Spring Gully Conservation Park, 2nd October 2014: a mini activation

Spring Gully CP Look Out: off Sawmill Road JCD photo

Spring Gully CP Look Out: off Sawmill Road JCD photo

I went back to Spring Gully Conservation Park for a third activation this morning. The real purpose was to try out a home brew three band end-fed antenna. The antenna is currently designed for 30, 20 and 17 metres, but I will probably extend it to 40m when I get home. One design fault with the antenna is the running insulator which is in the 20 metre section does not allow for centre mounting. I will move it to the 30m section which will ensure the antenna is mounted at the top of the squid pole in the centre and not off-centre in the 20 metre section. The current arrangement means that too much of the 30m section hangs too low which reduces efficiency. Andrew, VK1NAM, inspired me to build this by his excellent article on a half-wave end-fed system he built.

I tried out the 30m antenna. I had qso’s on 10:115 ssb with VK2AXB, Grant at Orange 5 and 8 and 5 and 2; I could hear VK4NZ, Jim in Mackay, Qld, 5 and 1, but he could not hear my signal; VK4JWT, John in Brisbane was 5 and 6 and he gave me 4 and 1; VK3AAU, David in Warragul very kindly drove to a high point to work me (away from the noise): he was 5 and 8 and gave me 4 and 7 and finally, VK3SQ, Geoff, at Beechworth 5 and 8 and 5 and 6. I used my FT817 at five watts and the SOTA tuner which will handle six watts (parallel-tuned) for the lower bands. I did not post an alert in case all went pear-shaped. It didn’t and the antenna could be useful on a summit.

Later in the day we held a mini-hamfest in Clare. I had already arranged to meet VK5KC, David, who, with his wife, came to Clare for a family weekend. Later in the day I received a call from VK5PAS, Paul, who was driving towards Jamestown to activate some summits and parks and indicated he would activate Spring Gully Conservation Park as he was passing through Clare. Earlier in the morning I had met with Ian, VK5CZ, tractor mobile, who was working. And later, with the aid of the Spencer Gulf Repeater (146.700 – 600 KHz) and 146.500, we arranged to catch up at the end of the day. The meeting place was in the Clare Caravan Park and a picture was taken, which is highly likely to appear on Paul’s Blog.

Sadly our visit to the Clare Valley will come to an end tomorrow as we turn around and drive back to the Adelaide Hills and home. I have had a great time climbing Mount Bryan, visiting Parks, socialising and playing radio.

Spring Gully Conservation Park, 27th September 2014

Spring Gully Conservation Park is about 12 kilometres from Clare and about five from Sevenhill. It preserves bushland in the midst of farms and vineyards. The park is 400 hectares. It was originally 15 acres and gazetted in 1962. The Park was established to conserve ‘the only stand of red stringy-barks in South Australia’ (Friends of Spring Gully Conservation Park, 1988). These trees are relics of an earlier wetter period and can also be found in the Grampians National Park, Cape Otway (Victoria) and near Dubbo in New South Wales. We also collected the latest brochure from the Information Centre. There are not too many changes but the walks are now shown on the map. We returned to the Park today (28th September 2014) and took a few more photos, including the red stringy-bark eucalypts.

Red stringy bark trees

Red stringy bark trees

This was my second activation. I first activated the Park on the 3rd November 2013 (see my blog – An Alternative to a Buy and Sell). I enjoyed my activation late in the afternoon making 19 contacts in VK2, VK3 and VK5. Conditions were good.

I was on the air at 06:35 UTC on 7.100 and enjoyed the following contacts: VK3YSP/P, Joe at the Organ Pipes National Park, VK-FF 627; VK5NQP, David (thanks for spotting me); VK5IS, Ian; VK3FQSO, Amanda; VK5GJ, Greg; VK5AW/M, Adrian mobile near Loxton; VK5GJ, QRP, Greg trying out his MST400; VK5YX, Hans; VK5VH, Ron, a great contact with Ron using two antennas from his unit, the second being just one metre long; VK3AFW, Ron; VK3ZZS/P, Colin; VK3CVB, Brenton; VK3HEX, Peter; VK2CCJ/P, Cliff camping near Hillston; VK5LY, Larry; VK5PAS, Paul; VK5WG, Nev; VK3FKJC, Kevin and at 07:54, VK5AV, Bernard.

Thanks to all who gave me a call. It is greatly appreciated.

