Yesterday afternoon (Sunday 27th December 2015) I headed out to the Sandy Creek Conservation Park (CP), VKFF-0933. This was an unplanned activation and was only decided upon after lunch, as it was such a lovely afternoon weatherwise. Although I had been to Sandy Creek CP before, this was to be a unique VKFF activation for me.
Sandy Creek CP is situated about 60 km north of Adelaide on the northern edge of the southern Mount Lofty Ranges and lies between the townships of Gawler and Lyndoch in the Barossa Valley. It is one of the few remaining tracts of undisturbed and undeveloped native bushland in the Barossa Valley. The park is 142 hectares in size and is surrounded by several sand quarries, farmland and vineyards.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Sandy Creek CP. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
The park consists of low fertile and deep sandy soil and is the home to strands of Southern Cypress-Pine and Pink Gum. Both of these are now deemed to be rare in South Australia. Numerous wildflowers can be found in the park during spring, along with wattles, daisies, heaths, lillies, gums, banksias, grevilleas and orchids.
The Barossa Valley was formed around 35 million years ago and was formed as a river cut its way through the surrounding land. The sand from which Sandy Creek gets its name, was laid down as the ancient river system deposited sediment in the Barossa Valley lowlands.
During the first half of the twentieth century, much of the present day Sandy Creek Conservation Park was cleared and planted with vines. However, low soil fertility saw the vineyards abandonded. In 1965, the park was dedicated as a Conservation Park. Sections of the park were named after life long ornithologists and conservationists, Cecil RIX and Mark BONNIN. They both identified numerous native bird species in the area. The Wilson family and the Nature Foundation of South Australia Inc, donated the Sir Keith Wilson section of the park.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Sandy Creek CP surrounded by vineyards and farms. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Prior to European settlement , this area was the boundary between three aboriginal groups; the Kaurna (pronounced ‘gowna’) of the plains, the Peramangk of the hills and the Ngayawung of the Murray.
There are a number of walks within the park which allow you to explore the various sections of the park. Within the park you can find the ruins of a small hut which was built in 1918 from locally quarried stone and native pine. An abandoned vineyard in the southern section of the park contains grasses that provide important habitat for birds including the grass-dwelling Stubble Quail.
Above:- Stubble Quail. Image courtesy of wikipedia.
A total of 130 species of birds have been found in the park including Diamond Firetail finches, which move around the park in pairs or in flocks of up to 30. Diamond Firetails mate for life.
Other animals that can be found in the park include Western Grey kangaroos and echidnas. You may also hear the occasional ‘plonking’ sounds of the Bull frog. Various reptiles including the Eastern Beardeed Dragon and the Marbled Gecko call the park home.
For more information on the park, please have a look at the website of the Friends of Sandy Creek Conservation Park…….
To get to the park I drove out through Mount Torrens and Birdwood and then north on Warren Road and into Williamstown. I then continued on to Lyndoch along the Lyndoch Valley Highway, passing many of the vineyards here in the southern part of the Barossa Valley.
After reaching Lyndoch I then travelled west along the Barossa Valley Way until I reached Conservation Park Road. About 100 metres along Conservation Park Road, you will travel over the old railway line. Continue on and this takes you to the northern section of the park.
There is a good carparking area here, with plenty of operating position options.
Prior to commencing the activation I took a walk through the park along the Firetail Link. This commences at the carpark at the end of Conservation Park Road. The carpark area is quite well wooded with lots of trees. But as you walk along the Firetail Link, it soon opens up to an open grassland area. Directly in front is the thick forest area of the park. I continued along the track until I reached the Honey Eater Link which leads to the southern boundary of the park at Pimpala Road.
It wasn’t long before I was encountering some of the locals in the form of Western Grey Kangaroos. They were everywhere. Sadly I did not spot any Diamond Firetails, but I did see some Superb Blue Wrens and Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos.
I then turned around and walked back to the carpark and set up my station just inside Gate 6. My equipment consisted of the Yaesu FT-857d set at 40 watts. For this activation I had brought along a Spiderbeam asymmetrical dipole which had been kindly sent to me by Spiderbeam in Germany for free, to field test.
Above:- My operating spot in the northern section of the park
I used my 7 metre telescopic squid pole to support the antenna and had a quick tune around 40m prior to calling CQ. There didn’t seem to be a lot of activity on 40m, so I headed to 7.144 and started calling CQ. This was answered by Gary VK5FGRY who was portable in the Morialta Conservation Park. Gary was a nice 5/9 signal, but sadly it wasn’t reciprocal. Gary reported that there was a lot of distortion on my signal. And it wasn’t long before I started receiving a few text messages as well, advising that my audio was patchy and was cutting in and out.
The VSWR appeared to be ok on 40m, but certainly not as flat as my 20m/40m linked dipole. So I lowered the squid pole and replaced the Spiderbeam antenna with my linked dipole. I decided to have a good look at the Spiderbeam antenna on another occasion with my Antenna analyser.
