With the weather being so lovely and time allowing day time operation, I headed out to Upton Heath – this is just opposite Upton Park but separated by the busy A35. Although once in either, you wouldn’t notice that it is there !
I brought my wagon along to help transport the radio and accessories from the car to the heathland, with just a short walk to find a good bench to operate from it was no problem at all.
I was able to be on the air quickly with the excellent Alex Loop ham-pack antenna, I used a bungee to attach it to a direction post as my bike stand is still in the back of the bongo in North Wales, but the bungee was excellent to use and changing frequency across the 20M band was very easy to get low S.W.R. across the operating frequencies.
I wanted to get better at Telephony contacts so started with Phone on 14.241 and used the PoTA App to self-spot, within minutes I was trying to manage a pile up ! I was getting so many call signs at once, it was hard to distinguish them and get back, thankfully I got most, but some I couldn’t complete, but that’s what experience and patience will teach me ! I managed 6 Phone contacts, whilst I appreciate all of them, it was great to get a fantastic signal report from K1RO in New Hampshire ! I was so glad to have a break and a drink of water with me.
I then moved onto FT8 and completed enough QSO’s to active the park, with reports coming in from all over Europe.
Whilst I had been operating for just over an hour, I wanted to give SSTV a try, my previous attempt was thwarted by a very busy 20m band, but today I was able to get thru a fantastic signal from HA1AD
With my water supply fast running out and time getting on, i packed up having had a fantastic time at Upton Heath. It is definitely a park I will come to again, its nearby, really accessible and lovely location to work from.
So I planned my trip to Wales carefully, ensure that I had packed all that I needed for my weekend in Wales. I booked a campsite, only to find when I got there they don’t open the main gates until 8AM, so that would mean being late for lectures ! Instead I stayed at the lovely Bangor Business School Hotel – not as cheap as camping, but very much getting me there on time and a good nights sleep.
Sadly on the way up the Bongo’s breaks made the awful noise of metal on metal, so on Thursday I booked it in for a Saturday ‘break check’ – low and behold, new disc, pads and caliper required ! With that my planned PoTA activation for Snowden was off, and I headed back to Bournemouth via Train whilst my Bongo is repaired in Bangor.
I unloaded my radio, alexloop and computer along with my suitcase from the Bongo, a total of 4 bags. The train required no less than 3 changes and the underground – but in all this travelling the alexloop and Icom bags really proved how good they are. The Alex loop is incredibly light and was easy to carry, whilst the IC705 and the radials was slightly more weighty, choosing to carry that one on my back it was easy to carry around. My other bag continued 2*Battery so weighed a fair bit, but wasn’t to bad.
It took about 9 hours to get from Bangor back to the QTH in Bournemouth, but I had done it ! Only thing which I had ‘lost’ is the antenna of the THD7, on the scale of things, I wasnt going to complain ! (it must of slipped out the bag at some point)
With that doing PoTA from the Bongo is on hold until I get it back, hopefully this week if the caliper arrives in time ! (which means a return train trip to Bangor, luckly I love trains 🙂
POTA 22/3/22 – Upton Park
The weather in Bournemouth is being fantastic, not wanting to bury myself in over 40 research papers the whole day, decided to go out and do a local activation at Upton Park – I have been there to visit before, but not for PoTA. As it was so nice, I really wanted my XYL Monica to come along as well, as there is plenty of facilities there, i.e. tea/coffee/light snacks and decent clean toilets, all within a short walking distance from the car park.
With the Bongo still being in Bangor, the XK8 is getting plenty of action, whilst I cant easily operate, it got all that I needed and XYL to Upton Park without problem.
To activate a park, you only need to be within the boundary, and as the tea room is within the boundary of the park, was a perfect place to setup. There was some curiosity as to what I was doing, but no problems with putting my alex-loop in the table and then running my laptop into the IC705, we bought some nice tea and cake, plus a bottle of water as the temperature was really getting up at midday !
Even with the antenna in a compromised location, I was getting out just fine on both 17m and 20m.
As soon as I self-spotted on the PoTA app, i was getting more calls, amazingly 2 from the USA ! Albeit FT8, it was really satisfying to get so many DX contacts on 10W.
For the first 30 minutes, the contacts came in very quickly, but after 12:30 there was a real slow down – i said to XYL Monica that if it was only 2-3 contacts made, I would of come back the next day (you can do activations over multiple days) but I was on 9 and need just one more ! I tuned to 20M and sure enough made my last contact there quite quickly once I had re-tuned the alex loop and found a clear part of the FT8 bandwidth to operate in.
