Yesterday morning (Wednesday 6th November, 2013) I had the man from Murrays Pest & Weed Control come to spray the house, so I had to disappear from home for a while. What a great excuse ! So I decided to head out and activate the Black Hill Conservation Park. The temperature was expected to reach 35 degrees C, and it was already a beautiful warm morning outside.
I drove out from Mount Barker and passed Cleland Conservation Park and into the fruit orchard area of Piccadilly and Ashton. This is a beautiful part of the Adelaide Hills where apples, pears, cherries, lemons and many other fruit is grown. I then turned on to Montacute Road which disects the Black Hill Conservation Park and the adjacent Montacute Conservation Park. There are spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and the park from the top of Montacute Road.
The Black Hill Conservation Park covers an area of about 684 hectares and is situated about 10 km north east of Adelaide. It features the low shears which give Black Hill its name. As you view the park from the plains of Adelaide, the hills appear to be black in colour, and this is due to the sheoaks. I was raised as a child at Felixstow in the north eastern suburbs and Black Hill was clearly visible from our home. The foliage of the sheoaks gradually matures to a dark rusty, almost black colour, as summer progresses.
The park has spectacular scenery of rugged ridges and a wide variety of native animals including kangaroos, koalas, and echidnas. The park also has an array of bird life, including the threatened, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. I saw quite a few Eastern Rosellas and Rainbow lorikeets whilst I was in the park.
The park also contains a wide variety of flora that offers a stunning display of native flowers in spring. The vegetation represents both savannah type woodland with herbaceous understoreys and sclerophyllous open forest. The park contains large South Australian Blue Gums and Red Gums, as well as vulnerable and precious under storey species including a large number of delicate and colourful orchid species and the Mount Lofty Daisy.
I accessed the park via Maryvale Road at Athelstone, after travelling down Montacute Road. There is a DEWNR regional office here and a carpark for the public. This where I parked and walked down towards Fifth Creek where I set up.
I used a huge fallen gum tree to secure the 7 m squid pole to, with the use of some octopus straps. The fallen tree also made a great bench, and there were quite a few conveniently placed large gum trees which provided some shade from the already very hot sun. This was also alongside a small creek which had quite a bit of running water. But because of the heat, I was ever vigilant of snakes, particularly Red bellied black snakes, which love the water and feed on frogs. Although they are a dangerous snake, no deaths have been recorded from bites by Red Bellies. The venom causes blood-clotting disorder and muscle and nerve damage, enough to knock you off your feet, but rarely deadly. Nethertheless I did not want to encounter one.
In recent weeks, I had been having problems with the VSWR on the dipole, but this time when I ran it through the antenna analyser, everything was fine. So the mystery increases. As I was setting up I had sent out an SMS message to some of the regular Hunters to advise them that I was in the park. I put a call out on 7.100 and there was ‘Ol faithful Hunter’ John VK5BJE with a great signal, and this was followed by another regular Parks Hunter, Brian VK5FMID. Another south east ham, Tom VK5EE then called in.
Conditions seemed to be quite good, but there was just no activity on the 40m band at all. I called and called and finally Ernie VK3DET with a terrific 5/9 signal came back. This was followed by Chubba VK5FCLK who wanted to know all about the VK5 Parks Award. He was very keen.
After my QSO with Chubba, I put out a number of CQ calls but sadly there were no takers. I tuned across the 40m band and there were no stations at all. So, I decided to QSY to 20m and I put out a number of CQ calls there, but there were no takers. The temperature had increased to over 30 degrees C, and the flies were relentless, so it was time to pack up and head home to the comfort of the air conditioning.
Just a handful of Hunters from this park on 40m SSB. The following stations were worked:-
John VK5BJE; Brian VK5FMID; Tom VK5EE; Ernie VK3DET; and Chubba VK5FCLK.