Warren Conservation Park, VKFF-941

This afternoon (Friday 28th August 2015), the weather looked a little more promising than yesterday.  Not a lot, but enough for me to brave the cold and head for my planned activation of the Warren Conservation Park, VKFF-941.  This was to be another new park for me for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.  Although I have been to the park before and activated as part of the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award.  See my previous post…..

https://vk5pas.org/2013/07/24/warren-conservation-park/

Although the weather had improved, the bands had not.  There have been a number of Geomagnetic storms over the past few days, making band conditions less than ideal.

Screenshot 2015-08-28 17.51.56

Warren Conservation Park is located about 60 km north east of Adelaide in the Mount Lofty Ranges ‘Adelaide Hills’ and is 353 hectares in size.  The park is characterised by steep country with views over forests, reservoirs, pastures and bushland above the spectacular Warren Gorge. The park is most colourful in spring when wattles, banksias, hakeas, heaths and eucalypts are in flower.  The park has four challenging walking trails, including a section of the long distance Heysen Trail.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Warren CP.  Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.

I travelled out through Kersbrook and along the South Parra Road, through all the Adelaide Hills countryside that was burnt during the devastating fires at the start of this year.  On the way I spoke with Rob VK2QR who was portable on SOTA peak VK2/ SW-012, in the Kosciuszko National Park VKFF-269.

I then turned into Watts Gully Road and then to the end of Woolshed Road which is a dirt road.  The park is very visible in front of you as you travel down Woolshed Road.  This is a no through road, but there is an area at the end where you can park your car.  If you have a 4WD you can drive on a little further.  But only try that last section if you have a 4WD!  I parked the 4WD and made a short walk into the park.

I found a bit of a clearing and set up the 40m/20m linked dipole, and my little fold up table and chair.  I had plenty of onlookers in the form of Western Grey kangaroos.  And they seemed quite tame.  Not at all put off by my presence.

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Above:- Map showing my operating spot.  Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.

I started calling CQ on my nominated frequency of 7.144.  But things did not look promising.  No takers.  More CQ calls and no takers.  I couldn’t even send out an SMS to some of the regular park hunters, as I had no mobile phone coverage in this part of the park.  So I perservered and eventually, Jock VK2EJW came back to my call with a 5/7 signal.  But there was lots of QSB on Jock’s signal and I could only manage a 5/2 signal report from Jock.

I continued to call CQ but obviously conditions were very poor as it took a long time before my next contact was in the log.  This time I was called by Ron VK3VBI who was a 5/5 with me, with a 3/2 being returned to me.  Oh dear!

My third contact was with Mr. Reliable, Rick VK4RF, who was 5/4 and gave me a 5/2.  Rick also called under his other call of VK4HA, so that made 4 contacts in the log.  But sadly that was the limit to my contacts at that time on 40m.  So I lowered the squid pole and removed the links and headed for 14.310 on 20m.

After a few CQ calls on 20m I was called by David VK5PL at nearby Williamstown, followed by Rick VK4RF who had followed me up from 40m.  This time Rick was a nice strong 5/8 signal.  But not his normal booming 5/9.  Clearly the bands were down.  I went on to work a total of 4 stations on 20m: David VK5PL, Rick signing as VK4RF and VK4HA, Mike VK6MB who was very weak, and Ralph VK4HR who also called me using VK4KDX.

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I tuned around the 20m band and the only signal I could hear was that of UX2IO in the Ukraine who was calling CQ on 14.195.  And his signal was quite low down.  Certainly not strong enough for me to try for a QSO.

So I headed back to 40m where I put out some more calls on 7.144 and worked 4 more stations in VK1, VK2 and VK5.  This included Peter VK2NEO who told me that he could hear Albert S58AL on the frequency calling me.  Unfortunately I could not hear Albert, who is a regular park hunter.  It was very slim pickings.  And tuning across the 40m band did not reveal much activity.  I heard no VK signals.  But I did hear an Italian station calling CQ on 7.150 and ZL2OK speaking with some UK stations on 7.140.

I decided it was time to pack up.  Local time was 2.45 p.m. (0515 UTC), and I had been in the park for about 45 minutes.  Conditions were certainly not improving.  Unfortunately I had just 14 contacts in the log.  I had qualified the park for VKFF, but I was a bit short for qualifying the park for the WWFF global awards.  It was slow going out of the park, as you can see from some of the photographs below.  There was a lot of kangaroo activity.

I drove back out onto Watts Gully Road, and took the opportunity of stopping at the main entrance to the park.  This is part of the Heysen trail, and as I had some time up my sleeve, I went for a walk through the park for about 30 minutes.

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The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK2EJW
  2. VK3VBI
  3. VK4RF
  4. VK4HA
  5. VK5NFB
  6. VK2IO/p
  7. VK2NEO
  8. VK1HW

The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK5PL
  2. VK4RF
  3. VK4HA
  4. VK6MB
  5. VK4HR
  6. VK4KDX

References.

