|Position||Competitor||Finish||Time A||Time B||Time C|
Ten teams gathered at Maidenhead Thicket on a sunny and mild afternoon on 25th September to participate in the 2022 RSGB Top Band Direction Finding event. Signals from each of the three hidden stations were heard at the start, but competitors had difficulty getting a bearing on Transmitter B due to weak signal strength and were given an approximate bearing.
Transmitter A was located in Holly Grove, between Nettlebed and Rotherfield Peppard. This transmitter had a half wave aerial and quarter wave counterpoise earth, and was operated by Min Standen, submerged in a rhododendron thicket. Competitors finding the end of the aerial also found a quite attractive but inanimate dummy operator, before tunnelling (in some cases) or circulating round the thicket to find Min.
Transmitter B was located at Horsleys Green, between High Wycombe and Stokenchurch, in Dells Wood which lies behind what used to be the Wycliffe Bible Translation Headquarters in the UK. This transmitter, operated by Steve Stone, had a quarter wave aerial and was using a nearby wire fence as the counterpoise earth. This site had relatively little cover and most teams found their way into Steve quite quickly once they got on site.
Transmitter C was located in Deangarden Wood, just southeast of High Wycombe. The most obvious footpath into this site had recently been moved due to a large housing development taking place to the south of the site, and teams spent some time finding alternative access paths. The C transmitter was operated by Peter Lisle and had a three-quarter wave aerial and used a nearby wire fence as a counterpoise earth.
With the strongest signal at the start being transmitter C, the majority (six) teams decided to make this their first transmitter. First on site was Geoffrey Foster, followed some time later by Matthew Lisle and Justin Snow. There followed several transmissions-worth of hunting along both sides of the fence and into other likely looking holly thickets before teams came to their senses and came to the forested area near the part of the fence where the signal was strongest, thereby spotting the operator lying under camouflage netting. The ensuing shouts and commotion undoubtedly helped the next two teams Matthew Clark and Graham Phillips to find the operator rather more quickly. Not much later Chris Plummer arrived and quickly found the operator. It was good to see Chris back in action and after some encouragement he set off to find his second transmitter.
Meanwhile, the three teams choosing A as their first transmitter had a rather unfortunate start to their afternoon, because traffic going through Henley (always a bottleneck) was made even worse by a slow-moving horse-and-cart wedding party. Alan Simmons found this site first, followed by Bill Pechey and then Roy Emeny. More misfortune befell Bill, who took the wrong way out of the grove and took a long time to find his car.
Colin and Rosie Merry took the unusual decision to find transmitter B first, and after some time circulating the area eventually chose the best way in (from the West) but only found the site a few minutes before Geoffrey and Justin arrived from Transmitter A. Matthew Lisle benefitted from their slow start though, because he found their parked car and was therefore also able to take advantage of the optimum access pathway into the transmitter.
By 3.30pm, with one hour to go, the contenders for first place were essentially limited to the three teams, Geoffrey, Justin and Matthew Lisle who by then had found two transmitters. Matthew sadly went to the south side of Henley and was unable to recover that mistake, leaving Geoffrey and Justin to fight it out. Justin arrived at A first, but was still searching the rhododendron thicket when Geoffrey arrived, so it was touch and go who would win. Justin finally succeeded by tunnelling under the rhododendrons and beating Geoffrey by just a few seconds, after both of them had identified the most likely place for Min to be hiding.
After the event the teams gathered at the home of Peter and Ruth Lisle for tea, provided with the help of Pam Simmons who had created a sumptuous selection of desserts. The RSGB National Final Trophy and associated Derrick Newman Memorial Cup was awarded to the winner, Justin Snow and the Trevor Gage Memorial Cup for second place to Geoffrey Foster. Geoffrey was also awarded the Bert Simmons Rosebowl for the best performance across the national qualifying events during 2022.
As organiser, I would like to thank my fellow transmitter operators Steve and Min, Pam and my wife Ruth, for contributing to what teams said was an enjoyable event. Just the aerials to recover now…..!!
As some of you will know, I don’t take DF seriously. It’s just a fun day out and a good physical and mental challenge. I approached the day in a well prepared but calm frame of mind and tried to feel relaxed about the idea of someone else winning and looking forward to a much-reduced engraving bill. Trouble is that once I got started my usually well-hidden competitive instinct kicked in!
The first signs that traffic might be an issue on the event came when I found my usual route to the start was not via the familiar A33 to Reading then up the M4, but somewhat cross-country via Ascot!
It was good to see plenty of familiar faces at the start, some not seen for some time. (See the map images to help you understand where I was as I made my way around from station to station).
