The “Hillbillies” Hamfest and a Park on the way home

Sunday 24 March 2019

The Eastern & Mountain District Radio Club (the “Hillbillies”) annual Hamfest (formerly White Elephant Sale) was coming up. I again had volunteered to man a table to sell WIA merchandise, particularly the Callbook.

The day required an early start from home. Ross VK3NRB arrived before the planned departure time, so we were under way on time. The drive to Heathmont was uneventful. I had a brief stop at one of the Service Centres on Eastlink for a coffee and ran into a couple of amateurs whilst waiting for the coffee to be made. Back onto the toll road and on to Heathmont. Parking at the venue can be tight, but we found a spot in the shade. After unloading the various boxes of books and other stock, we headed up to the venue and started setting up a simple display table.

The morning went reasonably well, with around a dozen Callbooks sold plus some other stock. There was lots of discussion with other amateurs. We had no luck in the door prize or raffle draw, but there were around 300 in attendance, so a small number of prizes means low chances of winning.

After the raffle draw was completed, we packed up and loaded the remaining stock in the car and head back to Eastlink and then south to Wellington Road. We then headed to the east and worked our way around to the target Park.

Upper Beaconsfield Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2219

I had visited this Park back in November 2017, working 15 stations on a very hot week day with poor HF conditions. It was a diversion on a trip to Melbourne for a task long forgotten.

The easiest place to access this Park is using the car park at its northern end, at 65   St Georges Road Beaconsfield Upper. The entire car park is inside the Reserve, so find a spot to park and set up the station within the car park and/or adjacent Reserve beyond the car park fence. The site is located at a reasonable height, with views to the south west towards Port Philip Bay and Mornington Peninsula through the trees.


Google Earth of the Park from the NE

I tossed a line over a tree branch and we soon had the ZS6BKW antenna up with the apex at around 7 m. I set up the station using the tailgate of the vehicle as the operating table. I was running the IC-7300 connected to the auxiliary battery in the vehicle, with the IC-7300 set for 30 W most of the time, but occasionally turning up the power to help out callers who were having troubles hearing me.

On switching on, I give a short call on 7.144 MHz and worked Tommy VK2IR. Ivan VK5HS also called me, so he was soon in the log. I was about to spot myself and saw a 10 or 15 minute old spot for Alan VK3ARH/p in Grampians National Park VKFF-0213. I dropped down to the CW end of the band and heard a “?”. Although I did not yet have the paddle plugged in, I used the memory on the radio to send my call and quickly moved to plug in the paddle…. The response came back at high speed & I got VK2 but missed the suffix. I soon had the call and had Tommy VK2IR in the log on CW. A quick call on CW yield no response, so I returned up the band for SSB.

As I was about to start calling, Tony VK3XV/5 popped up to ask if the frequency was in use, so Tony was soon in the log from VKFF-0888. Tony moved up the band and I started calling CQ. Next in the log was Ray VK4NH, followed by a string of callers including John VK5FLEA/p in VKFF-0877 and Allen VK3ARH/p in VKFF-0213. Allen was a tough copy but we made the contact. After a few more calls, I moved down to 7.032 MHz CW and worked John VK4TJ and Alan VK2MG. I moved back up to 7.144 MHz to work three more callers before moving to 80 m SSB when I had no replies to calls. Fifteen minutes on 80 m yielded six calls, including one on CW.

I moved back up to 40 m SSB and saw a spot for Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0272. I waited for a chance to call and soon had Gerard in the log. Next was a surprise – John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga at good strength. The contact was surprising due to the relatively close distance and the lack of other closer in stations worked on 40 m. I then worked Adam VK2YK and then moved to see if I could hear Jon VK7JON from Bay of Fires. John VK2YW was worked Jon but I heard nothing of Jon…. Frustrating! John assisted in attempting to make contact, but no go. Jon did not have an antenna for 80 m, so that possibility was eliminated.

I moved up to 20 m CW and called for several minutes to work only Scott VK4CZ. I moved up the 20 m SSB and worked Peter VK3ZPF, the only other activator of this Park to date, thus giving Peter a Complete for the Park. Peter suggested trying higher bands, and we soon had each other in the log on 15 m and 10 m. Andrew VK3FIX was the last contact before I decided to switch off at around 0440Z, just less than two hours since we switched on. I had 50 contacts in the log.

Ross assisted with the pack up and we were soon on the drive home.

Thanks to all the hunters and the other activators for the contacts. I am sure that I missed several activators during the morning, but had a good afternoon of radio fun.

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