April 27, 2010

Heron Corn Mill

Hello folks,

If you want to view more detail in an image, clicking once on an image will enlarge it, a second click will enlarge it further hopefully giving more detail)

(This image produced by the staff at Heron Corn Mill)

Its not long now before (National Mills On The Air Weekend) and Sands Amateur Radio Contest Group have the privilege of taking part in this event for the first time from Heron Corn Mill in Beetham. The event takes place on Saturday the 8th and Sunday 9th of May and the mill will be open between 11am and 4pm each day.

Lets take a look at the mill and whats on offer!

Heron Corn Mill and Barn

The picture above was taken by me earlier this year when construction of the Hydro Electric Turbine housing was nearing completion. Don't let the bland looking buildings put you off, there is a treasure trove of things to explore inside the mill and a fascinating history to discover.

To the left of the picture you can see a newly renovated barn where you will be able to buy tea and coffee etc, and to the right is Heron Corn Mill itself. You will also find many but not all of the exhibits that Sands will be offering over the weekend, more on that later in this blog.

The mill is powered by water from the River Bela in Beetham

Looking upstream

As you look at the tranquil waters upstream its hard to imagine the power of the river that drives the water wheel in the mill

The Fish Pass was developed in 1990 by the Environment Agency to allow Sea Trout and Salmon to reach and breed in the River Bela.

(Diverted water coming down the Fish Pass)

(Turbine Housing under Construction)

The water flow down the fish pass is nothing compared to the water that falls over the weir just a little way beyond the swans.

Displays by Sands Amateur Radio Contest Group

The Mill

Both floors of the mill are full of exhibits and interesting information on the history of Heron Corn Mill that has an operational history going back to the 18th Century .

The first of our two radio stations will be operating from the top floor of the mill where the radio operator will hopefully be talking to more distant stations in Europe and around the world. Its also hoped that a demonstration of data communications will be set up to show some of the digital mode of communication we use.

The Callsign for the weekend is GB4HCM

Our second radio amateur station will be operating at ground floor level in the Barn on the 40m and 80m Amateur Bands. The operators will hopefully be talking to stations at other mills around the country and radio amateurs who would like to work us. There should be somebody near the station who can explain what is happening.

The Barn will also contain:

  • A video showing images of other events we have been involved in and will be running throughout the day. Pictures of other special events we have done like "The Abolition of the Slave Trade" and DX-Peditions to the Isle of Mull, and the Isle of Jura will be included in the program. (A Dx-Pedition is formed when a group of radio amateurs travel to distant places and run radio stations in that area where radio is rarely heard)

Special Event at Sunderland Point GB7AOS
(artwork by G0RDH)
  • A display covering what you need to do to become a radio amateur along with information about the Radio Amateur Foundation, Intermediate and Full Licence courses will be available along with a member of the group you can talk too and may be able to help out on courses local to you.
  • A Display of Radio Equipment of the type used at Bletchley Park and the Y stations during WWII and a little on the SOE in the form of a Replica Code Hanky etc.
If you would like to see some great video detailing the building of the Micro Hydro Electric plant there are two excellent video's made by R.G Parkins/IHT. The first was made 5 months ago showing the embryo of construction of the turbine housing and the second was taken just one month ago showing the arrival of the Turbine.


More on the history of Heron Corn Mill at Beetham can be found on their excellent website including the links listed above. http://www.heronmill.org/mill.shtml

Heron Corn Mill Blog http://heronmill.org/blog.shtml

You may have noticed a lack of images from inside the mill, I don't want to spoil your experience if your able to visit Heron Corn Mill, but I will publish them in the future.

If your within traveling distance of the mill pay it a visit, you will not be disappointed. The mill will be open to the public between 11am and 4pm each day. if you would like to try and work GB4HCM on air, we hope to be active from around 10am each day.

Best 73

April 15, 2010

M0SCG taking part in the April RSGB CC SSB

Hello Folks,

The April (RSGB Club Contest SSB leg) took place on the 14th of April and Mark and I used the group callsign for the event running 100w from the FT-1000 into a trap dipole and a Heil headset with the HC5 mic insert.

