The Knoll Conservation Park 5CP-229 and VKFF-0937

Yesterday, after lunch I headed down the South Eastern Freeway to the small but very picturesque Conservation Park, called The Knoll (5CP-229 and VKFF-0937).  I have activated this park previously as part of the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award, but the park was recently added to the VKFF program as part of the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, so this was to be a unique VKFF park for me.

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Above:- Map showing the location of The Knoll Conservation Park, near Crafers in the Adelaide Hills.  Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.

The park is only a 20 minute drive to the west from my home, so it was a leisurely drive down the South Eastern Freeway, and then along Waverley Ridge Road at Crafers.  This road is known as Revenue Ridge Road, as it is policed heavily for speeding.  And this particular afternoon was no different, with a uniform patrol car having pulled someone over on the side of the road.

I stopped just short of the park to have a look at the memorial plaque at a Police Heritage site.  It remembers the loss of three South Australian police officers who lost their lives whilst fighting a bushfire in the vicinity of nearby Fosters Gully on 19th January 1951.

I found the following newspaper clippings related to the tragedy (courtesy of Trove)…..

The Knoll Conservation Park is located on the eastern side of the intersection of Waverley Ridge Road, Upper Sturt Road, and Sheoak Road.  It is a small area of scrub, situated on a Knoll as the name implies.

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There is a small area out the front of the park for parking.  But be careful, as this intersection sneaks up on you, and Upper Sturt Road is extremely busy.

If you make the small walk up the dirt track to the telecommunications installation, you will be rewarded with some very nice views out to the south and to the east through the trees.

I set up in amongst the scrub just off Waverley Ridge Road.  I strung out the 20m/40m linked dipole on the 7m squid telescopic squid pole.  For this activation I ran the Yaesu FT-857d and 40 watts output.  I tried to get a bit of shelter from the sun, as it was a warm 32 degrees C afternoon.

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I headed to 7.144 and asked if the frequency was in use, and Stef VK5HSX/1 came back to me.  Stef was actually using the frequency, and was portable in the Namadgi National Park, VKFF-0373.  Stef was a 4/5 to me, and I was struggling a little with some noise on the band, and static crashes.  The noise floor was peaking a strength 5, probably due to the nearby homes that surround the western side of the park.

I then moved up to 7.150 and called CQ, and this was answered by park stalwart VK3PF with a lovely 5/9 signal.  This was followed by Mick VK3PMG in Stawell in western Victoria, who was also 5/9.  Both Mick and Peter kindly spotted me on parksnpeaks.  Thanks guys.

A mini park pile up ensued with callers from VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5, many of whom were taking advantage of using the special AX prefix for Australia Day.  The 40m band was in average condition, with signals down a little from usual.

After working 23 stations on 40m, I tuned across the band and found Andrew AX1DA calling CQ from SOTA summit, Snow Gum Mountain, VK2/ SW-028.

I then moved over to 20m and started calling CQ on 14.310.  This was immediately answered by Mark VK4MON with a strong 5/8 signal.  I was then quite surprised to be called by Luca IK6QOO in Italy.  The 20m band long path has been quite poor over recent months whilst I’ve been out portable, so I was very pleased to being heard in Europe.  This was followed by a call from Jaroslav OK2TS in the Czech Republic.  Although signals were not strong, we were able to exchange call signs and signal reports.

I worked a further 15 stations from Italy, New Zealand, VK4, VK5, and VK6, before starting to experience some splatter from 14.307 and the Over the Horizon Radar (OTHR).  It was nice to have 6 European park hunters in the log, and also Ted VK6NTE, Jonathan VK6JON, and Mike VK6MB.  So I lowered the squid pole and replaced the links and started calling CQ on 7.142.  I couldn’t get back to 7.144 as there was a European station on 7.145 with quite a good signal.

I was pleasantly surprised to have Gerard VK2IO come back to my CQ call.  Gerard was activating SOTA peak, Mount Kembla, VK2/ IL-015, and had a strong 5/8 signal to The Knoll.

I worked a further 16 stations from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5, before having one last tune around the 40m band before going QRT.  I found Lewis VK6FLEW on 7.140 calling CQ from SOTA summit, Mount Randall, VK6/ SW-039.  It was quite a struggle with Lewis, but we did make it (4/3 sent and 5/1 received).

