National Tree Day 2nd August 2020

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Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, VKFF-0782 & 5CP 127

Mark Oliphant Conservation Park

Yes, it has been a long time since my call has been heard from a National Park. My last activation was on 31st July 2019 and on the 31st August 2019 I was admitted to hospital for major surgery.

…tell me my fate
Put me upright, make me walk straight

These reflective words from Bob Dylan’s wonderful song ‘Mother of Muses’ from his recent album (Rough and Rowdy Ways, Columbia) touched me and I could identify with them immediately. I can walk straight but the upright stance still needs a bit of work! My muse is a local physiotherapist.

The last 12 months have gone by fast but I did do some other things. In amateur radio I have become active in DMR which has quite a steep learning curve to master the basics (more so than DStar or C4FM). I have a hot spot operational as I am a little too far from the repeater for hand held radio access. If I had a shack radio (mobile, not high on my priority list) I would be able to access the repeater direct. I once tried DMR portable but did not have my radio programmed properly (see my blog post I put DMR aside from that time until a few months ago when I decided to re-kindle my interest.

I have kept up my cw although not at the same pace as when Gerard, VK2IO was portable through winter of 2019 in VK2, VK3 , VK5 and VK8 and we, on some days, had two or three cw contacts. And I have written a two volume Memoir, not for publication but it does include a chapter on amateur radio.

So Sunday 2nd August, National Tree Day, was a beautiful, warm mid-winter day. I had posted my intention to activate the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, which is about two kilometres from home. As I look out my family room window to see Mount Lofty, the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park is in the foreground. Gerard, VK2IO/5 activated this park while in Adelaide. I have activated this park four times for WWFF and SANCPA. My most recent activation was in 2016. I have also walked the various trails through the park on many occasions over the last year. I have a goal of one half hour walk per day and most days my walk is between 50 minutes and one hour. It has helped me to get reasonably fit again and aid in my recovery. I never thought much of this park, especially when comparing it with Scott Creek Conservation Park which is also nearby and where I walk most frequently. However, I have revised my opinion and the walks are quite excellent, steep approaches and very picturesque, especially in the higher parts of the park. On Sunday with the dappled light filtering through the trees it was beautiful.

Walking Trail

This park was re-named to honour Sir Mark Oliphant (born 8th October 1901 and died 14th July 2000) academic, nuclear physicist and former Governor of South Australia (1971 – 1976). While Governor he spoke up about the conservation values in the Adelaide Hills (for more information about Sir Marc see Wikipedia and Obituaries Australia).

My walk approx 3.5k 2nd August 2020
The downward slope


My station comprised my FT857D set for ten watts, a linked dipole and 33 amp hour gel cell battery. I used my Ipad to access the internet, but I should have read the SA National Parks and Wildlife information on this park where it is stated that mobile coverage is patchy in places. My location was one such place and a new spot for me – perfect in every way except for patchy mobile coverage. I could see Parksnpeaks and spent my time chasing other stations. The one attempt to put up a spot did not work and re-located me (at the speed of light) to another park some kilometres away!

I have previously activated this park on four occasions, most recently 15th January 2016 and have it qualified for wwff. I will now be able to count the five activations for the boomerang award! Click on Mark Oliphant Conservation Park in the Index on the right hand side of my blog page if you wish to see more photos including the naming plaque for Sir Mark Oliphant (see post on 1st December 2015).

What I did fail to do was to take the manual for the 857D. It is just over 12 months since I used the radio and I could not remember which of the three rear sockets was the correct one for the CW key. John, VK5HAA, kindly checked the on-line manual, and I was rewarded with working John twice (CW): once as VK5PF and the second time with VK5BJE. I always struggled with the orphan ‘e’ on the end of my call for CW but the practice I have done over the last three or so years found me rattling off the ‘e’ like a real ‘old-timer’! Well, I should be honest. I am an ‘old-timer’!


40m ssb

  1. I was on the air at 01:17 and my first contact was with Gerard, VK2IO/P. Gerard was in VK2/ST-039 also VKFF-1195

2. 01:23 VK2YK/5 Adam at VKFF-1023 Cuddlee Creek Conservation Park

3. VK5PAS/P Paul, Bullock Hill Conservation Park, VKFF-0873

80m ssb

4. VK5CZ/P Ian, VKFF-0871 Bird Island Conservation Park

5. VK5PAS/P Paul, VKFF-0873

6. VK5IS Ian

7. VK5GY Gordon

8. VK5HAA John


10, VK2YK/P 59 57 VKFF-1023 Cudlee Creek Conservation Park

11. VK5AYL Sue

40m ssb

12. VK3SG Leith

13. VK3ZPF/QRP Peter

14. VK3VDX Ian’

15. VK2VH Rob

16. VK4AAC/2 Rob

17, 40m CW as VK5PF

18. VK5HAA, John 599 599

40m CW as VK5BJE

19. VK5HAA 599 599 John

40m ssb

20. VK5HAA John

21. VK5PI Mark

22. VK3PF Peter VKFF-0619 Alpine National Park

23. VK2HHA Dennis

24.VK2VH Rob

25. VK4FDJL Deryk VKFF-0315 Millstream Falls National Park

26. VK5FMAZ Marija VKFF-0873 Bullock Hill Conservation Park

26 contacts with some duplicates, that is same call, same band, same mode.

