A visit to the Yarra Valley Hamfest 2017

I had been busy with a major editing task for the last couple of weeks and had already started work on the November issue of Amateur Radio magazine. The forecast for Sunday was for a nice day with strong winds and a late cold front to pass across the eastern half of Victoria. I was undecided on Saturday, but awoke early, so decided to head towards Yarra Glen for the hamfest.

Sunday 29 October 2017

After posting an Alert on ParksnPeaks, I hit the road towards Pakenham and then on to Yellingbo.

Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2224 Not Yet Activated

Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve (NCR) is one of the 200+ NCRs added to the VKFF list in August 2017. Prior to my visit, this reference had not yet been activated. The Reserve is just off one of my possible route choices when heading to the north or northeast of Victoria, especially during winter when the Great Alpine Road across Mt Hotham is often closed.

Yellingbo NCR is almost 643 hectares in size, predominantly running along three creeks on the southern slopes of the Yarra Valley, around the hamlet of Yellingbo. Like many of the NCRs, there are no Park Notes available. Amateurs intending to activate the reserve should read the Management Plan whilst planning their visit.

One might be surprised at the ecological values if one was simply driving along the roads near the NCR. To quote from the management plan Summary:

“The reserve protects a diverse array of flora and fauna including around 285 native flora species and 230 native vertebrate species.  The reserve also protects areas of Sedge-rich Eucalyptus camphora Swamp Community, which is considered to be of national significance.

The reserve provides habitat for the last wild colonies of the endangered Helmeted Honeyeater, Victoria’s rarest bird and its avifaunal emblem.  Once widely distributed in the Westernport to mid-Yarra area, the known wild population of the Honeyeater is now around 100 individuals, most of which reside within the reserve.  In accordance with recommendations in the Helmeted Honeyeater Recovery Plan 1999–2003 (Menkhorst et al. 1999), management aims to protect and enhance habitat to allow this population to survive and expand.

Also of note is the presence of the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, which is the only known occurrence of this possum in lowland forest areas.  Other significant vertebrates include the Spotless Crake, Powerful Owl, Southern Emu-wren, Yellow-bellied Glider, Platypus, Mountain Galaxias, Southern Pigmy Perch and Swamp Skink.”

Intending activators should also take note of two of the significant management directions listed in the Summary:

  • Maintenance of the current low levels of passive visitor use to ensure natural values are not adversely affected.
  • Encouragement of active recreation activities at alternative locations to the reserve.

Later in the Plan, one should read section 6.1 on Visitor use. This section lead me to “Parslow Bridge” as a possible site for an activation. A search of that name on Google Maps did not help, but a quickly found the spot by examining the area around Yellingbo: the bridge on Parslows Road across Woori Yallock Creek.

Careful examination of the mapping information and satellite images shows an unsealed car park on the north side of Parslows Road immediately to the east of the Creek. The northern half of the car park area is inside the Reserve, whilst the southern half of the car park is on the road reserve. Being beside the road, it is an area where an amateur radio activation is unlikely to cause disturbance of the Helmeted Honeyeaters.

It set up against the fence on the north side of the car park. The space is tight – not quite enough space for an 80 m dipole. I used a squid pole supported by one of the fence posts and initially strung the inverted V out for 40 m.There were plenty of bird calls from the scrub nearby whilst I was setting up.

The Alert had been for 7.144 MHz, but being Sunday morning, there were a couple of News Broadcast stations nearby. I found a clear frequency and spotted myself. 20 minutes of calling yielded only 11 contacts on 40 m, so I strung out the rest of the dipole and called on 80 m. This yielded another five callsigns, including a station from near Benalla who was keen to ragchew. It happens that he knew a previous holder of VK3PF. It was now 2320 UTC (Saturday UTC time) and the hamfest had been underway for 30 minutes. This was not a concern, as I was visiting primarily as a social opportunity.

Yarra Valley Amateur Radio Group Hamfest

I packed up and headed to Yarra Glen. I paid the entrance fee and was quickly greeted by two amateurs and started chatting. This pattern continued for the next 45 minutes. In between chats, I managed to have a quick scan of the stalls. I saw nothing much of interest to me.

I finally departed at around 1200, sending a text message to a friend declining the invitation to join them at the local hotel for lunch – I had other targets in mind.

After purchasing some lunch at a bakery, I headed toward Healesville and up the Black Spur to Dom Dom Saddle.

Mount Vinegar VK3/VC-005 1069 m 6 points

From Dom Dom Saddle, I headed along Dom Dom Road and then veered onto the link track towards Road Eight. As indicated by Tony VK3CAT in a post after his activation of Mount Dom Dom VK3/VN-017 on 15 October, the normally locked gate was open. I drove around onto Road Eight. When I passed the junction with Carters Gap Road, I noted that the gate there was locked. I continued on and up, passing a helipad area with a large water tank. Soon after, there was another open gate. I was able to drive all the way to the summit, making this an easy access 6-ponter today!

