Ridley Conservation Park

My second park for Sunday 8th March 2015 was the Ridley Conservation Park, which is situated about 120 km north east of Adelaide and 10km south of the little town of Swan Reach on the Murray River.

Screenshot 2015-03-11 20.53.52map courtesy of mapcarta.com

I had intended activating the Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park on the Murray River, which would have been a unique park, but my request to access this park was declined by the Mannum Aboriginal Community Association.  I will be writing a letter seeking future access and I will keep everyone posted of progress.

So after leaving Marne Valley, I headed east out along the Black Hill Road, which follows the Marne River.  This is quite a pretty drive.  I encountered quite a few Western Grey kangaroos and a paddock of goats.  I couldn’t help but stop to take a photo of the SOTA mascots.

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I have activated the Ridley Conservation Park a number of times previously.  For more information on those activations, please click on the links below…..



Ridley Conservation Park is a long narrow park.  It is 10 km in length and about 400 metres in width.  It covers an area of about 414 hectares and .  The southern boundary of the park is on the edge of the valley of the Marne River.  At this location is Hayward’s Hill, which is the highest point in the park.  The remainder of the park comprises flat country typical of the limestone plains of the Murray River.

Screenshot 2015-03-12 09.28.51


Image courtesy of National Parks and Wildlife.

The park is home to a large variety of native mammals and birdlife.  This includes the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat, Western Grey kangaroos, Echidnas, Mallee Ringneck parrots and Mulga parrots.

The park was originally part of a Travelling Stock Reserve (TSR) which ran for roughly 5-10 kms parallel to the Murray River.  The reserve linked the stock market of Burra to the north with Murray Bridge to the south.  By 1878, the TSR became obsolete with the completion of the Morgan to Adelaide railway.  By 1901, an approach was made to the Department of Lands by local land owners to resume the TSR land and for it to be made open for allotment.  In 1901 and 1907, proposals to this effect went before Parliament but were declined.

In 1934, the then District Council of Caurnamont contacted the Director of Lands and requested that the TSR be resumed for allotment.  The council claimed tat the Reserve ‘harboured vermin’ and was a ‘drain on council funds’.  And then in 1937 further requests were made for the Reserve to be used for grazing.  Inspector Klau of the Crown Lands Department inspected the Reserve in 1939, and following his inspection, recommended that the area not be resumed.

Between 1938 to 1940 there were numerous requests to cut wood in the Reserve for charcoal burning.  One of these proposals was to clear 28 hectares of the Reserve, north of Haywards Hill.  The Ranger at the time, described the Reserve as ‘an asset to the State‘ and he declined these requests and stated that the land should remain in its uncleared condition.

During the mid to late 1950’s, following further requests, Annual Licences were granted for grazing purposes within the Reserve.

And then in 1966, land was being resumed and purchased for the purpose of National Parks.  It was at this time that the Land Board proposed that portions of the TSR ‘be retained and dedicated as a Wildlife Reserve under the control of the Commissioners of the National Parks and Wildlife Reserves at the expiration of the current Annual Licences’.

Mr. G.C. Cornwall, a field officer for the National Parks Commission, inspected the TSR and submitted the following very favourable report:

Although a long narrow strip of land such as this is not the ideal shape for a National Park, the idea of preserving natural vegetation and bird habitats by setting aside portions of the Travelling Stock Reserve is an excellent one and the area under investigation is suitable for this purpose‘.

The park was officially dedicated as the Ridley National Parks Reserve in May 1968.  It was later gazetted as the Ridley Conservation Park.

Although it is outdated (1984), there is an excellent description of the park and the history of the area in the publication entitled ‘Conservation Parks of the Murraylands (Western Plains) Management Plans’.  Please see below…..


I set up on the western side of the Murraylands Road, between Sunnydale Road and Sleeper Track.  I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts and the 40m/20m linked dipole for this activation.

Screenshot 2015-03-11 20.54.57

map courtesy of mapcarta.com

After setting up I called CQ on 7.095 and this was answered by ever reliable parks hunter, Mick VK3PMG in Stawell in Western Victoria.  This was followed by another keen park hunter, Adrian VK5FANA, then Arno VK5ZAR, followed by Greg VK5ZGY.

The 40m band was in excellent condition and a steady flow of callers followed, from all across Australia: VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK7.  The local time was about 6.45 p.m. (0815 UTC).  There is no doubt that this is when the 40m band is at its very best.  I went on to work 32 stations around Australia.

At 8.00 p.m. local time (0930 UTC) I booked in to the 7130 DX Net where I worked a total of 6 stations including Andy VK4TH/8, William FO5JV, Gary ZL3SV, Brian ZL2ASH, and Adrian ZL1GBG.