My certificate of participation – thanks Paul


Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, VKFF-0782, 15th January 2016

Over the last two years VK5PAS, Paul, the originator of the SANCPA award program, has established a tradition of Friday late afternoon or early evening activations of South Australian National and Conservation Parks for the award. This award encourages portable amateur radio operations from South Australian Parks. It has become quite popular and a number of portable operators in the state make the effort to set up in a Park and lots of South Australian chasers and even more from interstate reward the activators with contacts. From the point of view of the portable operators, the activity develops planning skills, navigation techniques, introduces them to SA’s great parks as well as developing amateur radio skills associated with setting up a satisfactory low-power station and using battery power. Of course the activity develops operating skills, on-going learning of communication techniques, which not only benefit the individual, but perhaps may be useful to community organisations or help with developing a career.

For me, it is just fun. I have always enjoyed portable operations. So I decided to return to the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, VKFF-0782, for the fifth time. I was keen not only to assist chasers obtain this park but also to gain a score of 44 contacts to qualify this Park for the WWFF award. I always enjoy hearing from the operator at the other end say ‘this is a new Park for me’.  On Friday evening I secured 38 contacts, including three duplicates, my overall cumulative score more than reaching the required 44. Here is a link to my previous activation:

The Park

I was pleased to be able to briefly discuss the symbolism of operating from this Park, with one of my contacts. The Park is named after a very prominent Australian scientist, who was also a conservationist and a past Governor of South Australia. Of course Sir Mark was interested in radiation, from nuclear energy, slightly different to the electro-magnetic radiation we play with! He also invented the Magnetron.

In my post of 11th December 2015 I included a photo of the plaque with the citation to Sir Mark. The operator told me he had read my earlier post and had noted the detail about Sir Mark.

Mark Oliphant Conservation Park

This map, taken from a Park Guide shows the location of the Park in relation to Belair National Park, Cleland Conservation Park and Scott Creek Conservation Park. The brochure indicates that the ‘main function is to conserve an important example of the Adelaide Hills Forest Environment’. Messmate and Brown Stingybark trees dominate the forest canopy.

Map of Mark Oliphant CP

On this occasion I chose as my operating location an area just inside the Park near the point marked 6 on the map. Travel down Evans Drive (from the Heathfield end), a gravel track, until you reach the park boundary on your right hand side and you will come to a gate. When turning from Scott Creek Road into Evans Drive the Park begins on the corner and is thus on your left hand side at the turn.  Near point 6 is a better location for the amateur radio operator than just inside the main gate (where the dedication plaque can be found). Maps courtesy of the SA Government.


I operated on 40 metres. I did briefly listen on 20m and decided not to stay! I was on the air at 05:25 and enjoyed the following contacts:

05:31 VK2GAZ/P, Garry in VKFF-0544 (Park to Park contact) Woolemi National Park

05:35 VK3FLCS

05:43 VK5PET/P Peter in VKFF-0784 Mount George Conservation Park

05:47 VK3NBL

05:50 VK2VW

05:52 VK3AWG

05:53 VK3DQW

05:57 VK3EMI

05:57 VK5GJ/QRP

05:59 VK3PMG

06:00 VK3TKK/M

06:02 VK5FLEX

06:04 VK5PET/P Peter in VKFF-0784 (P2P) Mount George Conservation Park

06:07 VK5NRG

06:10 VK3YAR

06:14 VK5FANA

06:18 VK5GY/M

06:19 VK4RF

06:21 VK4HA

06:25 VK5AKK

06:30 VK3PF

06:31 VK3FPBI

06:38 VK7NWT

06:41 VK2FROD

06:44 VK3MCK

06:46 VK3YB

06:50 VK5PET/P5

06:57 VK2IO

07:00 VK3HRA

07:02 VK5YX

07:10 VK5KLV

07:12 VK5EE

07:13 VK5KPR

07:25 VK2FROD

07:16 VK5AW/P5 Adrian in VKFF-0372 Murray River National Park

07:19 VK3JK

VK5PAS/P5 Paul in VKFF-1029, Ettrick Conservation Park

Thanks to the operators in VK2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 who gave me a call. And a special thanks to those who spotted me: it makes a great difference to the activity!



Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, VKFF-0782, 11th December 2015

Dedication Plaque Mark Oliphant CP 2015Today, 11th December 2015, was set aside for a late afternoon, early evening, activation day for those interested in portable operation from South Australian national and conservation parks. I chose to return to Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, the closest protected area to our home. I set myself a goal of 25 contacts, which, when added to my score from 28th June 2015 would give me at least 44 contacts so as to successfully activate the Park for the WWFF award. It was not to be. The 40 and 20 metre bands were in poor shape! The bands were noisy (QRN or natural noise: today from stormy weather on the east coast of the country). I made just nine contacts. I was using my Ten Tec Argonaut VI, set for ten watts. There was no propagation close in around Adelaide and the only VK5 station I contacted was Neville (Nev) VK5WG at Crystal Brook in the mid-north of the State. I spotted myself on Parks and Peaks and Nev told me he was waiting for me: Mark Oliphant was a new Park for him!

