Sunday, 14 July 2013

A Welsh Borders Road Trip doing SOTA (Part One)

After travelling down to the home of Geoff M6PYG the previous afternoon from Macclesfield Railway Station when we activated four summits in three different SOTA regions en route (see report), we rose at 5.00am next day to get away early, on this road trip in the Central England and Welsh Borders area. Our plan was to drive from point to point activating eight of the Marilyn summits in the Welsh Borders for Summits On The Air on the 144 MHz VHF FM band. Geoff M6PYG was the driver, and Phil G4OBK was the navigator. The 170 mile road trip started from Cradley near Malvern and headed towards the Cotswolds for Bredon Hill, CE-003.

Our 170 road trip activating eight summits in the Welsh Borders and Central England 
We then went south to activate Cleeve Hill, CE-001 near Cheltenham before crossing the Vale of Gloucester to the National Trust owned May Hill, WB-019. From there we entered the Forest of Dean to visit Ruardean Hill WB-021, which has a public road running over the top of the summit. Moving closer to the Welsh border, Garway Hill WB-013, came next. We then headed north to the heavily wooded Burton Hill WB-020, before skirting Leominster to arrive at another "drive on summit" at Hegdon Hill WB-023. Going south our 8th and final activation of the day was on Seager Hill, WB-022 at 6.30pm. From there we headed back to the home QTH of M6PYG in Cradley for a BBQ and drinks.

Bredon Hill G/CE-003 

Arrive: 0705am
Depart: 0826am
2m FM Contacts made: 6 
Yaesu VX-170 5 watts & vertical dipole

An early start from Cradley near Malvern saw us arrive at the parking place for Bredon Hill G/CE-003. There is a parking area for around four cars in a cul de sac at grid ref SO 955384.

The bridleway leading to the top of Bredon Hill
The walk from car to summit took 35 minutes and we operated from the stone wall on the north facing escarpment. I really rate this summit. Good in all aspects, the walk in, the views and especially the prolific wild flowers at this time of the year. To make the summit more memorable we said "good morning" to a very posh attractive lady out riding her horse! 

The writer on Bredon Hill G/CE-003 8.00am 14 July 2013
There were lift conditions and we made contact with 2E0MIX in Whitehaven, distance 295 Km. Derek was the only DX contact. G0LGS Stewart, and 2V0MDJ were worked and they agreed to meet us on our next summit of Cleeve Hill near Cheltenham. We operated for only 15 minutes before making our way down via a different route from the stone tower pictured above, using a permissive path through grid ref SO 958399. 

Cleeve Hill G/CE-001

Arrive: 0904 am
Depart: 0950 am
2m FM Contacts made: 6 
Yaesu VX-170 5 watts & vertical dipole

Geoff M6PYG meeting 2E0MDJ Matt (left) G0LGS Stewart (right) on Cleeve Hill CE-001
Avoiding the centre of Cheltenham we made good time. On arrival at the car park, which is within the activation zone of Cleeve Hill we met our new friends Stewart G0LGS and Matt 2V0MDJ, two really helpful guys. We were to make contact with both on all summits activated that day. 

GPS track of operating position on Cleeve Hill
Contacts were hard to make on the flat topped Cleeve Hill. It took the best part of 30 minutes to complete six contacts. This included Stewart and Matt who drove into Cheltenham so we could add them to our total. From experience they told us the best place to operate from on the hill. Next time we'll carry the FT-857, although I doubt I will return to Cleeve Hill again. If in doubt take HF gear, but we didn't have time for that today with eight activations planned.
On this trip we were following a combination of TomTom to the village nearest the summit and then OS Landranger 1:50000 mapping to reach the parking places. TomTom however fouled up a little on this section. I think I may have programmed in the wrong village. We were bound for May Hill G/WB-019 but for some reason TomTom took us north to junction 10 of the M5. Realising this was incorrect we made our way south west beyond the Vale of Gloucester to reach the very restricted parking place for May Hill - grid ref SO 689212. You could park two cars here if your lucky. The walk to the summit takes ten minutes. 

The weathered silver jubilee plaque on May Hill

May Hill G/WB-019

Arrive: 1039 am
Depart: 1119 am
2m FM Contacts made: 6 
Yaesu VX-170 5 watts & vertical dipole

This was another very pleasant summit to remain on for some time on the kind of day we had, however with six contcts logged in ten minutes we were off. The best QSO was a summit to summit with MW0JLA Rod on GW/MW-004 Pen-y-Garn. 

We drove off passing through Mitcheldean. This was the first time I had been in the Forest of Dean. I was impressed by the dense wooded steep sided valleys - this is nice country. We were making for Ruardean Hill G/WB-021 and we knew this would be one of our two "roadside activations" undertaken that day.

Ruardean Hill G/WB-021  

Arrive: 1142 am
Depart: 1216 am
2m FM Contacts made: 9
Yaesu FT-857 30 watts & vertical dipole

Geoff M6PYG operating from the summit at Ruardean Hill, Forest of Dean
We set up on the village green near a flagpole - having made the "final ascent" from the car 100m away. Well, the summit has the necessary 150m prominence to surrounding land, although sat on that dais you wouldn't think so. We made contact with Rod MW0JLA again who was still on Pen-y-Garn. A quick lunch and we were off to Garway Hill G/WB-013.

Details of the rest of our road trip can be found in Part 2 

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