Band conditions were very good here with MM & MW stations being worked without problem. I was a little concerned that the band conditions would be poor after the high pressure that had been hanging over the UK this last week and little signs of moving.

The contest started fine with us establishing a working frequency and contacts were coming in at a steady pace, I started the contest and then passed over to Mark around 10 minutes in, we usually split the operating between us.

Mark M0DGK

Last month we encountered a problem that lost us 30 min with the radio overheating. This was caused because the (10" Squirrel Blower fan) failed to kick in and cool the transceiver down for normal operation. WE let the set cool down for half an hour and then returned to contesting at a reduced power running search and pounce instead of a spot frequency

The fault was repaired a few days later and a Mod to the blower was conducted (more on this later)

However the transceiver fan failed again in the April contest around 25 minutes in, and we lost a valuable 35 minutes or so whilst we let the set cool down along with stripping the set down to locate the fault.... This turned out to be a new fault although still related to the blower. After the last failure we added a modification to the way the (Squirrel Cage blower) worked. During reassembly after the mod a thin insulated wire had been snagged on an internal heat sink and as the set heated up the wire was broken. It was an easy repair but time consuming mainly in the number of screws plugs and connectors that need to be taken out and replaced again after the repair. The snagged wire could not be seen or felt when putting the set back together again, but we learned from the experience and any loose wires were secured during reconstruction.

Turning a negative experience into a positive one, we both learned from the mistake and no damage was done to the transceiver.

We joined the contest again at 9pm and I went to search and pounce for the last 30 minutes. We made 51 contacts in total and aim to do a lot better next time.

Mark M0DGK removing the heatsink cover.

I think others could benefit from our experience and that's why I've entered details in this blog. So lets go back to where this story started.

Last month we encountered a problem that lost us 30 min with the radio overheating. This was caused because the (10" Squirrel Blower Fan) failed to kick in. A few days later Mark and I set too work locating the fan and heat sensor both were tested and found to be working. It would seem that it was down to a dirty connector or loose plug.

This Blower is poorly described in the service manual but eventually it was found in the heart of the transceiver. There are numerous screws and plugs to be disconnected and we found it useful to take a few pictures of the set as parts were disassembled and unplugged, to help with the re-assembly of the set. ( a useful technique picked up from Ian G0VGS)

Squirrel Cage Blower Modification

Whilst looking for information on the (Squirrel Cage Blower) We came across a the site of K6JRF who had a number of modifications for the FT-1000D, one them concerned noise with the blower and a suggested a modification which in effect causes the blower to cut in and run slowly when the set is switched on it builds in speed as the set gets hotter.

To me this seems an approach that makes sense, the blower runs a lot more smoothly and the components cost pennies. Try this at your own risk all I can say is it works for me. The site contains all the instructions along with photographs

(Thanks James)


If your interested in Radio and Audio his site has loads of information and photographs based on his own experiences.

A second mod was done whilst we had the screws out that can be found at http://n1eu.com
This mod greatly improves strong signal IMD in the FT-1000

n1eu.com has a whole range of mods for different makes of Transceiver and is well worth looking at.

In closing I would like to thank all the contesters out there who contributed to a truly enjoyable contest.

I hope this has been an interesting blog on more than one level.

73 Brian G0RDH

(The Reluctant Contester)

April 14, 2010

Sands Contest Group at The Norbrek Rally 2010

Setting up

Hello folks

Sunday the 11th of April was the date of this years amateur radio rally held as in years past at the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool. As many who have attended this event regularly will remember the event always took place in March on or around Mothering Sunday which caused a bit of a problem for some within the Sands group. The move to an April date seems to have been better all round.

Ready for when the doors open

Ian G0VGS put his Elecraft display on showcasing the K3 which has been the workhorse of the Sands Contest group since it was built not long after the K3's official release and Kev G6FKE took his K2. As always a great deal of interest was shown in both transceivers and both Ian and Kev were able to talk about their experiences in both building and using the radios.

Some members of the group were able to help out with stewarding at the rally including Steve G1TLQ who will be infamous in the eyes of one of the attendees but I'll say no more about that!