I called back Gary after re-erecting the squid pole and I was very pleased to get a good strong 5/9 signal report back from Gary, along with good comments about the audio. Next up was Les VK5KLV in Port Augusta and then Ivan VK5HS in Renmark in the Riverland, both of whom stated that my audio was terrible when using the Spiderbeam antenna.
About 7 QSOs into the activation and I had my first park to park contact in the log. It was courtesy of Stef VK5HSX who was operating portable in the Coorong National Park, VKFF-0115. Stef was operating from Parnka Point and had a nice 5/8 signal to Sandy Creek. And next was Andy VK5AKH who was with Gary in the Morialta Conservation Park. Andy and Gary and Matt VK5ZM were activating the park and enjoying a BBQ and a few cold beverages. Andy SMS’d me a photo just to rub it in!
About half a dozen calls later I had another park to park contact in the log. This time is was Nick VK3ANL/4 who was activating the Mooloolah Rver National Park VKFF-0327. Nick had a good 5/6 signal and gave me a 5/9 to the Sunshine Coast.
I then called for any QRP stations, and worked five QRP ops: Mick VK3PMG in western Victoria on 2 watts (5/9 both ways); Tom VK5EE in Mount Gambier on 5 watts (5/9 both ways); Peter VK3ZPF on 5 watts (5/7 sent and 5/9 received); Erik VK3BSG running just 3 watts (5/7 sent and 5/8 received); and Ian VK5CZ in the Clare Valley running 3 watts from the backyard (5/5 both ways). Half a dozen calls later I again called for QRP and this time I was called by Ray VK3YAR on 5 watts (5/8 sent and 5/9 received); and Brenton VK3YB running just 1 watt (5/5 sent and 5/9 received).
The 40m band was in very good shape and all signals coming in to Sandy Creek were very strong. I had a steady flow of callers from VK2, VK3, VK4 and VK5. I then worked Matt VK1MA/3 who was portable on SOTA peak, Mount Donna Buang VK3/ VC-002, with a nice strong 5/8 signal.
A few QSOs later I was called by Greg VK5GJ, at Meadows, running his normal 4 watts from home, with a good 5/7 signal. There was no man made noise at all in the park, so it was very easy to work the QRP stations. It wasn’t long after that I had my first VK6 in the log, courtesy of Mike VK6MB. Although Mike was struggling with noise at his end (I was 3/5), I could hear Mike perfectly, with a good 5/7 signal. Next up was Richard VK6HRC with a 5/5 signal. Matt VK5ZM then called in from the Morialta Conservation Park.
About half a dozen calls later I was called by Peter VK5FLEX who was operating portable in the Danggali Conservation Park. Peter had just set up and was using Larry VK5LY’s (now silent key) Yaesu FT-817 for the very first time. I was Peter’s first ever contact whilst using Larry’s gear, which I was very pleased with. Peter was belting in to Sandy Creek with a 5/9 signal on his 5 watts.
Not long after I had quite a unique contact: Sandy Creek to Sandy Creek. It was with Rob VK3FENV who was in Sandy Creek in Victoria. What’s the chances of that?
I worked a total of 59 stations on 40m, before heading over to 20m for a bit of a listen. Band conditions were average on 20m with no long path propagation to Europe. I worked the ever reliable Rick VK4RF/VK4HA and two x VK2’s and two x VK6’s, and that was the end of my run on 20m.
I then lowered the squid pole and replaced the link dipole with my 15m dipole, and headed to 15m where I called CQ on 21.244. And guess who was waiting there for me? Yes, Mr. Keen…Rick VK4RF with a very strong 5/9 signal. Rick was kind enough to spot me and this I am sure resulted in a steady flow of called from VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5. The Europeans were just starting to come in on 15m and I was experiencing some QRM on 21.244. Their signals got stronger and stronger, resulting in me QSYing to 21.240. Thanks for the spot, Rob VK4FFAB. Unfortunately I only worked one more station and that was Compton VK2HRX. M0HKB started calling CQ on the frequency and was quite strong. Sadly he could not hear me.
So I headed back to 40m for one last call, before packing up. I worked a further 20 stations from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK7. I had to compete with the Indonesian QRM and the Over the Horizon Radar (OTHR) which was very strong.
One of the callers was David VK5AAB who lived just down the road in the little town of Sandy Creek. He offered me a coffee on the way home. After packing up I kindly took him up on the offer.
So after about 3 hours in the park I had a total of 96 contacts in the log on 20, 40, & 15m SSB.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
- VK5FGRY/p (Morialta Conservation Park)
- VK5HSX/p (Coorong National Park)
- VK5AKH/p (Morialta Conservation Park)
- VK3ANL/p (Mooloolah Rver National Park VKFF-0327)
- VK1MA/3 (SOTA Mount Donna Buang)
- VK5ZM/p (Morialta Conservation Park)
- VK5FLEX/p (Danggali Conservation Park)
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
The following stations were worked on 15m SSB:-
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 2010, Sandy Creek Conservation Park.
Sandy Creek Friends, 2015, <http://www.cockatoovalley.com/scfriends/the_park.htm>, viewed 27th December 2015
Weekend Notes, 2015, <http://www.weekendnotes.com/sandy-creek-conservation-park/>, viewed 27th December 2015