Para Wirra Conservation Park 5CP-275 and VKFF-1739

After finishing off chatting with Noel and Anne at Mount Gawler, I decided to drive down the road to the Para Wirra Conservation Park 5CP-275 and VKFF-1739.  I had never activated from this park before, so it was to be a unique park to add to my activator list for both the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program and the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award.  The park is situated about 40 km north east of Adelaide.

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Above:- Map showing the location of the Para Wirra Conservation Park, north east of Adelaide.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

Para Wirra, which is about 1,507 hectares in size, has only just recently been gazetted as a Conservation Park.  The park was originally established as a National Park in 1962, initially catering to a range of pursuits including tennis and other sporting activities.  Today the park provides a wide range of facilities including gas barbecues, picnic tables, a playground, and various walking trails ranging from 1.3 to 8.4 km in length.

Parra Wirra comes from two Karuna aboriginal words: pari meaning river, creek or gully, and wirra meaning forest.  The district was named by Lieutenant Governor Robe in the mid 1840’s.  The park conserves important native vegetation and with neighbouring lands managed by SA Water and Forestry SA, contains the largest block of remnant vegetation in the entire Mount Lofty Ranges.

The vegetation in the park is mainly open forests of Long-leaf Box, Pink Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, and River Red Gum, with an understorey of Yacca and various heaths.

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Above: Aerial shot showing the Para Wirra Conservation Park, with the nearby towns of Williamstown and One Tree Hill.  Image courtesy of Protected Planet.

The trees of Para Wirra provide hollows for possums and parrots to make their homes.  Kangaroos and emus are common throughout the park, as are short-beaked echidnas.  Over 100 species of bird call the park home, including the Scarlet Robin, Blue Wren, and Eastern Spine Bill.

The landscape has been significantly changed by mining and grazing, but has recovered well since grazing has been managed in recent years.  The poor quality of soils in the park is reflected in the local names of Misery Farm and Humbug Scrub.

The park is also home to the Barossa Goldfields, where ruins can be discovered from the once thriving mining operation.  Gold was discovered in the area in 1868 by Job Harris (b. 1840.  d. 1882), the publican of the Sandy Creek Hotel.

Above: Job Harris, and an article from the South Australian Register, Fri 3 Feb 188 re the goldfield.  Courtesy of Wikipedia and Trove.

A total of 50,000 oz of gold was extracted during the rush that followed.  Up until the mid 1930’s, small scale mining continued in the area.  Interpretive signs explain the days of gold mining in the are, with Bowden Cottage acting as a museum run by the Barossa Goldfields Historical Society.  Unfortunately I did not have the time to explore this part of the park, but as Arnie says ‘I will be back!’  More information on the Barossa Goldfields can be found at…..

http://www.southaustralianhistory.com.au/barossagold.htm

I entered the park via Humbug Scrub Road and paid my $10.00 entry fee.  It just so happened that the local Park Ranger was collecting the money from the deposit point, so I stopped and had a chat for around 10 minutes.  I showed him my radio gear and explained about amateur radio and the parks awards.  It was good to have some positive interaction with National Parks staff.

It was slow going in the park as it was alive with Western Grey kangaroos.

I headed to a little picnic area off Scenic Drive in the centre of the park.  As it was quite a warm and humid day, I was very pleased to find a shelter shed which afforded some very welcome shade from the sun.  I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts output, and the 80/40/20m linked dipole and a 15m dipole for this activation.  Both supported on a 7 metre heavy duty telescopic squid pole.

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Above:- Map showing my operating spot within the park.  Map courtesy of National Parks SA.

As I drove into the park I telephoned John VK5BJE and asked if he would mind placing an alert for me, which he kindly did.  So it was pleasing that John was my first station logged at Para Wirra after I asked if the frequency was in use on 7.144.  I didn’t even get the opportunity of calling CQ.  Following on from John, Rob VK4AAC/2 called in, and then Dennis VK2HHA, followed by park hunter extraordinaire Rick VK4RF/VK4HA.  I think Rick appears in the log of most of my Parks and SOTA activations.

The band conditions on 40m seemed to be down a little, but I was pleased that at least there was some short propagation with a handful of South Australian stations being logged.  But it was very slow going.  Average band conditions and a weekday were not contributing to filling up my log.  I worked a total of 14 stations on 40m from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5, before I decided to have a listen on 80m.

My first taker on 80m was Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninusla with a nice 5/7 signal (5/6 received).  Next up was Alan VK5FD, followed by Damien VK5FDEC running QRP (5/5 sent and 5/6 received).  Damien dropped his power down to 500 milliwatts and was 5/3 to me.  Finally I logged John VK5BJE who was a little lighter on 80m compared to the 40m band.

I then moved to 20m where a large number of CQ calls went unanswered.  However I did manage three contacts and one of those was Eric BD4CZX in Shanghai in China.  It was a bit of a struggle with Eric at times but we made it.  Eric was hearing me better than I was hearing him (4/3 sent and 5/5 received).  I have not worked China very often whilst out portable, so I was really pleased when Eric called me.

