Tuesday, 7 October 2014

My completion of the Devon & Cornwall Summits 7th October 2014

My friend Geoff 2E0NON was taking a holiday in South Devon, I was staying in Bristol for a few days. So we met up for a days activating at Hensbarrow Beacon G/DC-002 at 9am on a wet and damp Tuesday. A storm was brewing...more on that later. 

Hensbarrow Beacon G/DC-004 QRV 0831z - 0848z 10 MHz CW only (due to the weather condx)

This was my 3rd visit to Hensbarrow Beacon but the first time an activation was to be attempted. I had been here twice in the first week of February 2014 with my XYL but on both occasions it was raining heavily making it impossible to even contemplate an activation. It is a horrible place, and untypical of a SOTA summit. The "top" if you can call it that at 312m ASL, where the trig point is located, is actually lower than the Littlejohn / Gunheath China Clay Mine spoil heaps that abut the area to the north, south east and east. 

Car Park at SW 992575 and a 7 minute walk to the trig point
The OS map does not show contours where the man made slag heaps are, but  they are considerably higher now than the Beacon itself... 
The slag heaps to the east of G/DC-004 are now higher than the listed "summit top" 
The road up to the 297m high spot height is always busy during daylight hours with lorries shifting the minerals from the mines to wherever they go.....making the location all that more unpleasant. The road is within 25m drop of the trig point at 312m, but to be sure of staying within the rules we went to the trig along a path fringed with gorse. A storm was coming in, so we deployed our umbrellas, Geoff's had metal spokes which he later found caused him quite a problem when he had to close down for fear of being struck by lightning...  
The China Clay spoil heaps to the south - higher than the listed summit location
Geoff hunkers down under his metal spoked golf brolly which emitted green sparks before he went QRT - dangerous!
I got stuck into communicating with Morse using 30m CW to good effect and completed 19 contacts as quickly as I could with the 50 watts from the FT-857D. The QRN from the torrential storm built up and forced me to shut down early. Meanwhile Geoff was having fun on 2m FM and had qualified the summit with just 4 contacts - the minimum needed. Good job he had the 40 watts or so going out from my FT-1500M. Once he had the 4 contacts and as the storm passed overhead he felt a tingling sensation when he touched the radio. Time to go QRT then as green sparks started flying between the metal shaft of the brolly and the radio! A close call. Time he bought a umbrella with fibre glass shaft and spokes.....

Setting up the HF and VHF antenae at Hensbarrow Beacon Trig Point
We packed up as quickly as we could as the rain abated and headed off back to the cars to drive to our next summit  - Brown Willy G/DC-002 on Bodmin Moor. We stopped for a hot coffee and chocolate bar at a garage just of the A30 near the business park at SW 989617.

Brown Willy from the Jamaica Inn direction

G/DC-002 Brown Willy QRV 1223z - 1303z 10 MHz-14MHz-18 MHz CW-SSB 144 MHz-FM

After our thunder and lightning Hensbarrow Beacon activation we drove in convoy up the A30 to Bolventor, near to Jamaica Inn. We left the A30 road there to reach our parking place at the drive end to the small farm at Blackhill, grid ref SX 181782. The friendly lady who lived there had no problem with us parking there. 

Parking at the lane end near Blackhill Farm, 1 Km from the A30 SX 181782
The reason we chose to walk across Bodmin Moor to Brown Willy (using the access land from the south east) was the convenience of the A30 to our arrival and departure points. 

We took an alternative route to the usual one to the summit
After this Brown Willy HF activation I was heading back to Bristol via the Somerset SOTA of G/SC-002 Wills Neck in the Quantock Hills for a VHF activation. Geoff 2E0NON on the other hand, needed to head straight back to his waiting XYL at their holiday cottage near Dartmouth.  
As we reached Catshole Tor we could see another storm coming in. There are a few large boulders on the Tor, near to where the Cairn is marked on the map, and we took 40 minutes shelter behind one of them (SX 16946 78463) whilst the storm passed us by:

We were wet but it would have been worse had these boulders not been there...about to leave for Brown Willy in the background
The preferred route from Catshole Tor would be to head for the gate access to the summit and walk along the ridge. Grid ref SX 15901 79250 is the gate. When we arrived on the top the storm had passed and we enjoyed a pleasant activation. VHF was good enough for Geoff to qualify with 4 contacts on 2m FM using 40 watts, and in addition he made a handful of contacts on 40m SSB.

2E0NON/P operating on 2m FM on Brown Willy Yaesu FT-1500M 40 watts and an end fed vertical dipole
We returned virtually the same way back as we came and went our separate ways. 

Brown Willy was my last of the far flung summits of Devon and Cornwall and I was a step nearer to bagging and activating all Marilyns in England.  After parting company with Geoff I headed for the Quantock Hills for a solo activation of G/SC-002 Wills Neck before returning to Bristol...

G/SC-002 Wills Neck Quantock Hills

A good well trodden  route was encountered walking to Wills Neck
G/SC-002 Wills Neck QRV 1705z - 1735z 2m FM

On my way back to Bristol after the activation of Hensbarrow Beacon and Brown Willy with Geoff 2E0NON, I had enough daylight left to leave the M5 near Taunton to complete a short VHF activation of Wills Neck, another unique summit for me. The weather was now pleasant and much improved from what we experienced on the earlier summits.  

View to Hinkley Point Power Station, Lundy Island and the Bristol Channel from Wills Neck 
I set out from the car park at the end of the lane north of Bishop's Lydeard, grid reference ST180338 at 5.30pm local time. An excellent footpath, part of the Macmillan Way took me to the trig point in 25 minutes were I set up for my 40 watt VHF 2m FM station and vertical dipole antenna at 3m AGL. The take off over the Bristol Channel into Wales was excellent and in 20 minutes eleven stations in England and Wales were logged. 

Sunset and moonrise as I prepared to leave Wills Neck 
Returning to the car I set the satnav to my destination at Bristol feeling hungry. I stopped off en-route at the KFC in Bridgwater for a "classic meal"...