On arrival at the starting location for the contest at Pleshey village hall sports field, a light drizzle was falling. By the start of the contest however, this had cleared away, with the weather remaining dry throughout the rest of the afternoon, to the benefit of the competitors and also the two hidden operators. Eleven teams had entered for the contest. Signals were received from both hidden stations, although one competitor was unable to detect the signal from one of the hidden stations and so the approximate bearing for this station was disclosed for those who wished to make use of it.
The “A” Station, G4 MDF/P, operated by Roy Emeny was hidden in thick undergrowth within a recently managed area of the woodland at Woodham Walter Common, to the south-east of the start. This area now consisted of well established and closely growing birch saplings interspersed with thick brambles, ferns and several fallen trees. An antenna approximately 250 yards long encircled much of the transmitter’s location and terminated in an earth stake within a mass of brambles and beneath a fallen tree. Although less than 10 miles from the start, this arrangement produced a relatively weak signal at the start. However, an initial group of six competitors found this as their first station, with nine teams successfully finding the transmitter by the end of the afternoon.
By contrast, the “B” Station, G4TRY/P, operated by Peter Larbalestier produced a very much stronger signal at the start, although more than 12 miles away to the north at West Wood, Thaxted. Hidden behind brushwood undergrowth and also protected from access in another direction by tall chestnut-fencing enclosing an inaccessible area of the wood, this presented challenges to some competitors. A three-quarter wavelength antenna erected high in the surrounding trees contributed to the strong signal heard by all. Three competitors found this as their first transmitter, all arriving within a few minutes of each other, with nine teams eventually finding this station by the end of the contest.
After the event, competitors met at the Fowlers Farm Inn at Braintree, for a cooked meal from the menu. This was followed by announcements of the results, and with the distribution of prizes and speeches. The Colchester-Chelmsford DF Qualifier Shield was also presented to the winner, Tim Parker.
11 teams lined up in the unseasonal drizzle at Pleshey. DFers, tennis players, and passing jesters all braved the conditions to participate in their chosen activities. Graham made the excuse of getting lost up the A12 to spend all but the last 5 minutes before the start in the shelter of his car.
On cue at 1.20 pm a shout of “B’s” up could be heard to be followed shortly with sad sighs of realisation that the event hadn’t been cancelled in favour of a booze up. This competitor could not respond with an “Ay up, lad” and so a re-tune was needed to hear a weak signal coming from the general direction of Chelmsford. B’s strength suggested a location not too far from the start but the map gave few hints, so A was chosen as the first station to find as its weakness suggested edge of map territory. Plans were made to stop near Mowden, N of the large spread of woodland around Danbury. It seems that Phil, Peter and others all had the same idea. From here at 2.00 pm, a check on B confirmed it to be map-top, and A’s bearing went through Woodham Walter Common. Wishing to avoid the built up area of Danbury and Little Baddow, a route skirting N of WW Common was chosen. The next bearing was taken for all the wrong reasons; power lines, side of road, in a hurry…. And gave a cross not far from the A414. A choice was made to abandon the car and cover the distance on foot. On entering the next lane to park the car it was heartening to see a couple of abandoned vehicles marked with pointy things on top. On foot, a sharp left turn into a thin wooded strip SE of the golf course proved that my last bearing was way out. Not wishing to incur the wrath of the two elderly ladies (Roy in disguise?) on the golfing fairway, circumnavigation and another signal took me into the main wooded area and a meeting with Ian, Peter and Geoff. No doubt that Phil, seen earlier, had already been and gone. A token search of a hollied area brought no luck to anybody, but the next signal enabled the hounds to close in on the meat and its yellow trainers. All those close by clocked in in quick succession. Then a bit surprising to see that Phil’s car hadn’t departed though!
The Satnav was directed towards the pre-selected village of Thaxted. Thoughts of taking more bearings were sidelined in favour of speed of travel towards the top of the map. Fortunately, the satnav chose roads already in the (human) memory from the earlier trek to the start at Pleshey. Once past Great Dunmow, a decision to stop was made when A boomed out, and a convenient layby on the B184 played host. A confident bearing through a wood N of Thaxted was plotted even though all bearings taken so far crossed off the map. Seeing Colin, then Graham, then someone else going past the other way on the B184 suggested that things were going better this way round. Thaxted traffic troubles didn’t materialise and the next transmission required a STOL stop just past Boyton End. The 10-bars signal lined up with the western edge of the adjacent wood, and without making a plot, a decision was made to find a proper parking place and leg it up the nearest footpath. A bit of a cheeky stop at a field entrance was made, and a quick gesture given to Ian’s passing car. Must be right! By the time the next signal arrived, I had reached the NW extremity of the wood. All alone! It took me back into the wood and parallel to a fenced off section, then turned into what would have been a swampy bit in wetter months. There was no straight way or path to follow but arrival at an elephant track pointing to the fence and a swamping (appropriate?) signal gave hope that this could be the right place. A right turn revealed a semi-caged wild animal who was quickly subdued with a copper clad biscuit. Polite conversation ensued until further wild game hunters could be heard making tracks not too far away. Time for a quick escape and an early supper!
With thanks to Larby, Roy and Ian for hosting a well planned event. Innit.
|Position||Competitor||Finish||Time A||Time B|