I headed back to 40m where I spoke briefly with Mick VK3GGG.  I had worked Mick earlier on 40m, but he called in to let me know my signal had improved a little.  Mick was kind enough to spot me on parksnpeaks which I am sure resulted in a few more callers.  Thanks Mick.  I worked 10 stations from VK2, VK3, and Vk7.

I then decided to try my luck on the 15m band.  I called CQ on 21.244 and this was answered by Kio JA8RJE with a nice 5/7 signal from Japan.  But sadly Kio was my only caller on 15m so I headed back to 40m with a total of 32 stations in the log.  I needed a further 12 to qualify the park for the global WWFF program.

The first station logged after returning to 40m was Owen VK4FADW with a very nice signal (5/7 both ways), followed by Frank VK7BC who was booming in from Tasmania.  I was slowly getting towards the magic number of 44, but the static crashes on the band were also increasing in strength.  Justin VK7TW was my 44th contact, with Don VK3MCK rounding off the activation.

I had a total of 45 contacts in the log and had enjoyed the activation despite it being quite slow at times.  It was just after 5.00 p.m. local time and I needed to pack up and head home, as my wife Marija , my daughter Olivia, I were heading off to Victoria the following morning, for a holiday in Ballarat.

Thanks to everyone who called and many thanks to those who took the time to spot me.

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK5BJE
  2. VK4AAC/2
  3. VK2HHA
  4. VK4RF
  5. VK4HA
  6. VK5FD
  7. VK3GGG
  8. VK3PMG
  9. VK3FNQS
  10. VK1AT
  11. VK3ZPF
  12. VK3DAC
  13. VK2LB
  14. VK5FEKH/p
  15. VK3FPHG
  16. VK3FHCT
  17. VK3PF
  18. VK3KAI
  19. VK2GKA
  20. VK3FOTO/m
  21. VK3SQ
  22. VK2NSS
  23. VK3OHM
  24. VK7FRJG
  25. VK4FADW
  26. VK7BC
  27. VK2NWB/p
  28. VK7FPRN
  29. VK3DPG
  30. VK4QQ
  31. VK2NEO
  32. VK3SIM
  33. VK3LBW
  34. VK2IO
  35. VK2VEL
  36. VK7TW
  37. VK3MCK

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK5FANA
  2. VK5FD
  3. VK5FDEC
  4. VK5BJE

I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK2IO
  2. BD4CZX
  3. VK6XN

I worked the following station on 15m SSB:-

  1. JA8RJE

 

References.

National Parks South AUstralia, 2017, <https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Adelaide_Hills/para-wirra-conservation-park&gt;, viewed 5th February 2017

Barossa Goldfields Historical Society, 2017, <http://www.communitywebs.org/BarossaGoldfieldsHistoric/&gt;, viewed 5th February 2017

Flinders Ranges Research, 2017, <http://www.southaustralianhistory.com.au/barossagold.htm&gt;, viewed 5th February 2017

Mount Gawler VK5/ SE-013

It had been a little bit over a week since my last portable outing and I was getting an itchy PTT finger.  So on Wednesday morning (1st February 2017) I headed over to the northern side of the Adelaide Hills (Mount Lofty Ranges) for an activation at Mount Gawler VK5/ SE-013 for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program.  The summit is around a 43 km drive north from my home, and about 37 km north east of Adelaide.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Mount Gawler, VK5/ SE-013, north east of Adelaide.  Map courtesy of openstreetmap.org

Mount Gawler is 541 metres in height and is worth 2 SOTA points.  It is the highest activated summit in South Australia.  I highly recommend this summit if you want to ‘cut your teeth’ on SOTA.  This is an easy summit to access.  No walking uphill is required.  You can activate the summit comfortably, from within the SOTA activation zone, from the roadway (Mount Gawler Road.  But I had telephoned the land owners, Noel and Anne, the night before, and as has been the case with previous activations at this summit, they kindly allowed me access to their land.  So I operated from very close to the trig point.

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Above:- Map showing the location of the summit, to the west of the little town of Kersbrook.  Map courtesy of openstreetmap.org

I took the Kenton Valley Road from home out through this beautiful part of the Adelaide Hills, to Gummeracha and then on to Kersbrook.  As I travelled down Checker Hill Road, the summit came into view.  The drive down Checker Hill Road towards Kersbrook is very steep, and this hill has featured in the world famous Tour Down Under Cycling event.  The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) categories Checker Hill as a category 2 climb (the second hardest).

climb_ratings_full-33ee41e73a36

Checker Hill is described as short but fierce, boasting an average gradient of 14.2%, with a maximum of around 20%.  It has been described as a challenge even for the pros to conquer.  There are some great views from here down towards Kersbrook.  I must look at some maps to see if Checker Hill itself has the required prominence for SOTA.

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Above:- Looking towards the summit from Checker Hill Road.