It was time to head home for tea, as it was not just after 7.00 p.m. local time.  I had a total of 60 contacts in the log, and a unique VKFF park in the bag.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5HSX/p (Namadgi National Park VKFF-0373)
  2. VK3PF
  3. VK3PMG
  4. VK5MBD
  5. VK3FADM
  6. VK3MCK
  7. AX3ANL
  8. VK4ZD
  9. VK3FSPG
  10. VK2YK
  11. VK3YW
  12. AX3DBP
  13. AX4FAAS
  14. VK2VW
  15. VK5GJ
  16. VK3FALE/p
  17. AX3PAT/m
  18. VK3RU
  19. AX2JCC
  20. AX2LAX
  21. VK5EE
  22. VK3CWM
  23. VK5ZGY
  24. AX1DA/p (SOTA VK2/ SW-028)
  25. AX2IO/p (SOTA VK2/ IL-015)
  26. VK5FANA
  27. VK3MCX
  28. VK3ZZS/2
  29. VK3KRH
  30. AX3BY
  31. VK3FORD
  32. VK5WG
  33. VK3FQSO
  34. VK2PKT
  35. VK1DI
  36. AX4FLYT
  37. VK3LSD
  38. VK3FTAD
  39. VK3YVG
  40. AX3DQ
  41. AX2HHA
  42. VK6FLEW/p (SOTA VK6/ SW-039)

The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-

  1. AX4MON
  2. IK6QOO
  3. OK2TS
  4. I5FLN
  5. VK4RF
  6. VK4HA
  7. AX4RF
  8. AX4HA
  9. IT9CWA
  10. VK4CG
  11. VK6NTE
  12. VK6JON
  13. IK1GPG
  14. VK6MB
  15. I1pOR
  16. VK5GJ
  17. AX4QQ
  18. ZL4AS

Mount Gawler, VK5/ SE-013

Yesterday morning I ventured over to Mount Gawler, VK5/ SE-013, near Kersbrook, to activate the summit for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program, using the special call of AX5PAS for Australia Day.  We can only use the special AX prefix three times a year here in Australia, so I almost always try to use it on those occasions.


I have activated Mount Gawler summit a number of times in the past, as it is a very easy summit to access, and just a short 45 minute drive from home through the Adelaide Hills.

There is a trig point at the summit, but this is located on private property.  Contact details for Noel and Anne, the property owners, can be located within the SOTA database.  They are very friendly people and very supportive of our hobby.  Please do NOT enter onto their land without permission.  If you don’t have prior permission, the roadway out the front of the property is still well and truly within the SOTA activation zone.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Mt Gawler.  Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.

Despite the fact that the summit is called Mount Gawler, it is situated quite some distance from the town of Gawler, which is located north of Adelaide (and about 26 km north of the summit).  Mount Gawler is situated about 32 kms north east of Adelaide and about 8 kms west of the town of Kersbrook.

The summit is 541 metres above sea level and is worth two (2) SOTA points.

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Above:- Mount Gawler summit contour map.  Courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.

As I drove down Checker Hill Road, the summit soon came into view.  Checker Hill Road is used as part of the King of the Mountain hill climb for the Tour Down Under cycling event.  It is much easier driving down this hill, than cycling up it!


I then travelled west out of Kersbrook until I reached the intersection of Kersbrook Road and Mount Gawler Road, where I turned left to head up Mt Gawler Road

Mount Gawler is situated in the fire ravaged area of the Sampson Flat fire from January 2015.  A major bushfire burnt in this area for around 8 days, blackening more than 112,500 hectares (31,00 acres) and destroying 38 houses.  Fortunately Noel and Anne’s home survived (but only just).  I last activated Mount Gawler in March 2015 with Tom VK5FTRG, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a large amount of regrowth of the trees on the fireground.

I then reached Noel and Anne’s property and drove in through the front gate which they had kindly left open for me.  I had spoken with Anne a few days before, seeking permission to operate from the trig point.


I was set up and ready to go by around 2210 UTC (8.40 a.m. South Australian local time).  I set up at the trig point, using a large moss rock as a chair, and another moss rock to rest the Yaesu FT-857d on.  It was a beautiful morning, with an expected top temperature for the day of 33 degrees C.  There was quite a bit of cloud cover, so that was screening me from the sun, with the temperature sitting on a very comfortable 21 degrees C, with a slight breeze.

For this activation, I ran about 30 watts, the 20m/40m linked dipole, and the 15m dipole, supported on a 7 metre heavy duty telescopic squid pole.

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Above:- Aerial image showing my operating spot.  The dirt road is Mount Gawler Road.  The fire damage is still evident.  Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.

There are some very nice views of the northern suburbs of Adelaide and beyond from the summit, including the Salt Crystalisation Plains at St Kilda.

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I commenced calling CQ on 7.090 and this was soon answered by Andrew AX3BQ with a beautiful 5/9 signal from Melbourne.  This was followed by Peter VK3FPSR (5/9), Ron AX3AFW (5/9), and then Scott VK7NWT (5/9).  I was happy…I had qualified the summit.

My 7th contact for the activation was with Greg VK5LG who lives nearby in the Adelaide Hills.  As you would expect, Greg had a very strong signal, and indicated that he might come up and pay me a visit.  Unfortunately this was short lived, as it was quashed by Greg’s ‘Minister of the Interior’ as there were other things planned.

