RSGB / South Manchester

160m Direction Finding National Final

This year it was the turn of South Manchester RC to run the 160m DF final, and it was with trepidation that the organisers viewed the long term weather forecast for September; wet and windy and getting worse as the month went on.... Chris Plummer, Chief organiser, had chosen the sites, and gave the choice of sites to the crews (see later)

We started early, three weeks before the event by putting up the aerial at station B. This was situated in a mixed deciduous and pine wood with a deep undergrowth of rhododendrons, and had been used some 12-15 years before on a national qualifier. The site located West South West of the start, was called Sink Moss, and true to its name it was very boggy in places. A small road runs across the north side, and a footpath down the east side of the wood, not that either of these proved to be easy access to the site. On the day that the crews set up the aerial it was sunny and hot, so dressed in shorts and tee shirts they laboured in putting up the wire. Most of the aerial was across the whole south side of the wood, ending at each end in very thick rhoddies and thorn thickets. The main feed was tapped in about half way along the main wire and it took two hours to erect about 200' of wire deep into the thickest rhoddies in Manchester, but to a dryish area beyond the bogs. Truth be known, it was a mistake wearing shorts even then, as breaking a way in from the west side took an hour and involved crawling climbing and general attacking the undergrowth, but with 500m of wire up in the trees, it was worth it, as if the wire was to be followed by competitors, they would get torn to pieces with the thorn and brambles. (We had deliberately left virgin undergrowth under most of the wire.) On testing this site good signals were heard back at the start some 15k away. Dave Chippendale and Chris Heys bagged this site for the day of the contest, chuckling all the way back to their cars.

Next was Station B which was due to be set up the next weekend, but got rained off, was situated in a plain area on the map next to the M60 5k South East from the start in Gatley Carrs, otherwise known as Gatley Laundry. This site is a serious bog surrounded by mature beech and willow trees. The pools of stagnant water only seemed to grow bull rushes and prehistoric mares tails, but was also a fairly popular recreation area for the locals, the drier side even supporting a football field. The day before the event Chris and John Heath, shod in long wellies attacked the site to erect aerial. Squelching through the mire and rushes they erected 300m of wire along the tree line, earthing at the start point. As they approached the end of the reel, they tee'ed off twice with one end being earthed in a large bush out in the middle of the bog, and the other being earthed in a bank of nettles off towards the footy field. They then attached about a 100' of wire near that end to lead to the TX site the next day, looping it up near the ground in the willows. They then decided to go out by a different route so as not to show a way in for the competitors, but got marooned by more bog under the trees. Eventually they got back to the start of the aerial and decided the cover here was better so lifted the earth stake and set the TX at that end, remote from the other earth stakes. On testing this site Chris found that the DF RX lead to the earth stakes from any direction, and nowhere near the TX itself. This seemed ideal and was ready then for the contest. John bagged this site for himself having agreed it was evil. It rained more overnight and the water level had risen by at least 4" by the next day. A good job we decided not to go out in the bog, as both of us had nearly lost wellies sinking into the bog during the morning. This general site area had been used by SMRC for a club Summer evening event some 3 years ago, and Chris having dashed off the plane from Aberdeen without a normal change of clothes, had traversed the bog in suede shoes without getting his feet wet. John had nearly been tempted into one of the reed lined pools before being shouted at to go round (more later). Access to this site was not easy or obvious, with a hidden car park to the East or a longish run from the West.

On the morning of the DF Chris waited anxiously for Graham and Ian to turn up at their allocated site on Black Hill above Disley 23km South East of the start. (Ian is ALWAYS late getting up), but as it was open moorland with a rocky crag to hide in, it was not possible to put aerial up before the day. This had also been used by SMRC DF'ers for a Sunday morning event 2 years ago, and although it was only mile from the road, the marshy pastures get steeper and steeper as the hill is climbed. The pastures are also reputed to grow the best magic mushrooms in the whole of Manchester, but again more later. A quick check by mobile phone to the other two sites, and a dash to the west to deliver spare wire if needed, and all was ready for the contest. Except as Chris was going to the start for final tests, the heavens opened and the deluge began. This was to cause the signals to sink towards the noise and soak the signing in form as Chris greeted competitors to the Club HQ and handed out start and tea location details.

The tides receded before 12:50 transmission time, so everyone got out onto the cricket field for bearings. All TX's were heard on monitor sets and two competitors got bearings on the DF RX's but others had to wait for one or two approximate bearings. Chris, armed with video camera, expected the sites to be tackled from West to East or visa versa, so he went to the Gatley Carrs site to video the bog trotters. A local teams football match entertained during the wait. Ages seemed to pass with no-one appearing, until Roy Emeny and Andy Collet arrived, cursed the camera (when Chris remembered to take the lens cap off) They both launched themselves into the bog tempted by the currents at the earth stakes, and seemed to take ages finding the TX itself (He He). Unfortunately the best scene there was not caught on camera, as Chris went off to Black Hill to see any exhausted teams, but later tales retold Geoff Fosters antics having fallen in up to his chest ( a good job he had a team to help him out , and also had a change of clothes for later). Whilst watching Andy's antics, Chris was talking to the owner of the nursery next door to the site, he was aghast, as he said legend had it that a man and his horse had disappeared in the bog, and that the water level depended on the level (and colour) of the R. Mersey that it drained into....

Over at Black Hill, Trevor Gage had just got in by the time the Video was rolling, having taken the far West and East stations, and missing out on the bog at Gatley. Chris was amazed to find Ian wandering about the field below the site staring at the ground, in fact several competitors found him as well and challenged him as to if he was anything to do with a hidden transmitter, only to get a spaced out answer "What's a DF transmitter then?" (he was after the magic mushrooms, he swears he didn't find any, but Chris wasn't at all sure).

The Rhoddies suffered fatal injuries at Sink Moss, with the TX crew being able to take the easy trampled way out when the event finished at 16:30.

The 14 teams gathered back near Wilmslow at the Plough and Flail pub restaurant for a good cordon bleu tea and presentation of the prizes and trophies. It turned out, due to the wet weather, no competitor found all three transmitters, but some were very close. Congratulations to Andrew Collet for winning and being 'crowned' the National Champion for 1999. The RSGB and SMRC trophies were presented together with his first prize of a bottle of vintage Champagne, his lady navigator collected the Ladies prize, and Roy Enemy took second prize. The Simmonds Rose Bowl trophy for best overall performance in the qualifiers during the year was also presented to Andy Mead.

Results

Place Name Time @ A Time @ B Time @ C
1 Andy COLLETT 15:42:07   14:08:39
2 Roy EMENY 15:44:07   14:14:21
3 Graham NICHOLLS 15:46:23 14:25:10  
4 George WHENHAM 15:51:12   14:08:09
5 Chris WELLS   14:21:52 15:53:39
6 Mike HAWKINS 15:54:19   14:14:05
7 Andrew MEAD 16:18:07   14:20:19
8 Geoff FOSTER 16:19:16   14:14:37
9 Trevor GAGE   14:48:45 16:22:21
10 Colin BOYCE   14:26:00  
11 Graham PHILLIPS     15:22:03
12 Dick BROCKS     15:22:49
13 Steve STONE   15:42:34  
14 Colin MERRY     15:45:16

Presentation Pictures

One team withdrew from the Final due to illness.

Report and illustrations prepared by Chris Plummer.