14 teams assembled in Stansted village, Kent. The weather was ideal for a DF hunt, sunny but not too hot. A moderately strong signal came from station A, bearing SSW. A good signal was received from station C to the east. But nothing was heard from station B. For this station an approximate bearing and distance band was revealed to the competitors. A reserve transmitter was swiftly put into service and was active in time for the second transmission.
Transmitters B and C were in opposing directions with station A somewhere in between. None of the stations was particularly far away and the hunt was designed to allow all three stations to be found within the allowed time, in any order and with minimal and roughly equal travelling distances, regardless of visit order.
Each site had its own features. Station A was located some 16km away on the banks of the Medway near to East Peckham and was at least 1km from any road. Several competitors took the path alongside a sewage works, through a quarry, over a railway line then crossing the River Medway by bridge. The station was hidden in dense overgrown brambles quite near to the footpath although several competitors found a nice swampy area to search nearby. A closed road in the area and a local level crossing also posed problems and delays for some competitors.
Station B was located just 6km away in a south-westerly direction in the Otford area hidden in a close matrix of small trees and bushes and the aerial caused a wide region of similar undergrowth to be searched. The intended pretence of the station being much further away was somewhat lost by the announcement of a <10km distance band. Nevertheless the hunt still seemed to be a challenge for most.
Station C was located 22km away on the top of the North Downs near Thurnham, high up on a ridge. It was in a wooded area with relatively little cover, again, not too far from the footpath. The aerial radiated well and must have been a distraction from locating the station which was hard to find in a steep brambly area on a step edge overlooking the path.
The winner was Phil Cunningham who found his third station at 15:37, taking the order B, then A, then C. Paul Clark came second at 16:04 visiting sites C, then A then B. Graham Phillips was third, again taking C then A then B. In all, 6 teams found all three transmitters in the allotted time.
Competitors returned to the start location where tea was served in the village hall and the prizes were duly presented.
Colin and Rosie Merry
It was not looking like it was going to be the best final this year as Andrew had over a year ago booked a holiday cruise in the Mediterranean on the assumption the event would take place as usual on the 23rd September. Peter though was able to come and take his fathers place as number two in the team, with wife Caroline being drafted into drive and son Raymond also on the team but spending most of the day asleep in the back of the car, feeling very unwell. In the circumstances we thought we would be doing well if we found all three stations before the end of the afternoon.
Good signals from two of the stations but nothing really heard on the B station. The approximate bearing with the distance mark provided, meant that Peter was not far away on what looked like the easy side of the map. Clearly we had to start either side of the 'fan' but a big dilemma on whether to risk starting with Peter and not hearing him at 1.30pm. Rosy was clearly on the case and in the end decided to go west confident that Peter would get things fixed on 1960Khtz as I have been using his main transmitter for years and it had never let me down.
Got lost on the way out of the narrow roads aronf Stansted but found our way out to Otford following two other DF cars. Nearly had a head-on with George going back the other way, which confused us. The most likely spot had an entrance off the road, which we decided to give a look given the time we still had. Pulled up 50 yards behind Graham Nicholls and I ran off up the track to find a blue Mercedes' I assumed was Peter's. Chased back to the car for the set and Peter under Graham's intimidating stare. I told Peter to look casual as we wandered back to the track, before running off as soon as Graham was out of sight. Unfortunately having more time we missed the aerial fairly close to the road and ran up into wooded area in the hill above. Heard some blips coming from Peter as he tested out the transmitter - but not enough to take any bearing. At 1.30pm it was clear we had over shot and we ran back down the hill and found the eastern end of the aerial and, as we made our way along this, saw Graham and team running off looking very pleased. Found Peter without too much of a problem stopping to take a photo before we left to chase after Graham.
We had a nagging fear the middle station was in the very large Mereworth wood. Was just north of Shipbourne common when we got a bearing crossing on some gravel pits the other side of East Peckham - Phew!
Managed to avoid getting stuck behind a steam engine and large convoy by diverting to the south and picked up another good bearing at Goldern Green confirming the gravel pits which we had already marked up as having good potential at the start. Problem was how to get there. It looked a long run in from the east so we tried to get over the A228 dual carriageway via Hale Street only to find this was a dead end. We therefore went north to the roundabout and headed back down the A228 looking for the entrance to the gravel pit, just past the bridge, which had a footpath marked. We pulled in just behind Chris Plummer who looked pleased see us (I assumed had already done the westerly station). Chris said 'right if you thing we are here as well - let get going'. He then bizarrely ran off back up the main road whilst we looked for the footpath straight into the entrance. This we eventually found and followed it round the gravel pit, over the siding and main railway line. Before the small bridge over the river we noticed a strip of wood going south between the railway and the river which looked a real possibility - but decided to go look over the river side first.
