Yesterday afternoon (Sunday 15th October 2017) I drove down to the Fleurieu Peninsula, to activate the Mount Billy Conservation Park 5CP-143 and VKFF-0912. This was the third time I had activated the park so it was to count towards the Boomerang Award for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program. The activation also counted towards the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award.
The park is located about 75 km south of Adelaide and about 70 km south west of my home in the Adelaide Hills.
Prior to leaving home I checked the solar figures and they didn’t look particularly good with the solar flux index being down compared to previous days and the A index very high. But it was too beautiful an afternoon not to head out, with bright sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, and a temperature of about 21 deg C.
A check of the Hourly Area Prediction Chart (HAP) for Adelaide showed that again, the close in propagation was not going to work on 40m.
The Mount Billy Conservation Park is about 198 hectares in size and was proclaimed on the 12th day of August 1999. The park is located off the Hindmarsh Tiers Road, abut 13 km north of Victor Harbor and is adjacent to the Hindmarsh Valley Reservoir. The reservoir is no longer in official use, but was once part of the supply chain of water supply to the town of Victor Harbor. The land which is now the park served as the adjacent catchment area. Upon the closing of the reservoir, land was transferred from SA Water to the Department of Water Natural Resources (DEWNR).
Mount Billy represents some of the best preserved mallee and forest communities within the southern Mount Lofty Ranges. Main habitats within the park include Low Woodland – Pink Gum, Brown Stringybark, Cup Gum, and Golden Wattle; and Woodland – Pink Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, over Golden Wattle.
In the northern area of the park where I operated the vegetation is quite low, with the soil being very sandy.
The southern section of the park is more rugged in terrain and contains the thick Gum Woodlands, creeks, and ferns.
During my visit the park was alive with various native shrubs in flower.
About 80 native bird species have been recorded in the park including Superb Fairywren, Eastern Spinebill, Crescent Honeyeater, Brown Thornbill, Grey Shrikethrush, Australian Golden Whistler, Sacred Kingfisher, Common Bronzewing, Red-rumped Parrot, Buff-rumped Thornbill, and Yellow Thornbill.
Numerous native animals call the park home including Western Grey kangaroos and the endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot.
To get to the park from my home I travelled through the Adelaide Hills to the town of Meadows and then on to Willunga. I then travelled south on the Victor Harbor Road until I reached Pambula Road. There were some great views to be enjoyed of Victor Harbor from the roadside.
This is certainly beautiful country down here on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
I then reached the junction with Hindmarsh Tiers Road where I turned right and I soon made it to gate 1 of the park, located in the north eastern corner of Mount Billy.
There is a small area here alongside of the gate where you can park your car. Although the gate is locked, the authorities do have a pedestrian access area to the park. I walked a short distance down one of the tracks and started setting up my station, comprising the Yaesu FT-857d and the 20/40/80m linked dipole.
Whilst I was setting up, a vehicle arrived at the park. It was a lady from the Friends of Mount Billy. We had a chat about the park and I explained to her what it was that I was doing in the park. She seemed very interested and I gave her my business card and some promo brochures on WWFF and the VK5 Parks Award.
The Friends of Mount Billy have regular working bees to generally monitor the condition of the park and to perform important weeding tasks. More information can be found at….
I was set up and ready to go a little ahead of my scheduled time of 0500 UTC. After switching the radio on, the 857d was already on 7.144 and I heard Gerard VK2IO/p calling CQ from the Windsor Downs Nature Reserve VKFF-2020. I still hadn’t secured the ends of the dipole, but it sounded as if Gerard was about to go QRT, so I gave him a call. It was a nice way to start the activation with a Park to Park contact. I then had a tune across the band and heard Jonathan VK7JON on 7.135 in the Little Peggs Beach State Reserve VKFF-1812. But Jonathan had a mini pile up going, so I headed back to 7.144 where I started calling CQ. Peter VK3PF was first in the log, followed by Dennis VK2HHA, and then Marshall VK3MRG/p.