At times the net can run a little slow, so I took the opportunity of having a quick look around the band, and I found Greg W8GAP calling CQ on 7.180.  I decided to give Greg a shout and surprisingly got through without much difficulty.  Greg was an excellent 59 signal to the park.  Initially my signal was 44, but it came up to a 55 and Greg was able to copy all of my information without any difficulty.

After a few rounds on the net I checked out, and went up to 7.135 and called CQ.  My CQ call was answered by Drew VK2FROX, followed by Ian VK3FIAN, and then Bob VK3FLAK running QRP from his EFE40 transceiver.

It was during this time that a tour bus came through, with the driver operating a spot light.  Obviously looking for native wildlife.  But what they found was some crazy guy sitting out in the middle of nowhere in a deck chair alongside a squid pole.  I wonder what the tourists were thinking?

I had one final tune around the band and found John K1GUN in Maine, calling CQ on 7.140.  I gave John a call and had a good QSO (5/9 sent and 5/5 received).

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So after a very pleasant evening in the Ridley Conservation Park it was time to head home.  I still had an hours drive ahead of me.  I had a total of 48 contacts in the log, including some good DX QSOs on 40m.

The following stations were worked:-

  1. Mick VK3PMG
  2. Adrian Vk5FANA
  3. Arno VK5ZAR
  4. Greg VK5ZGY
  5. Tim VK5AV
  6. Peter VK5FLEX
  7. Greg VK7FGGT
  8. Gavin VK3MLU
  9. Bernard VK3AV
  10. Peter VK3PF
  11. Peter VK3TKK
  12. Andrew VK3ARR
  13. Chris VK4FR/5
  14. Fred VK3DAC
  15. Damien VK5FDEC
  16. Marc VK3OHM
  17. Les VK5KLV
  18. Rob VK4FFAB
  19. Richard VK5ZRY
  20. Doug VK2FMIA
  21. Jim VK5JW
  22. Bob VK3BWZ
  23. Matthew VK3FMDS
  24. Keith VK5FEKH
  25. Andrew VK2UH
  26. Tom VK5FTRG
  27. Kym VK5FKYM
  28. David VK5LSB
  29. Bob VK2OD
  30. David VK5HYZ
  31. Nev VK5WG
  32. Ron VK5VH
  33. Andy VK4TH/8 (Kakadu National Park)
  34. William FO5JV
  35. Gary ZL3SV
  36. Daniel VK6LCK
  37. Chris VK2UW
  38. Brian ZL2ASH
  39. Adrian ZL1GBG
  40. Greg W8GP
  41. Ted VK6NTE
  42. Drew VK2FROX
  43. Ian VK3FIAN
  44. Bob VK3FLAK
  45. Graham VK7ZGK
  46. Ron VK3JP
  47. Andrew VK3FADS
  48. John K1GUN



National Parks and Wildlife Service, ‘Conservation Parks of the Murraylands (Western Plains) Management Plans’, 1984

Marne Valley Conservation Park

On Sunday (8th March 2015) I was left all alone.  My wife Marija and her mum left early that morning for 3 nights at Broken Hill.  So while the girls are away, the boy can play radio.  I headed to the Marne Valley Conservation Park, which is situated about 30 km north of Mannum, and about 10km south east of Sedan.

Screenshot 2015-03-11 19.34.32

map courtesy of mapcarta.com

I reached the park by travelling from home to the historic town of Mount Torrrens, and then through to Birdwood.  I then travelled to Cambrai, which is a little town just to the west of the park.

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The Marne Valley Conservation Park covers an area of about 105 hectares and it is bisected by the Marne River.  The park was dedicated in 1976 and consists of gently undulating land, with much of the park comprising of low lying, seasonally inundated river red gum flats.  The surrounding countryside was cleared of most of its gum trees during the late 1880’s and a saw mill existed in the area.  The local red gum was considered ‘superior’ to many other varieties of gum for use as railway sleepers.

The park is home to a large amount of wildlife including Western Grey kangaroos and waterfowl.  It was certainly alive with kookaburras during my activation.

The Marne River which passes through the park was once part of the main Adelaide to Sydney stock route.  The River was previously known as the South Rhine River.  However, as was the case with many place names here in South Australia, the name was changed in 1917 as Australia was at war with Germany.  The River’s name was changed to Marne after the Marne River of France, where the German advance was halted in 1914.  The South Australian Marne River’s headwaters are centres around the Eden Valley and Springton areas, and it passes through Cambrain before flowing into the Murray River at Wongulla.