Running south down the river path there was not a lot of cover -but we explored one likely looking area and unknowingly nearly got right to Colin before we gave up for want of an aerial or clear tracks. We then continued searching down the river to the rail bridge which we checked out for an escape route back to the other strip of wood - but found the bridge all sealed off.
Getting nervous that Chris was about and we were along way down the track we ran back, meeting him half way, at which point the signal came on and took us back to where we had been five minutes earlier. The transmission though was short and went off before we got to the station. There was a large pile of over-grown rubbish bags which looked like camouflaged netting, which drew me in - with at first disappointment, then I spotted some tracks slightly further round and found Colin behind some light bramble cover. Colin looked fairly pleased to see me with the comment that I was his first customer of the day, which came as a bit of a surprise.
We found another footpath much closer on the other side of the station and used this as an exit, passing Tim Parker coming in the other way. No sign of Graham Nicholls at all which we thought was strange.
We again started to worry about the lack of transmissions from the easterly 'A' station as we made our way towards Maidstone. Having heard nothing for 15 mins the station came up just are we were approaching some large pylons. The bearing said further on by five + miles but I was dubious about the precision, which we eventually found was well off. We decided to go around Maidstone by going north to join the M20. Just before reaching the motorway at Ditton there was another signal that caught us at a very urban junction, but which pointed up the A249, again strength of about 5 miles or so. After a couple of junctions on the M20 we headed up the A249 before another signal forced us to pull over on the busy dual carriageway. This pointed east toward Thurnham an area we had already marked out from the good start bearing we had. Problem we found was getting off the dual carriageway and finding the road to Thurnham from within Detling village. Having got lost a couple of times we decided to head south to Bearsted and came in under motorway where we had another signal that confirmed the western side of Thurnham woods. We arrived to find Colin Boyce looking very sad and lonely by the side of the road where he said he had been all afternoon, everyone else had come and gone with Alan still stuck in the woods somewhere.
We ran in fearing it would be a difficult site slipping on some cow dung as we ran up the footpath. Went to swear at the culprits in nearby pen - but they spoke first saying they had already been given a hard time by Brian and if I only carried on without delay I could beat him yet again. Heartened by this we rang up the curving hill round to the right on a signal that grew stronger and pointed up to the peak as we traversed it. Was not surprised to find Alan - but very puzzled to find Chris Plummer and team at the same spot. How had Chris got here ahead of us - whilst we had not seen him at Peter Graves's station - he surely would not have gone to the middle station first?
Alan gave us his tale of woe and we then got off the track onto the top of the hill leaving Chris somewhere behind us. Peter then called me over pointing to some black aerial wire running over the top of the hill. I still fancied going back to the steeper edge closer to where we had run in, so asked Peter to take the other end of the aerial. Soon found with Alan some indistinct tracks that pointed however over the front of the hill and led us to thicker cover. We ended up either side of the operator and Alan let me put my card in first as he said my need was greater (he seemed very pleased to have finally found the station). Word was that Paul Clarke had done the station first and got away really quickly - so was not too optimistic at that stage. Found Peter to say it was all over and took some photos of operator and Alan. Tried to get a snap of Chris - but he was not happy as this was only at his second station and he had just found out it was our third. Still his team mate was up to smiling for the camera.
We waited on the track a while expecting a rush of teams coming in. But it was a while before Tim, then Geoff came, so took a photo of Geoff's team mate and the cows we had made friends with on the way in.
It had been a long day and a stressful event and we were pooped - but happy to have found all three stations in fairly good time at about twenty to four. The wife said it had been an 'exciting' afternoon, driving down narrow, 4X4 infested lanes - and she was right.
Back at the tea it began to dawn that other teams had struggled with only about half finding all three stations. Quietly interrogated Paul to find he had got in well after four and eventually found we had won by nearly half an hour! Rushed out to ring Andrew with the good new on his ship in the middle of the Mediterranean (Peter said they had good signal out there) only to find that there was no signal at all to be found in the middle of Kent!
Third time lucky I guess - or was it?
|Position||Competitor||Finish||Time A||Time B||Time C|