Sunday, 24 May 2009

Troposcatter Experiment

Chatsworth House with Beeley Moor in the background

The location: 
Beeley Moor in Derbyshire. This wild moorland rises just over 1200 feet above sea level to the west of Chesterfield. A prehistoric burial ground lies a mile north-east of Beeley village whilst two hundred yards south the remains of a neolithic stone circle stand close by a derelict tumulus on the barren hillside. Beeley Brook collects drainage water from the moors above and, fortified by a stream which drains Fallinge Edge, cascades over several small waterfalls on its way down the hillside, adding charm and character as it runs through the village into the nearby River Derwent. 

The experiment: 
After noting the excellent band 2 troposcatter conditions at the Axe Edge on 10th May, I decided to try a high spot much closer to home to see if reception would be similar. 

For ease of erection/dismantiling, I took only the home made FM loop with me. I parked on the east side of the moor around 1100 feet above sea level which is probably the best location on the moor for easterly DX. The loop was raised to approximately 20 feet above the ground and positioned east/west. 

Troposcatter reception was apparent but only just. The vaguest of 'noises' could be heard on spot frequencies like 87.6, 87.8 and 88.0. Signals were so poor it was impossible to determine the language but frequencies like 87.6 alone would suggest Germany or Belgium. Rather disappointed, I decided to drive across Derbyshire to the Axe Edge to compare reception.

Panoramic view of the Chatsworth Estate and beyond from Beeley Moor

About half an hour later I arrived at the Axe Edge and quickly erected the loop to the same height above the ground and checked the band. What a difference! Troposcatter signals were much improved and I could clearly hear Leglise on 87.6 and Gottelborner Hohe on 88.0. 87.8 had Germany too but was quite low in the noise level. 

The Conclusion: 
The extra 600 feet above sea level gained on the Axe Edge clearly made a difference to reception, despite the Axe Edge being an additional 20 miles further to the west and therefore further away from the continent. I have to admit I am surprised, considering both locations had superb take-offs to the continent. 

Monday, 11 May 2009

Surprising DX At The Axe Edge

Tim Bucknall and myself had been discussing the possibility of attending another Sizewell DX trip. We had been missing the brilliant continental reception conditions always enjoyed along the Suffolk coast. We wondered if it would be possible to have Suffolk-like reception in Derbyshire. So we contacted the Suffolk Tourist Board and asked if they could lend us us some coastal troposcatter for a day. We had to apply in writing and permission was granted, albeit for one day. The borrowed conditions arrived at my address today, the 10th May 2009 so we took them straight away to the dizzy heights of the Axe Edge and got them to hover in the air above us. 

OK, that's a litle silly, but this is how we joked after we had the amazing reception of Germany. Reception really was just like that of the Suffolk coast, particularly between 87.6 and 88.0. Naturally, the rest of the FM band was less productive because of the proliferation of UK stations, but even here we managed to grab plenty of quite exotic Suffolk-like DX. 

Looking towards Chrome Hill from the Axe Edge

The equipment in use was the Sony XDR-F1HD and a Triax FM5, mounted about 16 feet above the ground. We used the FM5 horizontally and vertically. 

Before we set up the equipment, we took a quick tune around FM on the car radio to assess conditions and were initially very disappointed. Regular beacons like Wrotham and Tacolneston were fluttering in and out of the noise, indicating less-than-average conditions. There were no traces of London pirates aywhere and only two were heard once the FM5 was erected. London's Capital Radio, Kiss FM and LBC were not present either, thus indicating very poor conditions. What a let down, particularly for the 1700+ ft altitude of the Axe Edge. We expected the FM5 would ofer some improvement over the car radio of course and so we got this up as quickly as possible. 

DXing from the Axe Edge

What a difference! The German reception, indicated below, peaked to noise-free levels but the signals were very fluttery, pointing to tropo-scatter as opposed to the stability of traditional 'tropospheric reception. Often we found that two German stations would be fighting for control of a frequency. 