Here is a link to my previous activation of this Park.

I commenced calling at 05:03 on 7.105 after checking to see whether the frequency was occupied.

05:03 VK5WG

05:07 VK3PF

05:10 VK3FQSO

05:15 VK3XDM/P Mitch was on SOTA summit VK3/VE-007, Mt McKay (10 points)

05:19 VK2VW

05:21 VK3PMG

05:24 VK3RW

05:28 VK3AV

05:31 VK3DBP

I then moved to 14.310 and once again put up a spot on Parks and Peaks.

05:35 I called CQ and VK2IO, Gerard, was 5 and 7. I called him back but he could not hear me. I called quite a few time and was not successful in gaining a contact.

I then moved back to 40 metres and after listening around the band decided I could not hear any of the VK5 park activators so I dismantled my station and drove home.

After arriving home I checked Parks and Peaks and saw that Paul, VK5PAS, was activating Mount George Conservation Park, VKFF-0784, just a few kilometres from my place and I thought I would have a listen for him. I had a great contact with Paul: he was 5 and 7 and I was 5 and 9.

Mark Oliphant CP Main Gate

Main Gate at Mark Oliphant CP with Park sign in background

Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, VKFF-782, 28th June 2015

On Sunday afternoon the sun was shining and I thought I would begin my VKFF activation of Mark Oliphant Conservation Park. While I have activated this Park twice previously that was for the South Australian National and Conservation Parks Award: SANPCPA. Here is a link to those activations.

The Mark Oliphant Conservation Park is the closest protected area nearest to my home. It is about two kilometres away as the Little Raven flies! I can see the Park from our house. It was named after Sir Mark Oliphant, nuclear physicist and Governor of South Australia.

Mark Oliphant Conservation Park on a Winter's day: from our place

Mark Oliphant Conservation Park on a Winter’s day: from our place

On this occasion I set up off Evans Drive rather than just inside the main entrance. Evans Drive dissects the Park but there was little vehicular traffic and a few people of foot, some of whom showed some interest in what I was doing.

Here is a list of my contacts.

I was on the air at 0411 on 40 metres and worked in order

VK4AAC/P5 Rob at Kelly Hill Conservation Park VKFF-810

VK2GAZ/P2, Garry at Scheyville National Park VKFF-444. I was delighted to get this contact having activated this Park last year. Here is a link to that activation.

See also Garry’s blog at






VK5PL ex VK5NQP Congratulations David on the new call and Advanced Licence

VK2IO/M Gerard





VK1NAM/P1 Andrew at Oakey Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-858



VK100ANZAC Operator Ken at Mt Evelyn


VK5ZRY/P5 Ramsay Conservation Park VKFF-815

VK5AAC/P5 Rob on 14.247  s 53 r 41 a short haul on 20 metres Kelly Hill CP VKFF-810

ZL3JAS  14.200 Jason at Christchurch s 58 r 44

VK4FTWO 7.090 Littabella National Park VKFF-290





and at 05:38


At this stage the sun moved behind the hill, the temperature dropped suddenly and I decided I would pack up and head home. I was happy to gain 27 contacts and I shall return and work a few others to gain the 44 needed for the VKFF program. Thanks to all who gave me a call.

Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, 10th March 2014

I went back to Mark Oliphant Conservation Park today, 10th March 2014. It was my second activation. My first was on 21 May 2013 (see blog for August 14th 2013). VK5PAS, Paul, encouraged me to become active today, and we did manage a Park to Park contact. Paul was in the Onkaparinga River National Park. I chose a position not far from my first activation spot. I only managed eight contacts. I thought the band was in reasonable condition and I called CQ frequently. My first contact was with VK5PAS/P, Paul at Onkaparinga National Park; VK5EMI, John; VK5KGP, Graham; VK5WG, Nev; VK3BHR, Phil; VK5NWE, Roger; VK5MBD, Bill and VK5EMI, John for a second time.

May be I was a bit tired. Yesterday I attended the first VK5 SOTA & Parks Symposium. This was organised by VK5PAS and the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society Inc. It was a great day. It was my privilege to present two papers: the first was on using Lithium chemistry batteries and the second, on preparing to purchase an ‘Adventure Radio’.  So today I operated using my 8.4 amp hour LIFePO4 battery. I used the battery last night for an hour or so running a five watt FM radio in DStar Hot Spot service and also for today’s activation and the voltage still reads 13.01 volts. I am really happy with this and with a smaller battery, 4.8 amp battery as a back-up and a similar size LiPO and should be able to save my back! I am looking forward to some cooler days and some hiking!