I checked out the trees nearby – mainly tall mountain ash with the lowest branches a long way up. I decided to set up with a squid pole strapped to a tree stump on the north side of the track, so I was outside the Yarra Ranges National Park boundary. This activation was SOTA-only.

MtRitchieFrVinegar

Looking from Mt Vinegar towards Mt Ritchie

After checking the frequency of choice, I started calling CQ. When I finished the call, I heard Alan VK7AN/p calling CQ – we had been doubling. Alan was a good copy, so I waited whilst he worked a couple of stations and then made a contact with him. Alan left me with the frequency and I worked another 4 stations on 40 m SSB before I switched to 80 m. 80 m only yielded Nik VK3NLK/p in the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park VKFF-0747. Sorry that it was not a Park to Park contact Nik! With no more callers, I packed up, happy to have 6 in the log and a new Unique and a new Complete.

NNEfrVinegar

Looking NNE from Mt Vinegar

I headed back down to Dom Dom Saddle and considered my options. I decided to head to another new Unique to make another new Complete.

Back down the Black Spur with the usual slow traffic and then very slow through Healesville. After crossing the Yarra River, I headed south towards Warranmate Hills Nature Conservation Reserve. Lunch must be good at “Ezard at Levantine Hill”, as there were three helicopters parked on the lawn! I considered my options as I approached the Reserve, but decided to head around to the southern approach which has been used by several amateurs.

Warranmate Hills Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2244 Not Yet Activated
Briarty Hill VK3/VC-029 424 m 1 point

I parked the car at the entrance gate on Yarraloch Way and loaded up the SOTA pack. I started along the Management Vehicle Only (MVO) track, noting some signs posted about new Regulations for the Reserve, banning mountain bikes from single tracks and permitting their use only on MVO tracks. As I was walking along the tarck, I recalled that one needs to drop down vertically before starting to climb, so I decided to venture uphill on one of the single tracks that climbed from the MVO.

The walk was pleasant but warm. The temperature was in the mid-20s. The track chosen headed up along the edge of gully and there was evidence of previous mountain bike use. The track eventually crossed the gully and I started working my way up the spur on various single tracks. I eventually ran out of obvious tracks and continued up the spur using animal tracks most of the way. Near the top of the climb I encountered a wire fence. I crossed the fence and very quickly found an old vehicle track. I followed this north and then west to join the main track to the summit.

There is a large Telstra comms site at the summit, so I set up about 100 metres down the track trying to avoid any unwanted RF noise.

I spotted myself on 40 m and was quickly answered by Paul VK5PAS once I started calling. 40 m was full of signals, with EU and NA stations working the CQ WW SSB contest. I worked six locals on 40 m before changing antenna links for 20 m, hoping to hear Phil VK6ADF/p and Hans VK6XN/p, both out in Parks. As I was changing the antenna, I received an SMS from Tony VK3CAT. Shortly afterwards, we worked each other on 2 m FM. Thanks for the contact Tony – I was now close to the magical 10 contacts needed for VKFF qualification.

I tuned around on 20 m SSB. Nothing heard from Hans or Phil. The band was busy with contest traffic. I spotted again down below 14.200 and after the second call, a contest station in Bulgaria started calling CQ. I tried calling back – no response. Then Warren ZL2AJ tried to call the Bulgarian – he had no response. So I called Warren – success! Nine callsigns were now in the log.

I gave up on 20 m and strung out the 80 m extensions before spotting myself. I was quickly called by Mick VK3GGG. I finally had the Park qualified. Further calls went unanswered, so I switched off and packed up at around 0730 UTC.

I headed down off the summit via the steeper original track and then back down the main track. Along the way I met someone walking up the track for some exercise. We discussed options for descent to the southern entrance. I offered to show me the 2 route options that he knew, given that he had not planned to go much further. As we descended along the track, I outlined SOTA and WWFF. We reached a point on a slight flat area of the ridge where there was an old vehicle track. There was a more defined option further along, but I decided to head down on the option in front of me. I thanked him for the company and pointing out the start of the track, located at roughly where I thought it might be as I was considering my descent options and the information that I could recall from earlier blog descriptions of the summit. The track is becoming a bit overgrown lower down, but I eventually reached the main MVO track. It was then simply a matter of following the MVO track as it crossed several ridges and gullies and eventually back to the car. I arrived back at the car just before 2000 local time.

BriartyDescent

Looking to the SE during the descent

BriatyRoute

My route to the summit & return

All that remained was the 2 hour drive home!

Looking back at the maps, I suspect that this summit may be a little easier from the northern entrance. One would save about 100 m of climbing and would simply follow the MVO track up the hill.

As noted by Tony VK3CAT: it is a tough walk and climb for only 1 SOTA Activator point. But it was a new Unique and another Complete, together with a first activation of the VKFF reference, so I am satisfied.

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One Response to A visit to the Yarra Valley Hamfest 2017

  1. VK5PAS, Paul says:

    Hi Peter,

    Nice to get you in the log. Very interesting to read about the plight of the Helmeted Honeyeater.

    73,

    Paul VK5PAS

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