This is the furthest inland in the UK that we have personally known such astounding troposcatter and we believe some new distance records may have been set. 

Here is the log. 

  87.5 Platinum, London pirate
  87.6 HR 3, Sackpfeife
  87.6 NDR 2, Hamburg
  87.7 Unid German, prob NDR Info, Flensburg
  87.8 WDR 2, Schwerte
  87.9 NDR Info, Heide, presumed
  87.9 Omroep Zeeland, Goes
  87.9 Unid. German OM and classical music
  88.0 NOS 2, Smilde
  88.0 SR 1, Gottelborner Hohe
  88.0 WDR 5, Bonn
  88.2 NOS 2, Roermond
  88.4 Slam FM, Roosendaal
  89.2 France Musiques, Reims
  89.4 France Musique, Boulogne
  89.5 VRT Klara, Sint Pieters Leeuw
  89.6 RDL, St Omer
  90.2 France Musique, Neufchatel-en-Bray
  90.3 NDR Kultur, Hamburg
  90.6 WDR 5, Teuroburger Wald
  90.7 Unid Dutch
  90.7 WDR 4, Bonn
  91.3 BNR, Rotterdam
  91.4 NOS 4, Markelo
  91.6 Unid Dutch ID
  91.8 NOS 1, Smilde
  91.8 R Uylenspeigel, Hazebrouck, tentative. French OM on vertical
  92.4 SWR 1, Linz
  92.8 Unid German with pops
  92.8 RTBF Musiq' 3, Profondeville
  92.9 NOS 2, Weiringermeer
  92.9 Unid German station
  93.6 Contact FM, Egem
  93.8 Bremen 1, Bremen
  93.8 Vibes FM, London pirate
  94.0 France Culture, Rouen
  94.0 R Mi Amigo, Koolskamp
  94.0 SWR 2, Koblenz
  98.1 NDR 2, Aurich
  99.0 HR 1, Hoher Meissner, presumed. German station with German crooning songs
  99.2 NDR Kultur, Hamburg
  99.2 WDR 2, Langenberg
  99.9 France Culture, Boulogne
  99.9 VRT 1, Genk
100.0 WDR 4, Munster
100.2 Unid German playing rock music. R SH, Bungsberg?
100.7 Q Music, Lopik
100.8 Bremen 4, Bremerhaven
100.8 WDR 2, Aachen
101.0 Sky R, Smilde
101.0 WDR 2, Barbelkreuz
101.2 Bremen 4, Bremen
101.2 Sky R, Hilversum (likely) or Terneuzen
101.3 WDR 4, Langenberg
101.8 DLF, Aurich
106.7 WDR Einslive, Langenberg 

All stations above were positively identified unless otherwise stated. 


* The German classical music station on 87.9, which constantly mixed with NDR Info has to be MDR Figaro from Inselberg. There are no other likely stations on 87.9 which carry this sort of programming. Also, a probable "MDR" ID was heard, but since "MDR" sounds very much like "NDR" we cannot be 100% certain of the ID. 

* The German station playing German crooning songs (50s type oldies) on 99.0 is more likely to fit the format of HR-1 from Hoher Meissner. There are no other likely candidates based on format, power and previously recorded UK loggings of German stations on 99.0. 

* The rock format of the German station on 100.2 points to R SH. 

It is a pity we could not get a definite ID on these three stations. Any comments would be appreciated. 

Considering the distances between the Axe Edge and these three, we may have come close to breaking, if not having actually broken the tropo-scatter distance record for UK FM broadcast reception. These stations are all over 800kM from the Axe Edge and 800kM is considered to be the theoretical maximum distance for tropo-scatter DX. They were very fluttery in nature, having no set fading pattern. (i.e. they were not received via aircraft scatter, which has a distinctive cycle of fading). 

Something tells me we will be taking the XDR and an FM5 up on the Axe Edge again very soon! 

Good DX! 

John & Tim
Triax FM5 (five element yagi)
33 foot telescopic mast