Prior to being called the South Rhine and then the Marne, the river was originally known by the local Ngarrindjeri aboriginal people as Taingappa, meaning ‘foot track-trading road’.  The Aborigines used the river as a route up into the hills to trade with the Peramangk aboriginal people in the Barossa Valley, and to cut bark canoes from the River Red Gums in the hills which had thicker bark than those near the Murray.

The nearby town of Cambrai was also known as Rhine Villa.  It is reported that there was once a house or hut with a comical villa front in the area and a person named Skinner occupied it and called it ‘The Villa’.  The little township grew up around it and got the name of Rgine Villa, due to the proximity of the Rhine River.  The name was changed to remove any connection with German place names and it was named after the Battle of Cambrai in France during WW1.

Last year, two elderly bushwalkers became lost in this park and a major search was launched.  See the article below….


Prior to heading to the park I referred to the Marne Valley Conservation Park Management Plan which is dated 1994 and is horribly out of date.  It refers to a visitor access track running along the western boundary from the south to the picnic and camping area.  I was unable to locate this.  The gate which I did find on the southern side of the park, off Black Hill Road, was locked.  A familiar find at most South Australian Conservation Parks.  Locked gates.

I set up on the southern side of the park.  Access here is very easy.  The boundary fence is in very poor condition and can easily be stepped over.  There is even an old National Parks and Wildlife ‘Reserve’ sign on the gate which appears to have been there since the dim dark ages.

Screenshot 2015-03-11 19.34.58

Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

I set up the fold up table and deck chair and ran the Yaesu FT-857d and 40 watts for this activation.  I used the 40m/20m linked dipole supported on the 7m squid pole.  I used a wooden fence post to secure the squid pole to, with the assistance of an octopus strap.

I could not get on to my nominated operating frequency of 7.095 due to the Kandos Net still going, so I headed up to 7.105 and called CQ.  This was immediately answered by Mick VK3PMG in Stawell, followed by Phil VK5XR, Marc VK3OHM, and then Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula who was running QRP 5 watts (5/8 sent and 5/9 received).  I worked 9 stations in VK3 and VK5 and it then went very quiet.  So I took the opportunity of going for a 20 minute walk through the park.

After coming back from my walk I called CQ again on 7.105 and this was answered by Arno VK5ZAR, followed by Peter VK3PF and then Gary VK5PCM who was running QRP 2 watts (5/7 both ways).  I went on to work a further 18 stations in VK2, VK3, & VK5 until it slowed down again.   I tuned around the band and found Rod VK2TWR who was portable on as part of the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program.

After working Rod, I heard a few stations asking me to QSY up the band.  So I headed back to 7.105 where I was called by Bernard VK3AV, Grant VK2LX, Phil VK5RM and then Andrew VK3ARR.  I worked a further 4 stations, before deciding it was time to pack up and head off to the Ridley Conservation Park.

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The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

  1. Mick VK3PMG
  2. Phil VK5XR
  3. Phil VK3OHM
  4. Adrian VK5FANA
  5. Amanda VK3FQSO
  6. Les VK5KLV
  7. Fred VK3DAC
  8. David VK5NQP
  9. Peter VK3TKK
  10. Arno VK5ZAR
  11. Peter VK3PF
  12. Gary VK5PCM
  13. Greg VK5ZGY
  14. Graham VK3DOG
  15. Gavin VK3MLU
  16. Marshall VK3MRG
  17. Rob VK4AAC/5
  18. John VK5DJ
  19. David VK5ADO
  20. Chris VK4FR/5
  21. Tim VK5AV
  22. Jeff VK5JK
  23. Ian VK3VIN
  24. Tom VK5EE/m
  25. David VK5HYZ
  26. John VK5FTCT
  27. Michael VK2KBC/3
  28. Joe VK3YSP
  29. Peter VK5FLEX
  30. Peter VK5KPR
  31. Rod VK2TWR/p (SOTA)
  32. Bernard VK3AV
  33. Grant VK2LX
  34. Phil VK5RM
  35. Andrew VK3ARR
  36. Nev VK5WG
  37. Brett VK3FLCS
  38. Andrew VK5FADS
  39. Garry VK5RN



Cockburn; R, ‘South Australia.  What’s in a Name?’, 1999

National Parks and Wildlife, Marne Valley Conservation Park Management Plan, August 1994

Wikipedia, 2015, Marne River, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marne_River_%28South_Australia%29&gt;, viewed 10th March 2015.

Mount Gawler VK5/ SE-013

On Saturday afternoon (7th March 2015) I drove around the corner to the Mount Barker Caravan Park and met up with Tom VK5FTRG who was staying at the park for a few nights.  Tom is from Millicent in the South East of South Australia and was in the area with his family.  Tom got a ‘leave pass’ and we headed for nearby Mount Gawler VK5/ SE-013 so that Tom could undertake his very first SOTA activation.

