Every few weeks, business takes me to the UK. This trip, I arrived a day early to play radio and activated SOTA sites G/SE-015 (Cheriton Hill), G/SE-013 (Detling Hill), G/SE-007 (Crowborough), and G/SE-005 (Botley Hill).
The days are short in December, so I carefully planned an itinerary that I thought I could complete between sunrise and sunset. All of these sites are short walks from parking spots and none involve climbing. In fact, were it not for topographic maps, I wouldn’t have known that some of the sites were peaks at all. Nonetheless, I was happy to work them.
I took a Uber up to Gatwick Airport, rented a car, and drove the longest segment of the trip out towards the east coast to Cheriton Hill. The activation zone is huge, so there are a lot of possibilities. I parked in a relatively large car park behind the Cat & Custard Pot. The pub does not open until after noon on Sundays, so no one else was there.
Then, I walked across the street to the path that leads towards the town’s 10th Century Church. There were signs up that the church would be decorated later that morning for Christmas, so I just kept walking past it towards a field.
One more field later, I found my operating position: on one side of a field full of sheep with the church in the distance. A large tree served as antenna support, and I was on 20m in no time.
Although it was early in the UK, it was a more reasonable hour to the east, and I worked a good number of European stations including two summit-to-summit contacts.
With the clock ticking, I decided to only activate on the one band and then to pack up and head for G/SE-013, Detling Hill. It drizzled on me during the drive, but the Radio Gods smiled, and the sky cleared as I pulled into White Horse Wood Park. There were only a few other cars present when I paid my pound-fifty to park. Right next to the parking area, there is a large picnic area with several tables, and since no one else was present, I lashed my SOTAbeams telescoping fiberglass mast to one table and set up the radio on a neighboring table, with the halfwave end-fed antenna stretched between. This was my favorite site since it was so comfy to sit at the table.
Again, I worked stations on 20m including another S2S, and then packed up for the drive to G/SE-007. This site has a very wide activation zone, but nowhere really enticing. I ended up parking opposite the golf club at 51.048242N, 0.149023E and then hiking a bit north into the woods. I did find a clear run where I could pitch the antenna into a tree. I got my four contacts and one for good luck, and then moved on, conscious of the time. No pictures from this one.
The sun was getting pretty low by the time I arrived at G/SE-005, Botley Hill. This site was not like I had imagined from the aerial photos. I thought there would be some large trees here, but this is in fact a commercial antenna site flanked by sheep fields. I drove to 51.27885,-0.01264 and then up the hill to the end of the road.
The best could do for support was to bungee the mast to a fence post and pull the antenna across the road into some bushes to support the bottom end.
This worked fine, though. Twenty meters had gone long and I was able to work two stations from the US, but the signal was watery into Europe. I dropped down to forty meters for a few more contacts and wrapped up while there was still light.