As with all rallies it was good to be able to meet friends old and new, none more so than the members of (Workington & District Amateur Radio and IT Group) who we've had contact with practically since our group was started.... It was good to meet up with Paul M1PAF, Steve G0MTD and Peter M0IFF to name but a few.

The Workington Stand

In 2008 Paul, Steve and Mark M0WCR joined us for what was a memorable DXpedition to the Isle of Jura and it will be good to have them join us again for our 2010 DXpedition to the Isle of Arran in September.

It was a great rally and our thanks go out to NARSA and all the Radio Amateurs who made this rally such a success.

Best 73

Brian G0RDH

April 02, 2010

WPX Contest "Tales from Hancocks Hut" March 2010

Hello Folks,

(All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them)

It does not seem all that long since members of Sands Contest Group were taking part in the WPX last year and hoping that we missed the strong winds and rain we were greeted with in 2009. In that contest we were operating a patched up spider beam..... and using our contest callsign G1T.

For anybody wanting to learn more about the "Great Storm of 2009" go to March on the side menu and scroll down to near the bottom of the page.

So how did this years CQWW WPX start?.... Well as with any contest group, it started with a dedicated team of members erecting antennas and setting the station up. In this case it was Ian G0VGS, Kev G6FKE, Hughie G4UME and Frank G8BME.... Without their sacrifice and efforts the contest would not have been possible. I say sacrifice and and efforts because the weather was unrelenting with a mixture of icy wind and heavy downpours of rain and on occasion, hail. The meadow tends to retain water and conditions under foot were poor with the grass acting like a sponge when you stepped on it. Regardless they worked late into the early evening and did not give up until the job was done.

Station Details:

Our callsign for the contest was (G1T) Golf One Tango

The most popular radio equipment the group uses is the Elecraft K3, and a Ranger 811 Amp running up to 400w dependent on Contest/Band regulations. Audio is supplied via a Heil Headset with the HC-5 insert.

The graveyard shift consist
ed of Kev G6FKE (Pictured Here), Mark M0DGK, and Brian G0RDH who operated the station throughout the night, handing over to Hughie at 7am

Taking health and safety into account, we make sure there's no chance the operator will suffer from dehydration. Whoever is on the station is kept well lubricated with tea, coffee or their favorite choice of the amber nectar; which I might add is never taken to excess.... mainly because I cannot find the route any where on my TomTom.

Mark and I took over from Kev, taking it in turn to operate. Our aim was to get a minimum of 200 stations logged before the rest of the crew arrived to take the morning shift. We worked some good DX during the night and plenty of multipliers to help boost our score.

On the funny side was the a station from the USA or Canada, sorry I cannot remember his callsign, who called for stations to wait a minute.... He came back quite quickly and apologized..... His chair had broken during a contact and I think he landed on the floor.... We wish him well and hope nothing more than his pride was hurt.

Hughie G4UME arrived around 7am followed a little time later by Ian G0VGS. It's hard to believe the difference in the WX between the harsh conditions faced setting up the antennas up and what turned out to be a beautiful morning on the first day of the contest.

This shot top right shows the nest of dipoles for 160m, 80m and 40m. Below that is the Spiderbeam for 20m, 15m and 10m and then we have the 80m Vertical with its capacity hat which works very well.

Other antenna's used are verticals for 20m, 40m and 15m.

Ian G0VGS took control of the station and the log
entries picked up quickly. The casual observer may think that Ian's asleep on the job but I promise you he was concentrating trying to get details from a weak station which was not easy because of qrm from stations on adjacent frequencies.

Whilst Ian was operating a fault developed with the Spiderbeam not being resonant and after some investigation the fault was traced to the balun. Sadly this put the Spiderbeam out of commission for the rest of the contest. The thought might strike you that group members may be looking for divine intervention but in reality they are checking the balun out. Sadly we did not have a spare with us.

On a lighter note it was great to see the newborn lambs in the meadow who were both playful and inquisitive, especially around the radials of the verticals but neither the lambs nor the radials came to any harm. We did however have to pop out a few times to reset them. We even had a trainee Guard Sheep!

Ian gently herding the sheep on away from the 80m mast on Sunday afternoon.

ne of the great views from Oysterber Farm

We were joined in the afternoon by Frank (shown operating here) and Steve who gave members who had operated already a welcome break.

