Wednesday 11 February 2015

England South East South Coast SOTA Tour Feb 2015 Day 3

G/SE-004 > G/SC-008 > G/SC-013 > G/SC-012
12th February 2015

SE-004 Butser Hill

Littlehampton Youth Hostel - where I spent an uncomfortable night - see below
I left Littlehampton Youth Hostel just before 8.00am. And where were the Youths?  I spied none over the two nights I spent in hostels, the age range being 25 to 60+ seniors! I had a restless night on the top bunk of a 6 bedded dormitory at Littlehampton, I put this down to a bad cough, flatulence and drinking a full bottle of red wine and a pint of lager at the Wetherspoon’s pub round the corner from the hostel....a little pre-emptive celebration I suggest for SOTA Completing the G/SE block of summits which I hoped would happen the next day on Butser Hill... I would then move on to complete the G/SC block and all 176 English summits would be SOTA Complete.

The proximity of the Littlehampton YHA on the harbour serving the town allowed me to grab some early morning breakfast food and a lovely “coffee to go” at 7.30am from a Morrison’s convenience store around the corner, as well as sandwiches and soft drinks for my day ahead. As I was solo this SOTA Tour of the South Coast was on a tight budget in regard to accommodation, hence my detour south to Littlehampton taking advantage of cheap dormitory rates for single travellers. Gone are the days when you were not allowed to stay in a Youth Hostel if you arrived by car. Hampshire is no place for a single person to find good value accommodation, where hotels can get away with charging London prices.

Today’s four summits involved a lot of driving. Thank you to my navigators, Mr Tom Tom and Mr Android Osmand+ for making it so easy. Garbage in = Garbage out though, but today it was Quality in = Quality out for 95% of the time. The bad 5% was no fault of my “navigators”, but was due to a road closure on the Isle of Purbeck, near Swanage.

It was quite a drive up and across country into deepest Hampshire to reach SE-004 Butser Hill though, on to land owned by the National Trust. This is a popular place for folk going out for a walk with their dogs to drive to. The summit is 20 Km north of Portsmouth and is just 1 Km west of the A3. You have to make quite a detour to reach the summit car park from the A3 itself, but the lanes are good and well used by visitors.

Activation spot on Butser Hill - below top well within 25m drop zone
The car park is inside the activation zone, and I walked through a gate for about 300m to set up (as usual when I can) by a fence which provided a support for my pole. My 25 minute activation started on 30m CW at 0930z and ended on 20m SSB at 0955z with 31 QRP contacts logged.  I drove west for almost two hours from there into Wiltshire to reach SC-008 Win Green. The SE summits are all very easy to access when compared to other summits in England and it isn’t difficult to successfully activate four or five of them in a day.

SC-008 Win Green

This was another easy summit involving minimum effort. The hill is 7 Km east of Shaftesbury. A short section of straight unsurfaced road takes you to the car park marked on the OS Map at grid reference ST 923204. This car park is again in the activation zone making the summit ideal for a night time sortie, however I arrived at midday and walked 300m over to the circular copse by the trig point. Round to the left of the copse was a wooden seat, a perfect place to set up the station.
G4OBK/P Operation from Win Green at the useful wooden seat by the copse on the summit
Conditions were the worst so far and I struggled to find contacts. I drew a blank on 30m CW and on 20m SSB despite self spots. I finished up calling CW on 20m CW making just 11 QSOs, with two being summit to summit.

SC-013 Nine Barrow Down

Less than two hours after going QRT from Win Green I was logging stations on Nine Barrow Down. This long escarpment lies just 3 Km north of Swanage where I was to spend the night in the luxury of a decent  hotel after two nights roughing it with the YHA....

Top of Nine Barrow Down where I set up my SOTA Station
The summit on Nine Barrow Down is on private land, and I operated from the top, near the radio masts, meeting the landowner in the process. He was a friendly sort and we chatted, he commenting that some years ago more amateurs used to visit, including some who took part in a contests. I could see why. This would be an excellent location to place a big VHF/UHF signal into mainland Europe. For me though, it was HF QRP and once again I opened up on the 30m band and finished on 20m SSB. How conditions had improved in just two hours since I had left Win Green. That’s Short Wave HF for you, and 40 chaser stations were logged in 30 minutes thanks to self spots and spots from friends such as Roy G4SSH of Scarborough, who was logged on 30m CW just after my first QSO with stalwart John, G0TDM of Penrith. I had once again resisted carrying the heavier FT-857 and battery, which I was reserving for my final English Summit next day. So I stuck with the 5 watts QRP from my trusty FT-817, a superb performer - you don’t need anything more for SOTA, and you can get by with a lot less, which my friends such as M1BUU, G4ISJ and OK2PDT (and others) have shown us many times with their QRPp homemade transceivers.

After the chat with my new friend the unnamed landowner, who said “next time you are passing call in at the farm for a cuppa” he gave me a lift back to the bridleway on his 2 seater all terrain vehicle with cab, and dropped me off from where I made my way back to the parking place used, which was on the B road at SZ 008818. Time for one more summit then before heading to my hotel in Swanage. I set off for SC-012 Swyre Head.

SC-012 Swyre Head

A few months after my activation of Swyre Head the RHoB Group announced that after a detailed survey the summit would lose its Marilyn Status. The survey group determined that Swyre Head lacked the necessary 150m prominence in all directions despite it being 203m high. The SOTA Management Team will no doubt announce its deletion very soon. This is a shame as the summit is reached by a very pleasant and it seemed on the day, popular walk, with great views.

Admiring the view on the walk to Swyre Head
I set up my station near a gate in a wall at SY 933736 after walking from the parking area marked on the map at SY 943792. I only operated for 20 minutes using my favourite mode of CW on the 30m and 20m. bands. By the time I returned to my car it was going dark. I headed into Swanage to my hotel.

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