With the 10 contacts made which are required for a park activation, I packed up and we headed out for a lovely drive around the Dorset countryside. At home I processed my manual log thru the excellent Excel spreadsheet to produce the ADIF file and sent that off to the regional POTA administrator, hopefully my results will be processed in the next day or two..
Having originally planned to go out PoTA the week before and found that the IC-705 had developed a fault with its SQL/RF/AF Gain knob, that had to be repaired, was fixed and turned around very quickly by Icom UK !
So I lost a weekend of PoTA activation, I did make good use of the time tidying my Mazda Bongo up and enjoying time out with it still around the gorgeous Dorset/Hampshire countryside.
Having got the IC-705 back in re-instated my visit to Martin Down. Having not been there I thoroughly enjoyed this excellent video on Martin Down and more, which gave me enough information about the location without having to visit there.
I put my planned action on the PoTA website and headed out on the 12th of March, it was a lovely drive up and the location was fantastic. I set about setting up my IC-705 and Alexloop Hampack antenna. When I went to transmit via WSJTX on FT8, the radio and transceiver kept disconnecting ! I went back and checked over the basics, but couldn’t find anything out in the field as to what the issue was. Having not packed an external table/chair and feeling a little despondent headed back home.,
After having a nice afternoon out with XYL Monica, I got the 705 and out the bag and started working through the problems I had encountered. In the video above you’ll see how i switch out the antenna, computer and cables finally identifying the issue with the Alex Loop antenna.
Upon closer inspection I was able to find that there was a considerable ‘cut’ in the coax, wether this all three (outer, braid and feeder) hitting each other wasn’t clear, but restoring the shielding by way of some strong tape and its proximity to the inner loop resulted in the transmit issues being resolved
I re-registered my planned activation on the PoTA Website for the 13th and headed back out, full of determination not only to make FT8 contacts, but also SSTV and Telephony.
Come the 13th I headed out early to ensure I got a space suitable for my Bongo where I could park in a good position to the antenna, this was easily setup and getting on everything in position is becoming very routine now. Operating from the Bongo in cold/not warm conditions is really brilliant, and means I don’t need to carry tents,etc to do an activation and keep warm/risk my IC-705 getting damaged by rain/weather,etc.
Once setup the issue with the radio disconnecting happened again ! This time knowing where to look I reapplied the ‘fix’ in the field, and was back on the air in no time. I achieved the 10 QSO on FT8 to activate the park in just over 1 hour and 10 minutes, they ranged around to the world to right here in England. I was very satisfied with how the 705 and the magloop antenna was performing.
Using the PoTA app from my phone I could see numerous people re-spotting me which undoubtedly helped in the succession of FT8 qsos.
Having gotten the 10 QSO’s needed to activate the park, I then turned my attention to SSTV on 20m (14.230) – reception was amazing, I got the IC-705 and Magloop tuned in no problem, another technique I have ‘developed’ since going portable of tuning the antenna to the frequency to get the best S.W.R and signal output (where as at home I use multi band verticals and Endfeds). I tried for an hour to have a QSO, but sadly I couldn’t make a contact this time, but did receive some great pictures. For the full gallery of RX, see here
Upon arrival at home I did receive a very nice email that my SSTV picture had been picked up my a KiwiSDR in Germany ! ( Thank you Tommy/ LB6DI )
After an hour of SSTV I turned to Telephony – I’m not the most confident HF Telephony person, but doing PoTA gives me a real opportunity to improve my HF QSO style. I do find that that with PoTA people do tend to do the ‘rubber stamp’ contest style of QSO, but are nevertheless very enthusiastic to make the contact and really patient in getting call signs out to ‘activators’ (operators in the park).
In the end I managed 6 Telephony contacts all over the globe with a good mixture of reports, I was really really excited to do so well with such relative low power and portable.
Once home I had the challenge of getting the log book fully into ADIF format. This is the one thing that some non-technical people may find a challenge, but I have been able to find this excellent page on how to create a mixed log using Excel (on Windows). I was able to complete the spreadsheet and run the macro to produce the ADIF file for submission to PoTA Administrators easily, so now I just need to wait for the file to be processed for my activation to be complete !
I can say that operating mobile and doing PoTA is by far the best part of amateur radio for me now, it is incredibly satisfying to go out with such lower power and in lovely locations to operate from.