Steve G1TLQ


As the daylight draws to a close, if it's not pelting with rain we are treated to a fantastic sunset and what a beautiful one this was

The group are always looked after well by the owners of Oysterber Farm, Barrie G1JYB and his wife Kat
hy M3YOG and Stephany G1LAT. From the first time Barrie and Kathy invited us to use his meadow and site our station in "Hancocks Hut", they have also been fantastic in treating us to a two course meal on the Saturday Night.

At the International DX contest we had a Mexican themed meal and for WPX we were treated to Individual Cottage Pie cooked and served in earthenware pots, with homemade Mushy peas and red cabbage. Our sweet for the evening was a choice of either homemade apple or rhubarb pie served with double thick cream.

A quality wine always flows freely throughout the meal and the meal is finished with a choice of tea or coffee. Stephany G1LAT was our chef for the evening, ably assisted by Barrie who's a wizard with a potato masher. This is always a great time where we can chill out in the company of friends chatting on what ever subject comes up. It would be remiss of me not to thank Kathy who quietly slopes off to the kitchen, dons her marigolds and sets to work on the washing up.

As you can imagine it's a struggle to get back to the radio and the contest but we radio amateurs are a hardy breed who in the true spirit of amateur radio say one and all "Well I guess we'd better get back to the contest then!"

Saturday night / Sunday Morning was very good with Brian G0RDH working through the Wee Small Hours until Kev took over at around 04:45. I was ready for a break! I'm sure there are many contesters / Special Event operators and those great people who trek out and put DXpeditions on for us who will know that time when your tongue goes AWOL and fails to connect with the brain.... I had reached such a point and welcomed Kevs return from "Hancock's Pit", a place once occupied you're reluctant to vacate.

Access to "Hancock's Pit" is all a matter of timing and as usual I was running late!

Sunday was great although the weather was not as good..... I set to making the breakfast on the "George Foreman Grill and Hotplate". "A masterpiece of culinary delight" was about to be created: Irish Sausage, Danish Bacon, Mushrooms and a fried free range egg were all delicately cooked to perfection and then slapped into a large teacake to create the Sands Breakfast Special.... The only cry of dissent was from Hughie "Why's there no butter on these teacakes". I told him straight "Cos butter's fattening and not good for you!"

Around lunch time Andrew
G0LWU arrived with his son Graham M3OBM and it was good to see Graham's enthusiasm asking his dad if he could operate the station.

Graham did really well contesting at an event that can have grown men withering at the thought of talking live into a mic.

Sadly one of our group, Chris G4LDS was unable to be with us because he had just been released from hospital after surgery.... He is a man for all seasons (usually wet) and never far from our thoughts, especially at contest time.

Welcome back Chris

Gary M0RGB made a welcome return to contesting after lunch on Sunday and stayed until the end of the contest helping to notch our score up. He's a natural operator who has held run frequencies and managed them with ease.

One of the stations worked in the contest is one of our members. Mike (M0PRL) joined the British Antarctic Team late in 2009 and works at Rothera Base on Adelaide Island, Antarctica. Mike's callsign is currently VP8DMH and was able to make contact with our station although conditions were difficult.

You can see one of Mikes reports on his radio activity a little further down on the blog site.
I'm sure Mike will be looking forward to IOTA in July where he will be a very popular station to work with his IOTA No. AN-001.

This has been a great contest and the band conditions have been favourable with the world as our oyster. It's still a little on the chilly side but the WX has been good to us, at least during the time the contest was running. Having worked all the stations they could the remaining members of the team bugged out half an hour before the end of the contest. All were beyond tired and made home to a warm and comfy bed for a few hours sleep.

And so ended the CQWW WPX Contest for another year. Although very tiring, everyone who took part enjoyed themselves and the bands were kind to us with few areas of the world not worked.. A heartfelt thanks to all the stations we worked, both for the contacts and occasional humour.

The WX forecast was poor for the first two days of the coming week with wind and rain forecast for Monday and more wind rain and snow forecast for Tuesday, a decision was made to take the antennas down on Monday morning. It was a good call. The wind was just a little stronger than a breeze and the rainfall was light.

Best 73
Brian G0RDH