie it on the ground, disconnect the rig from the feeder cable (using some dry fabric between my fingers and connectors!) and arrange the inside of my tent so that I was insulated from the ground by as many dry, non-conducting layers as possible (FWIW - every little helps…!).
I didn’t have time to break camp and get off the hill. I cracked open a can of Brewdog Dead Pony Club ale for a little calming refreshment! The eye of the storm appeared to home in on the summit of Shining Tor - where I was - according to lightningmaps. Then it appeared to stay put, rather than continue to edge slowly eastwards. At this point, there were frequent blinding flashes, seemingly at ground level, and seemingly not far outside my tent! This was in addition to the >1 per second lightning flashes continuing overhead. Earlier, there had been little or no noise from thunder (many reports of the “silent lightning” circulated), but by this point there were frequent huge explosion-sounding bangs. It was as though I was in the middle of a bombing raid or warzone.
With the Brewdog ale all consumed at the height of the storm around 0130 BST, I now had no option but to resort to phoning my XYL. Marianne would normally be furious to have been disturbed at this late hour, but I knew she had been up unusually late stormwatching anyway. Anyway, she chatted calmly with me for about half-an-hour, which I really appreciated, except for all the times she burst out laughing hearing my terrified reaction to the latest flash or bang. At this point, I must place on record that I had monitored the forecast for Shining Tor on the Met Office website frequently throughout the preceding day. I am confident that I have become good at interpreting the Met Office forecasts over the years, and it did look very much like a summit campover was going to be safe. But there you go.
After the call with Marianne, the rain started to come down, more and more heavily. Unlike storms I’ve experienced throughout my life though, this did not coincide with a decrease in the frequency of thunder and lightning - well not for over half-an-hour anyway. Eventually, after 2am, the frequency of the flashes and bangs did start to slowly decrease, and at last, the lightningmaps started to look a little less congested between Macclesfield and Buxton! I kept watch on this until about 3am, by which it was just heavy rain, and no more sound and light show! All the activity on lightningmaps was now clear of the Peak District and over in South and East Yorkshire. I felt able to drift off to sleep, and I got a decent three hours in.