The 40m band was in average condition, with signals from Victoria (VK3) being well down compared to normal. However, on the plus side, Cliff VK2NP’s signal was the strongest I had ever heard him….5/9 plus, with Cliff also giving me a 5/9, which is very rare. As conditions were a little rough, callers were far less than I normally experience, so I took the opportunity of having a listen across the band, hoping to work Jonathan VK7JON. Sadly when I had a listen on 7.135, Jonathan had gone, so I moved back to 7.144, and was very pleasantly surprised when Helen VK7FOLK/p called me from Little Peggs Beach State Reserve VKFF-1812. I then logged Jonathan.
I was about to hand the frequency over to Helen and Jonathan, when Gerard VK2IO/p came up, this time in a new park, the Castlereagh Nature Reserve VKFF-1905. After logging Gerard I headed off to the 80m band hoping to log some VK5’s.
First in the log on 80m was Marija VK5FMAZ, followed by Greg VK5GJ who was 5/9. Greg lowered his power down to 400 milliwatts and was still a good 5/4 to Mount Billy. Despite conditions being good around VK5 on 80m, John VK5BJE was my only other caller. John was 5/9 plus from Scott Creek in the Adelaide Hills.
I then lowered the squid pole and removed the links and headed to the 20m band. I called CQ on 14.310 and this was answered by regular park activator and hunter Phil VK6ADF. Unfortunately Phil was my only caller, despite a self spot on parksnpeaks and posts on some of the Facebook sites. So I tuned across the 20m band and found Tony 3D2AG calling CQ, with a 5/7 signal. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it to Tony, but I decided to give it a go. I was very surprised when Tony came back to me and gave me a 5/5 from Fiji.
To complete the activation I headed back to 40m and logged a further 9 stations from VK1, VK2, VK3, and VK4. Tex VK1TX in Camberra was the strongest signal of the day, being 5/9 ++++.
With 45 contacts in the log and a rumbling stomach, it was time for me to pack up and head home.
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK2IO/p (Windsor Downs Nature Reserve VKFF-2020)
- VK7FOLK/p (Little Peggs Beach State Reserve VKFF-1812)
- VK7JON/p (Little Peggs Beach State Reserve VKFF-1812)
- VK2IO/p (Castlereagh Nature Reserve VKFF-1905)
I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-
After packing up I decided to explore the western side of the park. First I stopped off to have a look at the old Hindmarsh Valley reservoir which is located on the southern boundary of the park.
I then continued north on Nettle Hill Road. It was quite appropriate that I came across these goats in a paddock adjacent to Mount Billy.
There were some very nice views to be enjoyed of the western side of the park from Nettle Hill Road.
I then travelled east along the Hindmarsh Tiers Road through the beautiful Hindmarsh Valley, named after John Hindmarsh, the first Governor of South Australia.
I stopped off briefly to have a look at the old Hindmarsh Valley School which was established way back in 1867.
I then started travelling north on the Victor Harbor Road, again stopping briefly to have a look at the old stone wall at Cut Hill which was built in 1868 by Jabez Grimble under contract to the Central Roads Board. These old stone walls are truly remarkable. Bullock carts had the tendency to overturn on the steep hillside at this location, and as a result Grimble was employed to make the descent into Victor Harbor safer. Jabez had undertaken previous road and bridge works in the district.
The metre high dry stone parapet is what travellers along the Victor Harbor Road can see. However, the wall is actually about 5 metres in height on the creek side. It is reported that after Jabez had paid off the workmen assisting him in the construction of the wall, there was no money left for Jabez and his family.
The Encounter Bay Family History Group has further information on Jabez Grimble which can be found at……
I made one final stop on my way home. I was keen to check out to see if there was any access to the Hesperilla Conservation Park. This is one of two parks which I have not activated down on the Fleurieu Peninsula. I was fortunate in that I found a guy rounding up his chooks and he pointed me to a very rough track, which sure enough led down to the park. Hesperilla is swampland and frogs were plentiful during my visit, which I am sure meant plenty of Red Bellied snakes and Tiger Snakes. This is a park which I will need to return to.
Birds SA, 2017, <http://www.birdssa.asn.au/location/mount-billy-conservation-park/>, viewed 16 October 2017
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 2011, ‘Parks of the Fleurieu Peninsula’
Friends of Parks South Australia, 2017, <http://www.friendsofparkssa.org.au/members-directory/friends-of-mt-billy>, viewed 16th October 2017
Weekend Notes, 2017, <https://www.weekendnotes.com/cut-hill-victor-harbor-road/>, viewed 16th October 2017