Wendover Woods – A Tale of Two SOTA Activation Locations

Wendover Woods Trigpoint & AntennasLast Friday i activated the SOTA summit of Wendover Woods for the second time, but this time from a different activation location than my previous activation. I chose to walk to the summit from the nearby village of Tring (easily reached by car and train from London Euston), I followed a walk from the Walking Britain website (Wendover Woods from Tring) which was very nice cutting through lots of nice countryside along the route, taking about 2 hours to get to the summit. Here are some pictures i took on the way up:

Activation Point(s)

On my previous visit i had activated the summit from the Cairn summit marker, within the woods itself, while the activation ran smoothly, it’s not the most comfortable location for HF operation, it’s quite boggy, dark and there’s a number of people visiting the Cairn. It’s supposed to mark the highest point, but even to the naked eye it doesn’t appear to be in the correct location! A small plus point is that it has a summit plaque giving some information:

Chiltern Summit Plaque

Within the rules of SOTA there are multiple locations from which you could activate, as indeed it’s one long ridge. I’d heard from G8TMV that on a previous activation he had used the trigpoint instead of inside the woods, which is in a wide open field (near the mountain bikers car park for the non-walkers).

Now this was much more appealing as it has a better view and is actually much quieter (no one passed through the field during my 2.5 hours of operation). I had a clear view of two Red Kites (bird of prey, not the flying antenna supports!) during much of the operation. Here’s a picture of the operating site:

G/CE-005 Operating Location (at Trigpoint)

The Equipment

Last time I activated Wendover Woods I used a single band dipole for 40m, this worked well except it was hard to find a clear frequency and more to the point actually maintain it while operating QRP of 5 watts. This time i wanted a bit more flexibility so i modified this same single band dipole and turned it into a linked dipole for 80m/60m/40m, changeable by clipping/unclipping crocodile clips connecting the dipole sections:

Linked Dipole Connectors

The insulators between sections are super lightweight and super cheap, being just cable ties that have not been fully tightened!

I wanted to try the 60m (5 MHz) band because G8TMV had mentioned that there was a lot of SOTA activity on there, especially on the ‘FE’ channel (5.3985 MHz) with inter-G chasers being well equipped for the band. I got my NoV for the 60m band when i first got my advanced license back in December 2013, but hadn’t made use of it until this activation!

I also packed my SuperStick vertical which i previously used on my SOTA activation of Serra de Foia to good effect. This restored my faith in what i had initially marked down as a bad antenna, so this was to be employed for the higher HF bands (10m/15m etc..) to give the non-UK SOTA chasers a chance to get another point. The key to this antenna is the radials you attach, the supplied radial system consists of 3 wires and is pretty poor, so I’ve made another two sets of four wires bringing the total radials up to 11. The home made radials just consist of 4 lengths of wire cut to a quarter wave for the 20m band (the lowest band i intend to use with this antenna) soldered to a crocodile clip and clipped to the base of the vertical:

Radial modifications to SuperStick Antenna

This time i decided to try using my iPad tablet for logging the SOTA activation, i used the RUMlog2Go app for this, which worked quite well, except I’ve not worked out how to edit a QSO once you’ve entered it. The benefit of this system is that I don’t need to manually type in my paper logs when i get home and want to submit my QSO’s.

Here’s a picture of the setup i used, the transceiver was my trusty Elecraft KX3…

Portable HF setup for Wendover Woods

The QSO’s

The trigpoint activation location had much better mobile internet coverage than the Cairn location, so spotting myself was easy enough, this ensured that the chasers soon found me.

I started my operation on the 60m band, which worked really well making 12 QSo’s in 50 minutes using the FE channel. Interestingly here in the UK the amateurs are granted secondary user of the band (if you have the NoV!), with the primary user being the British Military and Military cadets.

The 60m band is split into channels, so you have to fit into a particular slot and cannot operate outside of these on any frequency you fancy. During my operation i had a station call me, but the callsign didn’t seem to be a valid amateur callsign, so i made a decision in the moment that they were a pirate and as such i didn’t respond. It later dawned on me this was probably a military station calling me! Oh well, something to remember for next time!

60m conditions started to worsen with heavy QSB being repeated towards the end, so i decided to try the vertical and see if 10m was open, a quick tune around revealed not too much happening on the band, so i moved down to 15m where i made contact with OE3KAB, EB5TT and N4EX in North Carolina. I had what i think was a VU (India) station call me, but there was radio silence after i replied. I was once again impressed that 5 watts out of the SuperStick vertical had hit the US, maybe i will have a use for this antenna after all!

After some heavy QRM on adjacent frequencies made life difficult on 15m, i moved back to the Linked dipole, this time to try 40m which is usually good for a few UK & nearby EU amateurs. I made 9 contacts here, despite a very busy band and some (what i think was) deliberate QRM on my spotted frequency, with persistent tuning up and whistling. This increased my appreciation for the 60m band where i didn’t encounter anything but good operators (myself excluded!).

Here’s the final list of 24 QSO’s i made during some leisurely operating:

Callsign Summit Date Time Band
M0MDA G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:18 5.0Mhz
G0RQL G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:20 5.0Mhz
G4WSB G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:21 5.0Mhz
G3NYY G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:24 5.0Mhz
G8TMV G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:27 5.0Mhz
G8ADD G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:29 5.0Mhz
G3RQZ G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:34 5.0Mhz
G0HRT G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:37 5.0Mhz
G4OBK G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:46 5.0Mhz
MOJLA G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:55 5.0Mhz
G0ELJ G/CE-005 17/10/2014 12:57 5.0Mhz
G6ZPR G/CE-005 17/10/2014 13:07 5.0Mhz
OE3KAB G/CE-005 17/10/2014 13:55 21.0Mhz
EB5TT G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:00 21.0Mhz
N4EX G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:02 21.0Mhz
2E0OZQ G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:25 7.0Mhz
G3XQE G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:26 7.0Mhz
G4AFI G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:28 7.0Mhz
MM0UDI G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:30 7.0Mhz
EB2JU G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:31 7.0Mhz
M0MDA G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:33 7.0Mhz
G3XQE G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:36 7.0Mhz
EI9GLB G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:38 7.0Mhz
2E0NTA G/CE-005 17/10/2014 14:46 7.0Mhz

Highlights being G8TMV and G4AFI who i helped make Wendover Woods summit complete (both activated and chased the summit) and of course N4EX on 5 watts SSB.

Thanks to all the chasers!

Conclusion

A really nice day was had again combining walking, the outdoors and amateur radio. The trigpoint activation location was much nicer to operate from compared to the Cairn location and i will use this again during future activations. I was slightly reluctant to activate on a Friday thinking there might not be so many chasers, but i was proved wrong, this bodes well for my planned SOTA activations around the Canary Islands in January.

I learnt a good lesson as an activator, if you activate the same summit more than once within one calender year only the 1st activation earns you points! This i didn’t know beforehand, but a really good lesson to learn on a small summit and not something that takes substantially more effort.

60m was a lot of fun and I’ll definitely be using that again on future activations. The use of an iPad for logging, while initially took a bit of getting used to, turned out to be a good thing and easier than paper. I also plan to connect this to the KX3 and use it to operate RTTY/PSK31 on future activations.

The route back into Tring was a lot quicker only taking an hour or so, here are some photos from the decent:

2014-10-17 16.23.27

2014-10-17 16.23.40

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