National Parks South Australia, 2015, <http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Adelaide_Hills/Warren_Conservation_Park&gt;, viewed 28th August 2015

Giles Conservation Park, VKFF-884

Yesterday (Thursday 27th August 2015) afternoon was one of my 2 days off.  I’m back to work tomorrow to work 7 straight day shifts.  And of course, the weather is never kind when you’re on days off is it!  I had planned to activate two parks, Giles Conservation Park, VKFF-884 on Thursday, and then Warren Conservation Park, VKFF-941, on Friday.  I had activated both parks previously as part of the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award, but both parks were recently added to the World Wide Flora and Fauna (WWFF) program.  So I was hoping to obtain the required 44 contacts from each.

Unfortunately Thursday morning’s weather was very grim.  The weather forecast was for ‘occasional showers, clearing in the afternoon’.  But I am always cautious, because the forecast in centred around Adelaide.  And although that it is only 40km away from home, the weather up here in the Adelaide Hills, can be quite dramatically different to that of Adelaide.

So I patiently waited and when the clouds and the drizzle disappeared I hit the road for the Giles CP.  It was around 12.45 p.m. South Australian (S.A.) local time I had planned to be on air by 0400 UTC (1.30 p.m. SA local time).  Giles CP is about 30 km to the north west of my home (by road). and is a beautiful drive through the Mount Lofty Ranges ‘Adelaide Hills’.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Giles CP.  Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.

I travelled down the South Eastern Freeway to Crafers and then headed north through the very picturesque Piccadilly Valley and on to the little town of Summertown.  I then took Tregarthen Road and then on to Woods Hill Road.  I stopped at gate 4 on Woods Hill Road.  This is a nice entry point into the park, and forms part of the Heysen Trail.

The Giles Conservation Park area was settled by Charles Giles, a pioneer of the horticultural and floricultural industry of South Australia.  He purchased the land while living at another property on South Road and walked to the Summit every Monday morning with his week’s provisions, returning home on Saturdays. There was no road up the valley of Third Creek at that time, and to reach his land the creek had to be crossed 21 times. Ruins of the workers’ accommodation huts, once part of an extensive nursery and orchard, can be seen.

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Above:- Charles GILES.  Image courtesy of Trove

The adjacent Horsnell Gully Conservation Park, including the Giles section, was set aside as a conservation park in 1964 to conserve vegetation associations of the Hills Face Zone, including a number of rare and endangered plants species.  In 2007, the eastern section of the park was renamed Giles Conservation Park to honor the Giles family’s historical connections to the park.

For more information on the park, and information on my previous activations at Giles CP, please see…..

https://vk5pas.org/2013/08/04/giles-conservation-park/

https://vk5pas.org/2014/10/18/giles-conservation-park-2/

I set up just inside the park boundary.  The weather was looking nasty.  Lots of big black clouds.  It did not look promising.  I set up my fold up table and deck chair and for this activation I used my normal set up consisting of the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts and the 40m/20m linked dipole.

Screenshot 2015-08-28 16.57.07

I headed to my nominated operating frequency of 7.144 and called CQ.  Much to my surprise this was answered quite quickly by Peter VK7ALB with a good strong 5/8 signal from Launceston in Tasmania.  This was a good sign.  The bands were predicted to be in poor shape, but Albert was nice and strong.  But our QSO was dramatically cut short by rain.  And it wasn’t just a shower.  It was very heavy rain.  So I quickly disconnected the radio and made a dash back to the 4WD, where I waited for about 20 minutes until the rain had stopped.

Take two.  Back to my operating spot and a quick CQ call which was answered by John VK5BJE, who had been patiently waiting for me.  John had a nice solid 5/8 signal.  John’s QTH is not all that far away from the park as far as ‘the crow flies’, so it was probably ground wave propagation.  Certainly, he was the only VK5 to be found in my log for this activation.

My third QSO was with Peter VK2NEO, south east of Griffith in New South Wales.  Peter has one of the loudest signals on 40m.  Fourth in the log was Rick VK4RF, who has become a very active participant in the WWFF program and the VK5 Parks Award.

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I went on to work just 14 stations on 40m including Andre V51B/VK2.  Andrew is holidaying in Australia, and this was the second park in the past couple of weeks that he has called me in.  Sadly I had to cut the activation short due to heavy rain.  So, no playing on 20m and no 44 contacts.  I will have to venture back to this park another day to pick up another 30 contacts and qualify the park for the WWFF global award.  Many thanks to all those that called and apologies to those that were after a new park.  The weather gods were not smiling.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK7ALB
  2. VK5BJE
  3. VK2NEO
  4. VK4RF
  5. VK4HA
  6. V51B/VK2
  7. VK2XXM
  8. VK3FQSO
  9. VK3DPG
  10. VK3PF
  11. VK2AR
  12. VK3KRH
  13. VK3MEG
  14. VK7DON