Tom and I headed north through the Mount Lofty Ranges and into the recently bushfire devastated Sampson Flat region.  A total of 38 houses were destroyed during this fire which raged for a number of days in early January 2015 (2nd January – 9th January).  The fire blackened more than 12,500 hectares (31,000 acres).  To give you an idea on the size of the fire, have a look at the image below.  It is an overlay of the fire on the city of Adelaide.  It really puts the size of this fire into perspective.


image courtesy of http://www.reddit.com/

And below is a video of the scar that this fire has left on the landscape.

The trig point for Mount Gawler is located on land owned by Noel and Anne, who have always kindly allowed amateurs access to their property.  A few weeks after the fire I visited Noel and Anne to see how they were travelling.  Fortunately their house was spared during the fire.  At the time of my visit to Noel and Anne, I was very saddened to see the state of the area.  What was once beautiful native forest, was gone, including the beautiful Mount Gawler Forest.  But Tom and I were very pleased to see a lot of regrowth just a month or so later.  There is a long way to go, but at least many of the gum trees were starting to show regrowth, and what was completely black parched land, was now starting to show some green.

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I had phoned Noel, earlier in the day seeking approval to operate from the trig point.  So when Tom and I arrived at Noel’s property, he had kindly left the gate open for us.  As this is an easy summit to access, Tom and I employed the ‘walk out and walk back in’ method.  We got all our gear together and then walked south down one of the gullies for a few hundred metres and then climbed back up hill again into the activation zone.

We then set up at the trig point, supporting the 7 metre squid pole in a squid pole holder with the assistance of an octopus strap.  For this activation we ran my Yaesu Ft-857d and the 40m/20m linked dipole (inverted vee).  For Tom, we obviously ran at 10 watts, and whilst I was on air I used just a little under 40 watts.  To power the radio I used a LiFePo battery.

We made ourselves comfortable on some large moss rocks which are located at the trig point and Tom started calling CQ, after I had spotted him on SOTAWatch.  It wasn’t long before Tom had his first SOTA pile up going.  And I enjoyed sitting back watching Tom in action.  The only time I picked up the mic was to get a Summit to Summit contact with Gerard VK2IO who was on top of Canoelands, VK2/ SY-001, just north of Sydney.

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After Tom had played on 40m a bit, I put out a few quick calls on 40m and worked 7 stations in VK2, VK3, & VK4.  We then lowered the squid pole and removed the links in the dipole, and then re-erected the squid pole.  I was hoping to work a bit of DX and in particular some of the DX SOTA activators that were heading out that afternoon/evening.  I tuned around the band and soon found Barry M0IML calling CQ from Cheriton Hill, G/ SE-015, which is located in southern England.  Barry was an excellent signal, but unfortunately he was being knocked around by contesters.  That weekend was the ARRL DX Contest.  Netherless, Barry was an excellent 4/8.

I then worked Mike 2E0YYY who was portable on SOTA peak, Gun, G/ SP-013 in the Southern Pennines Region in England.  Mike also had a very good signal.  He was 5/7.  Not quite as strong as Barry, but still a very good copy.  The 20m band seemed to be in very good shape.

And my third DX Summit to Summit contact was with Tom M1EYP who was on top of The Cloud, G/ SP-015, also in the Southern Pennines Region of England.  Tom also had a good strength 7 signal, but he too was being beaten up by the contesters, so I could only give him a 4/7.

I then went to 14.302 and called CQ and my first taker was Nigel VK5NIG, ‘Mr Mount Gawler’ himself.  Nigel lives in relatively close proximity to the summit and is a regular activator of Mount Gawler.  Nigel was kind enough to spot me and this resulted in a steady flow of callers from Europe, the United Kingdom, the USA, and Japan.  All had excellent signals.  I also managed my fourth Summit to Summit contact for this activation.  This time with John VK6NU who was portable on Mount Randall, VK6/ SW-039, in the South West of Western Australia.

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In about 30 minutes on 20m I managed a total of 38 contacts into VK2, VK5, VK6, USA, Japan, England, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Russia, and Latvia.  I was very happy, and handed the mic back to Tom, who worked a number of stations back on 40m.  Whilst Tom was on air, I headed down and said hi to Noel.

Tom and I then enjoyed a quick snack on the summit and enjoyed a spectacular sunset, before packing up and heading off to the Bedford Hotel at Woodside where we took part in some liquid refreshment.

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Tom worked a total of 30 stations on his very first SOTA activation.

Screenshot 2015-03-11 17.51.42

I worked the following stations:-

Screenshot 2015-03-11 17.00.16