Band conditions on 40m were less than ideal.  I would describe them as average.  And although there were 5/9 signals coming in from the eastern seaboard, signals were down.  Most callers were from VK3, followed by VK2 and VK4.  Sadly, there were very few VK5 SOTA chasers.

It was pleasing to see a number of hams using the AX prefix to celebrate Australia Day.  This included Marcus AX3TST/5 who was running his double sideband kit radio, and sounding great.

I worked a total of 32 stations 0n 40m SSB, before heading over to 20m, where I commenced calling CQ on 14.310.  This was answered by Mr. Reliable, Rick VK4RF/VK4HA with a booming 5/9 signal from Burpengary in Queensland.  Whilst Rick and I were talking, a USA station came up on the frequency.  Despite the fact that he was very light, I decided to QSY down to 14.305, where I started calling CQ again.  My CQ call was answered by Tony VK2VIC, followed by Steve VK7CW and then Mark VK1EM.

But conditions on 20m were rather poor, with a lot of QSB present on most signals.  This was particularly noticeable with the VK3 callers.  They were very strong one moment, and then gone the next.  I worked a further 5 stations from Vk1, VK2 and VK3, before trying my luck on 15m.

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I headed for 21.244 and started calling CQ and this was almost immediately answered by Steve VK5SFA with a 5/9 ++ signal to Mount Gawler.  This was followed by Cliff VK2NP who was also 5/9, and then Stuart VK5STU.  Stuart informed me that he and Nigel VK5NIG would venture up to Mount Gawler to say g’day and do a little SOTA work themselves.

The 15m band seemed to behaving itself a bit better than 20m, with some good signals coming in from all across Australia (VK1, VK2, VK4, VK5, and VK6).  I worked a further 14 stations after Stuart, including a contact with Phil NS7P in Oregon, USA.  Phil was quite weak to me (5/3) and I was even weaker (3/3), but we made a successful contact.  Looking at Phil’s page, it is evident that he is a SOTA enthusiast.  Another USA station, I think a W7, was also calling me.  But sadly, we just couldn’t quite make it.

I also spoke with Gerard AX2IO who was activating SOTA peak Bulgo Hill VK2/ IL-017 which is located within the Royal National Park VKFF-0362.  Gerard was my first Summit to Summit contact for this activation (5/7 both ways).

I just snuck in Ian VK5CZ from Clare prior to the UTC rollover, and worked Ian again for the new UTC day giving him another 2 SOTA points.  My final contact on 15m was with Mike VK5SF from the northern suburbs of Adelaide, with a very very strong signal.

It was at this time that Stuart VK5STU arrived at the summit, and this was soon followed by Nigel VK5NIG.  We stopped briefly for a chat, and Stuart and Nigel then commenced erecting their antennas.  They both use ropes and weights to get their antennas high up into the trees, whereas I use the squid pole.


Above:- Stuart VK5STU, in the process of erecting one of his antennas.

Whilst Stuart and Nigel were busy, I tried 20m for any SOTA chasers after the UTC rollover.  I called CQ on 14.305 and this was answered by Andrew VK2MWP, followed by Brett, and then Murray VK7ZMS.  Signals were well down compared to normal, and I worked a further 10 stations after Murray, from VK1, VK2, VK4, VK6, and VK7.  The strongest signal was from my old mate Ted VK6NTE in Western Australia.


I also spoke again with Gerard on VK2/ IL-017 and VKFF-0362.  I was actually in the process of connecting the links on the dipole when Gerard called in.  So, with one link in, and the dipole laying on the ground, it was a scramble to get the squid pole back up in the area before Gerard disappeared.  It was great to get another Summit to Summit contact with Gerard on a 2nd band.  Gerard and I were receiving each other a little weaker here on 20m compared to 15m (5/3 sent and 5/4 received).  Stuart and Nigel also took a break and worked Gerard.

I then headed to 40m for the last time, to see if I could give some of the SOTA chasers a few extra points for the new UTC day.  I called CQ again on 7.090 and this was answered by Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula.  Although Adrian was not his normal 5/9, he was still very readable, as the noise floor on the summit was incredibly low.  I worked a further 5 stations and was just about to go QRT when I was called by Tony AX3VTH who was activating the Yarrawonga Regional Park, VKFF-0981.  Tony was not his normal booming 5/9 signal, but this was just due to poor band conditions.

I packed up my gear, and then sat down under the shade of some gum trees for a chat and some ‘war stories’ with Stuart and Nigel, who worked the occasional station, including Richard VK5ZRY who was portable in the Roonka Conservation Park, VKFF-1090.  Being a park tragic, I couldn’t help myself, and worked Richard on Nigel’s gear.

I then left the boys to play radio, and I headed home for lunch.  I had a total of 82 contacts in the log, despite band conditions being rather average.

The following stations were worked:-

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Here is a short video which Stuart VK5STU put together……..