Monday, 18 October 2010

Moving To The East Coast

After living in the dreary North Midlands all my life, I finally managed to escape to the coast. I have never been a fan of the Midlands and have always wanted to live by the sea. 

In 2009 I met Jane, who also had the same long-standing ambition. We decided that the time was right to realise our dreams. 

There are some things we will miss, not least being so close to the Derbyshire Dales and the beautiful Peak District. It is also a shame to leave old friends behind, but the distance from Skegness to Nottinghamshire has not been so restrictive that our friends haven't come and stayed with us. The North Midlands has often been considered one of the friendliest places in the UK - a fact I wholeheartedly agree with. 

One thing is for certain, radio reception possibilities should dramatically increase by the sea. The east coast will be a perfect location for many forms of DX, especially on the FM broadcast band as it's almost empty! So I plan to continue my FM and MW broadcast DX hobby in earnest. Jane and I are looking forward to our new life by the sea and experiencing a new world of radio.

January 2011 Update

It's now been four months since our move and we are feeling very settled in our new home! 

Moving to the east coast has been one of the best things we did: The air quality is so much cleaner for starters. You can actually see the stars and the Milky Way in the night sky; We live within walking distance of the beach; We have some of the best beaches in the world too; We are a stone's throw from the Lincolnshire Wolds - a kind of mini Peak Ditrict and designated an "AONB" (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty); We have peace and quiet, living right in the edge of town, overlooking fields for miles;  We live close to some charming rural communities and country pubs (which serve a wealth of real ales) and we have several nature reserves close by, all natural habitats for some quite exotic wildlife, not to mention plenty of secluded areas suitable for beverage aerials! 

The weather has been far from what we expected too. Thankfully, we missed the severe winter chill which was experienced further inland and only had a few inches of snow which lasted for two to three weeks. It's the first time we have ever seen snow-covered beaches! 
The locals tell us it is almost unheard of to have lying snow on this coast as it usually melts the moment it lands. We also discovered that the east coast is recognised as being the sunniest part of England. After living here for only four months we can only agree with this. It is usually sunny, with cloudless skies, even when the weather forecast predicts cloud! Even on the colder days of mid-winter you can actually feel the warmth of the sun. beating down on you, something I have never noticed inland. 

The option to move to Skegness came quite unexpectedly. Personally, I had never considered Skegness as a town in which I wanted to live. My childhood memories of visits to this area were of endless amusement arcades with bingo callers, lots of noise, bright lights, overcrowded bars and fairground rides, but since living here and getting to know the place properly, I find it extremely pleasant and a hundred times better than my old location in Nottinghamshire. It has it's tacky side, but so do many UK holiday resorts. I actually find it a very pleasant, attractive town with plenty of open spaces and gardens. The surrounding countryside is beautiful. Just one thing, however, we are always amazed by the number of people who consider the nearby parish of Ingoldmells to be Skegness. While it might be classed as a suburb of Skegness, it is approximately four miles away and world's apart.

Did I mention radio? Ahem! Although we have only been here for a short time, several amazing DX possibilities have been realised. Medium wave has produced astonishing reception of broadcast stations from Japan, South Korea, India, Thailand, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, the US state of Alaska, plus the Canadian North-West Territories and British Colombia! We will erect the amateur radio aerials asap! 

Broadcast DX on band 2 has also exceeded our expectations with a plethora of continental signals from France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and even Spain! All this at a time of year when conditions are probably at their poorest. Band 2 is almost devoid of local stations here! The nearby giant Belmont mast does not present any problems. Even Portugal has been received via tropo here! 

Monday, 11 October 2010

One Of The Best Tropos On Record?

Sunday 10th October 2010 saw an excellent spell of tropospheric DX on 2m. This was actually in the middle of a sustained period of exceptional tropospheric propagation which had affected most of Western Europe. Many long-standing European DXers considered this to be one of the best tropospheric events ever!

Many radio enthusiasts were blown away by the intensity of the signals and the distances worked during this period. 

This spell of propagation had been with us for a few days but the evening of 10-10-10 saw the peak for my location in the Midlands. The signals were so strong that I had to venture to the dizzy heights of the Axe Edge in Derbyshire to see how the conditions were over there. 

Arriving at the Axe Edge shortly after 18:00 I erected my 2m HB9CV on a small mast at the side of the car, making it approximately 3-4m above the ground. Before firing up the IC7000 I had a tune across the FM broadcast band. I was stunned. Using only the small vertical telescopic whip on my car I discovered that the whole FM band was awash with German signals. This is surprising by itself since German FM broadcast stations transmit in horizontal polarisation. All signals were in fully quieting stereo! No English stations were audible because they had been wiped out by the strong German signals! I was almost convinced I was living in Germany! 

Quickly to 2m SSB where it was difficult to find an empty channel on which to call as the whole of Europe seemed to be exchanging signal reports, so I found a 'relatively' clear frequency and gave my first CQ. Instead of having to wait endlessly for a response, as can sometimes happen, I was bombarded with a pile-up of European stations responding to my call. It was difficult to pick out an individual callsign. 

First I exchanged a report with Martin, PE1BIW, however it was the second QSO which amazed me: LY2WR, a club radio station in Vilnius, Lithuania. The distance involved between their location and the Axe Edge was a staggering 1775km (1100 miles) and the signal reports were S7-9 making it an easy copy both ways. This is my personal record for tropospheric DX. 

After reading the accounts of other hams a few days later, I discovered that my signal had been heard at 5/9 by a DX listener in Latvia! 

I went on to work other stations in germany, Sweden and Poland. Admittedly I had a great advantage being so high in the Peak District and with an excellent take-off in the direction of mainland Europe, but it was not long before curiosity got the better of me again and I wondered if I would be able to achieve the same distances from home, so I quickly wound the aerial and headed back, where I continued to work stations in several European countries. 

Here is the log for the evening of the 10th October 2010 on the Axe Edge:
  Call   Grid  Snt Rcd
  PE1BIW JO32bt 5/7 5/8
  LY2WR  KO24fo 5/6 5/7
  SP1O   JO73gk 5/6 5/8
  PA3HEB JO22rm 5/7 5/7
  PA1MV  JO21ex 5/7 5/9
  DC2JWR JO31mf 5/7 5/9
  PE1LJS JO22oi 5/7 5/9
  DO9PL  JO31lg 5/7 5/7
  DL8YAU JO41hs 5/8 5/9
  DL1DBR JO41bn 5/9 5/9
  DK3WG  JO72gi 5/3 5/3>
  ON7CX  JO10nt 5/4 5/9+30!!
  DL9OLI JO51lx 5/1 5/5
  DL1OLI JO41bp 5/3 5/7
  DF5NK  JN59op 5/5 5/3
  SM7NR  JO76rc 5/5 5/7

Once I returned home I worked the following stations, all using a Cushcraft four element rooftop beam - exluding ON4HP which who was worked on the FM section of 2m using a roof-mounted Cushcraft VRX2 2x5/8 wave colinear. Further FM QSOs were made on the 11th into Germany. I hope it is not too long before such an intense tropospheric lift is experienced. 

  Call   Grid   Snt Rcd
  DL9YBZ JO31KU 3/1 5/1
  DF1AN  JO63SX 5/1 5/4
  DK5JM  JO43QS 3/1 5/5
  ON6SX  JO20HV 5/2 5/5
  PA3CUK JO22FB 5/5 5/9
  SP1FJZ JO84EE 5/1 5/5
  OZ1HXM JO45LT 5/3 5/3
  ON4HP  JO20QV 5/1 2/3