I travelled out of Kersbrook on the Kersbrook-One Tree Hill Road and then turned into Mount Gawler Road.  This area was ravaged by an extremely devastating bushfire back in early 2015, known as the Sampson Flat fire.  A total of 38 homes and 125 outbuildings were destroyed.  The total cost was estimated to be more than A$13 million.  Fortunately there was no loss of life, although a total of 134 injuries were reported.  The size of the area burnt was more than 12,500 hectares (31,000 acres).

Below is a video showing the scar that the bushfire left on the landscape in this part of the Adelaide Hills.

I have been back here a few times since that terrible fire, and it is always pleasing to see more regrowth each time I visit.  But it is a shadow of its former self.  Much of the beautiful native gum and pine forest is gone.

Noel had kindly unlocked the gate for me so I drove into the property and parked my vehicle near the trig point and started unpacking my gear.  It was just a short walk into a clearing and out with the deck chair and fold up table.  For this activation I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts output and the 80/40/20m linked dipole supported on a 7m heavy duty squid pole.

I was all set up and ready to go at around my posted activation time.  I started off on 40m on 7.090 with the first station logged being SOTA die hard Peter VK3PF with a very nice 5/9 signal.  Peter kindly spotted me on SOTAWatch and undoubtedly this resulted in the resulting callers.  Second in the log was Steve VK7CW with a great 5/9 from Tasmania, followed by Ken VK3UH, and then Brett VK2VW.  I had qualified the summit.

Mick VK3GGG/VK3PMG tried calling me from a SOTA summit, but despite a number of attempts we were unable to successfully exchange signal reports.  Thanks for trying Mick.

I hadn’t been on air long when it started to spit with rain, so it was out with the bothy bag to shelter from the showers.  As it was a weekday, callers were a little sparse, but I managed to log a total of 10 stations on 40m from VK2, VK3, VK5, and VK7, before I QSY’d to 3.610 on the 80m band.

Hans VK5YX in the southern suburbs of Adelaide had followed me down from 40m and was the first in the log on 80m.  Hans had an equally strong 5/9 signal on 80m, as he did on 40m.  I then worked three stations from the Mid North of South Australia, about 200 km to my north.  They were Nev VK5WG, Bill VK5MBD, and Ian VK5IS.  All were 5/9 plus, with Bill VK5MBD being particularly strong.  Finally on 80m, I logged Peter VK5PET at Strathalbyn, south of Adelaide.

I then headed over to 14.310 on 20m and logged David VK5PL in the Barossa Valley, on either side of the UTC rollover.  This was followed by Gerard VK2IO, Tim VK5ML, John ZL1BYZ in New Zealand, and finally John VK6NU over in Western Australia.  It just started spitting with rain at this time, so I quickly ducked out from underneath the bothy bag and started to lower the squid pole, when I head Rick VK4RF/VK4HA calling me on 14.310.  The squid pole was down and the antenna was almost lying on the ground, so I decided to continue to insert the links in the linked dipole, and headed back to 40m, hoping that Rick would find me there.  It was now after the UTC rollover so there were a few extra points on offer for the chasers.

Prior to calling CQ I had a tune around the band and found Mick VK3GGG/VK3PMG on 7.090.  Mick was on the top of his second summit for the day, Ben Nevis VK3/ VS-009, and this time I was able to hear Mick quite well.  It’s always nice to get a Summit to Summit contact in the log.

I then headed up to 7.095 and called CQ.  First taker was Rick VK4RF/VK4HA with a nice 5/7 signal from Queensland.  I was pleased to get Rick in the log after not working him on 20m.  I worked a further 6 stations from VK2, VK3, and VK5.  This included William VK2NWB/p operating QRP with 5 watts (5/2 both ways).  Also Perrin VK3XPT who was operating remote from his workplace, and Dominic VK2JNA/5 who was mobile near Coober Pedy heading to Alice Springs.  Dominic was a very nice 5/7 signal to Mount Gawler.

I then headed back for another crack on 80m.  I had received an SMS message from Adrian VK5FANA stating he could not hear me on 40m and would I mind trying 80.  Adrian was a good 5/7 signal on 80m.  I also logged John VK5BJE in the Adelaide Hills, and Steve VK5KSW at Wool Bay on the Yorke Peninsula.

I then packed away the 80/40/20m linked dipole and put up the 15m dipole and put a few calls out on 21.250.  And I’m pleased I did try the 15m band as I logged 7 stations from VK4, VK5, and VK6.

I had a total of 41 stations in the log on 15, 20, 40 and 80m and it was time to pack up and head down to the house to say hi to Noel and Anne.  I spent about an hour, having a chat and enjoying a coffee and biccies with this very lovely couple, whose home was fortunately spared during the bushfire of 2015.

Thanks to everyone who called me during the activation, and many thanks to those who took the time to spot me.  It all certainly helps.

I worked the following stations:-

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References.

Summits on the Air (SOTA), 2017, <http://www.sota.org.uk/&gt;, viewed 5th February 2017

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Sampson_Flat_bushfires&gt;, viewed 5th February 2017