My first ever local DF outing was in 1980, with neighbour Frank; we cruised in behind the rest for many years. Eventually he gave up and handed over the set. The first National event I took part in I think was in late 1980s, with a new in-experienced team we got trapped under Paul Clark’s spiders web of an aerial at Heybridge Basin, watching all the other teams come and go before we finally gave up without finding a thing. 1991 was the first qualifier win, wonderfully recorded on video, with Fred on the Chelmsford map. I made it to the final a number of times during the 1990’s but with no success until 2000, an event which also took place on Northampton map, starting in Salcey forest. In 2003 we won the Banbury final in style.
Come 2007 and Andrew decided rather than do the final he would swan off to Cruise the Baltic, but his son Peter stood in and along with Caroline and son Raymond we won the Kent/Dartford event with nearly half an hour to spare. 2013 and Andrew is off again cruising the high seas, the sons have all left home, we were now on our own, lets just hope we find three stations.
No one seem to get a bearing on the middle station A at the start and in the end this seem to be where the event was won and lost. The approximate went roughly along the same path as our ‘C’ bearing, both proving to be some way off target. Thinking one would be long, one short, we decided to use the time to get out to North west, hoping one of them would be there. We thought we had a unique approach but bumped into Andy Collett and team just the other side of Harlestone Heath and, turning off to Church Brampton, found Geoff waiting at the top of the hill. At 1.30 pm a clear bearing across to ‘B’, but an odd, weak one on ‘A’ heading back to the start, though strangely not crossing with the approximate. ‘C’ was strong but also not crossing close to our first bearing. I waited to take a sense and distance on ‘C’ after the Morse turned to audio, only to hear – nothing!
So nowhere near ‘A’, with ‘C’ crossing miles away off the top west of the map. Geoff drove off towards Harlestone and we followed until I suddenly thought he may actually be heading for ‘A’, so turned round at the pub and headed to East Haddon, before another change of heart – given the strength, the station must be nearer and therefore back in Harlestone wood. Given the crowded parking we had seen at the front entrance on the way in, we tried going in from the top only to find the lane by Church Brampton come to an abrupt end miles away. So a third about-turn and after another bearing, re-traced our steps to the car park in the front of the wood, Tim following close behind. We stayed close to the road but made the mistake of going south, so on the next transmission had to take a long circuit towards the saw mill in the north, catching up with Dick and team, then Geoff and Colin Merry. The next transmission was again only half length, with no audio, so it got the crowd into the wood but little further. Next transmission the direction and sense was taking us no-where until eventually I found and aerial and heard Dick and team, following them into the deck chair attendants at 2.19 pm. It was then a dash out of the wood, scrambling over a thorny wall in the hope of saving time, only to find Geoff arriving at the cars right behind me. Nearly wrecked the car and the marriage trying to get Caroline to pull out across the busy road, ahead of Geoff’s red Rover, to no avail, we were now behind.
Heading west around Northampton we stopped to wait for a bearing just after crossing over the M1. Much stronger, now about five miles away. As the only decent looking site on the line was the Grand union canal just past Rothersthorpe, we pulling up, but no, another couple of miles to go but with no obvious targets in sight. We stopped to look at two footpaths the other side of Milton Malsor by the railway, but the signal came up, took us over the M1 into Collingtree, slowly turning to the right, going off just as we got to the Cemetery. That only left the footpath along the motorway, so Caroline did a tricky 5 point turn and we went back to find the footbridge, expecting to find the world (and his wife) down the track, we found only Roy Emeny’s car- but it gave us some comfort. After crossing the bridge I missed the footpath on the left, but John Mullins and team were coming the other way and they had spotted it, so we ran off down the edge of the field. Saw Roy half way down on the return trip, so had some idea as to how far down to push down, finding the fir tree thicket and another deck chair without problem. We were cruising – but where were all others, had they already come and gone? I then met Geoff and the new European champion on the motorway bridge, tried to put them off the scent, but with little success.
Back past the Cemetery and up along the A45 we soon approached Cogenhoe and the clearest cross on the map we had, going through the Quarry. A really long transmission whilst we were on the motorway was no help, but as we turned into the village Rosy and Colin came the other way, mistakenly leading us to think they had been in already. We looked at the footpaths off the road to the Quarry by the pub, but decided to go round the top in case the station was further on. Found the gate and track but only one car. Waited about 10 minutes for the next transmission, setting out, crossing the steam before it went off - direction being towards the far end of the wood. Found the path across the field, and into the wood. At the bottom found a faint trace in the vegetation off to the left but it seemed to run out and thinking several teams must have already been this way, not be knocked down enough. So ran up the other side and right along the top fence – but found no obvious pathways in over the fence, back tracked and explored the southern edge using the tractor tracks, slipping into the wood by the bird feeders & pens. Nearly reached the station but turned back as it seemed unlikely given all the game keeper kit and electric fence. After about 15 mins still no signal, so back tracked again to the main footpath, meeting up with Roy and George’s teams, both looking after their second station. When it came up – rather than leading straight into the wood to the station, the signal took me along the south side and in by the pens again. Found nothing down at the bottom and after much frustrated thrashing, picked up on George’s teams whistles, becoming more urgent. Found Phil Arnold at the top of the ridge but he gave nothing away, so thrashed a loop around him without success. Finally George drifted in and Phil looked back down to the bottom of the pit where the rest of the team stood expectantly, though not that close to the station – a quick search round found first a man hugging a tree in an attempt to blend in, then another deck chair attendant, happy to take my ticket just before George. Within a minute or so Justin appeared followed by Graham Phillips, it was all over about 4.00. pm.
Mark Coventry and some others had clearly done it the other way round and somehow Roy and Colin Merry had been and slipped in and out whilst I was running round in circles, but it looked like this was their second station. Found Caroline bringing up the rear with Rosy, who had been abandoned by Colin who had driven off. We took some photos relaxing in the sunny field with the Whiston church in the background. So fourth time lucky, plus a couple in Andrew’s name. But this time it nearly killed me, I need a break, perhaps it’s my turn for the cruise next September?
|Position||Competitor||Finish||Time A||Time B||Time C|