At the start there were 2 signals one ‘C’ station G4MDF/P on 003 strongest and ‘A’ station G3TRY/P on 283 deg. I could not identify ‘B’ station G4CUE/P though an extremely weak carrier was heard in the noise on a NW heading, so I decided to stay for an approximate bearing. I had already had a glance at the traffic on the Satnav on the way to the start and Henley looked like the trouble it often is. On that basis I decided to head north as far as I could in the remaining 25 minutes before the 13:30 transmissions and aim for station ‘C’ first. On leaving the start, I and many of the other teams immediately got stuck for a good 5 minutes behind a horse drawn wedding carriage going a 5 mph! The air was blue inside my car. Traffic was heavy and I thought that the Handy Cross interchange was likely to be congested, so I came off the A404 and headed through Marlow and out on the road towards Lane End, getting as far as a small gateway next to Wycombe Air Park. This place has not been great on previous DF’s and many a dodgy bearing obtained, so I was a little worried. Indeed, one of my bearings, on ‘B’, turned out to be very wide of the mark pointing north into Hellbottom Wood!
Station ‘C’ was a good signal and I thought might be somewhere near the Handy Cross junction only to get a bearing of 70 deg. from there further on to Deangarden Wood. I wasn’t entirely sure at this time, so moved in a little closer and found myself next to an ugly big new private housing estate. I waited for the next transmission and the bearing of 317 deg. and very strong signal confirmed that I was close. Now I could not find the footpaths marked on the map in the area now occupied by buildings and not fields, so I had to navigate around to the more established housing estate on the west side of the woods to find a way in. Running into the site with the signal on, the set took me to a wire fence in the brambly undergrowth that was radiating a strong signal! But search as I did, I could not find Peter. I moved a way from the fence into the wood and found a tent and some laundry hanging on branches amongst other things! Finally, I resorted to running up and down the footpath next the fence and noting the strongest signal, then estimating where on the other side of the piles of brambles to look, eventually finding Peter. At this stage I was a little behind the pace with Geoffrey already having been in some minutes before. So off to Station ‘B’…
At this time I did not realise how far off track my 13:30 bearing on ‘B’ was, so I headed over to and stopped at Spring Coppice on the western edge of High Wycombe. The signal came up but was not too strong on a bearing of 296 deg. I thought it might be Wheeler End or Barn Wood. Driving through Lane End the signal came up and I got another bearing that seemed to indicate the station was in Barn Wood. I was unsure of where the best way in might be, so drove around to the A40 on the north side. Another bearing from the side of the A40 pointed to the Wycliffe Centre and beyond. I decided to get around to Horsleys Green and try and narrow things down. Upon driving down into Dell’s Wood, I happened across Colin and Rosies car! Almost immediately another transmission came up and confirmed that I should leg it down the path into Dells Wood, passing Colin and Rosie on their way out. After a few hundred metres the TX came on again and the set turned sharply to the left and indicated I should slog it uphill. As I neared the top the set became useless and I started wandering around in circles. The TX came up again and I got some sort of a null. Looking up I saw Steve Stone just sitting there about 10m away! Geoffrey also appeared on site, and we both started to leg it towards Steve at the same time. Geoffrey trumped me again, by throwing his card to Steve just before I arrived! (Sneaky trick that should be a rule that says the DFer must hand the card to the operator, no?!) So now off to try and find station ‘A’, which much to my surprise at this point seemed to be a realistic possibility.
I drove via Stokenchurch, Christmas Common and Nettlebed to get around to the west side of Henley. I stopped once for a bearing just south of Christmas Common, which in hind sight was not a great idea and the bearing I got threw me off the scent slightly with me now getting bearings crossing in the Greys Green area. Another bearing from Highmoor barely 1km from the station went straight through the station. But I guess I was not thinking clearly at this point and was still fixated on the Greys Green area. I drove round to Broadplat to try and narrow things down a bit, and got a weaker signal pointing back towards Holly Grove. Damn! I confirmed this with another bearing while the TX was still on before driving up the small lane and parking up next to the operator’s wife’s car! I ran in on a signal and the set started to deceive me by taking me to the right of where Min was located. I started going round in circles again and then saw Geoffrey’s white mop bobbing through the woods. “Arrgh! Not again” I muttered to myself. Then the TX came up and I found myself running back towards some rhododendrons that I have already looked around, with Geoffrey coming in from the right again! The TX goes off and we are both looking in the same holes at the same time…. Geoffrey jumps into a pit then we both clamber over a fallen tree together. There is a dummy hidden at the root ball of this fallen tree, but only Phil finds it, I think. In the middle of the rhododendrons, there is a darker area off to our left. Geoffrey is to the right of me and goes around the end of another horizontal branch while I crawl under it. I get the feeling I can see camouflage netting and make haste on all fours, smashing into branches and manage to just get my card to Min seconds before Geoffrey throws his card in, again. Yaaaaay!
So, I have managed to retain the title from 2019 when the national final was last run before Covid happened and found all three transmitters this time unlike 2019 when I only managed two, and still won. Something that had been bothering me ever since. Congratulations to Geoffrey for a well-deserved winning of the rose bowl this year. A BIG thank you to Peter Lisle and his team of helpers for organizing the event this year and special congratulations to Matthew Lisle for placing so highly on his first outing!