An alternative to a Buy and Sell

Today in South Australia our most significant ‘ham fest’ takes place which is organised by the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society Inc. Many South Australian amateurs make their way to the Goodwood Community Centre. So do some from interstate: amateur suppliers and specialists with their cars and trailers loaded up with ‘goodies’. The motivations for the pilgrimages are varied: for some it is to purchase a new transceiver or a desirable bit of extra gear for the shack. For others it is to carefully search out someone’s no longer wanted items for something that will find a new home with a new owner. For others it is to share a special interest, for example, SOTA; DStar or the VK5 National and Conservation Park award and try and win others to these special interests.  And for still others it is a social event frequently followed by lunch at a local eating house!  I normally make this pilgrimage!

This time I could not go. I was required in Clare to play with the Payneham Community Band. We all had a great time on Saturday evening with the local community band. But Sunday was free. I decided I would indulge my amateur radio interest with some visits to parks and one Sota summit. I selected two parks near Clare.

Spring Gully Conservation Park, 3rd November 2013

Spring Gully Conservation Park

Spring Gully Conservation Park

Spring Gully Conservation Park is about 12 kilometres south of Clare. It conserves a beautiful section of local bush, 96 hectares, in an area otherwise used for grazing, cropping and known for riesling and shiraz, among many varieties, the famed Clare wine region. I enjoyed seven contacts: at 22:46 I called CQ and my call was answered by VK5EE, Tom from Mount Gambier; VK5YCP, Chris; VK2AWJ/ QRP, Gol Gol using a KX3; VK3AFW, Ron; VK5FMID, Brian; VK3MRG/p QRP, Marshall on VK3 VN-009 and VK5HS, Ivan, and completing seven contacts before UTC rollover. It was a magnificent morning, sunny and warm and I listened to the WIA broadcast and the local club news and tried to join the call back on 7.135 Mhz. Although local signals were 5 and 9 from Adelaide, none of the Adelaide stations could hear me. It is really a waste of time trying to get heard operating QRP, with such high noise levels for many city stations. After a little over an hour I decided I would dismantle my station and head for Martindale Hall Conservation Park.

Martindale Hall Conservation Park, 3rd November 2013

The mansion is not far from the heritage village of Mintaro in the beautiful Clare Valley. Martindale Hall became well known to film goers in 1975 when it was used in Peter Weir’s successful Australian film Picnic at Hanging Rock. There is plenty of material about Martindale Hall on the web and the mansion now functions as a boutique hotel. Opening hours on a Sunday are from 12.00 noon to 1600 hours. I arrived soon after 1100 hours, the weekday opening time. I took a few pictures and set up my station near some trees within the parking area about 150 metres from the mansion. One visitor asked my what I was fishing for: I said radio waves! However, there were not too many about on 40 metres at that time.

Propagation had changed for the worst and signals were attenuated but I still managed three contacts: at 00:54, VK2HF/3, Geoff near Swan Hill; VK5WG, Nev and VK5EE, Tom. I then packed my gear and drove to Auburn for some lunch and then down the Main North Road to Gawler before taking secondary roads to Mount Gawler.

Martindale Hall

Martindale Hall

Martindale Hall - entrance and start of the Long Drive

Martindale Hall – entrance and start of the Long Drive

Martindale Hall opening hours

Martindale Hall opening hours

My second Sota Summit, 3rd November 2013

Mt Gawler, VK5 SE-013

I used my vehicle based GPS to navigate from the Clare Valley through the town of Gawler and on to Mount Gawler. I visited parts on SA, especially around Gawler, that I have never seen before!  I then used the Country Fire Service maps to confirm that I had indeed found Mt Gawler. These maps are 1:50 000 and show Mount Gawler being about half way between Airstrip and Richardson Roads on Mount Gawler Road. The map even shows a symbol for the trig point (located on private property just a few metres from the road). Here are the coordinates and altitude measures: 34.78054 138.81216;  DMS 34º 46′ 49.95″ S 138º 48′ 43.79″ E;  Altitude 543.48m. I did quite a bit of looking around on foot and parked my 4 x 4 in a safe place and carried my gear to the activation point.

While I had to move around the 40 metre band a little to secure contacts, I finished with 10 in the log, a reasonable effort given the buy and sell. At 05:05 my first contact was with VK5NWE, Roger; VK5FACE, Andrew; VK5FMID, Brian and then VK5TW, Trevor, making four contacts. Up until this point the going was very slow and propagation poor. I then had contacts in fairly rapid succession with VK5EE, Tom; VK5NFB, Don; VK5CZ/m, Ian driving home from the buy and sell; VK5PAS, Paul; VK3EO, Tom at Swan Hill and VK3GFS/ QRP, Frank at Mount Evelyn.