Another year, another beautiful day in Sussex!

We have been extremely lucky with the weather for our outdoor events in the last few years, and this weekend was as good as any.

The car park was almost full when our members began setting up, though I arrived just late enough to avoid the traditional de-tangling of the radial wires on our helically-wound HF vertical, which was mashed into the hedge on the southern boundary of the public car park (the mill grounds weren't open to the public on the Saturday - only the Sunday).

The crew consisted of Alan G8YKV, Stella M6ZJR, Merv M0WVE, Chris M7VJE, Phil G4KIL and myself. We were also joined later by a very nice chap Matt 2E0SFI, a visitor from 'up north' on a day-trip to Brighton. Nice to meet you Matt.

Phil G4KIL set up a 2m station on the northern side of the car park, and we set up our radio trailer ARROW near the HF antenna, and taped-off the immediate area. With an earth rod driven in and one of our brand new LiFePO4 100Ah batteries connected, it was time to see just how well the bands had recovered from the spectacular auroras seen by so many the night before.

The very short answer to that question was 'not very well'. A couple of European stations heard, but nobody we could get a response from. The Yaesu FT-847 seemed to have a bit of an issue on 20m, with the output bandwidth showing an intermittent leap to around 10k, and then back to 3k (on another SDR waterfall we had available) so we swapped the radio out for Alan's Icom IC-7100. Sadly, this too proved to be faulty, with major touchscreen issues. Back to the Yaesu, and we moved down to the 40m band, thankfully with no further problems evident. Odd. The radio could probably do with some extended use to make sure all is well before being taken out into the field again.

Repeated calling on 40m gave equally disappointing results, and it was decided to throw up a 70cm Yagi and try our luck there. Nothing doing. Not a sausage. A scan of the entire band uncovered nothing but background noise.

Phil on the other hand seemed to be talking to a succession of contacts on 2m (a band we were obviously trying to avoid), so that looked to be the place where general activity had migrated to.

Around this time, Dick G0LFF arrived with news that there had been some FT8 activity on 6 metres earlier in the morning, but when we checked the cluster and a couple of UK SDR's, it confirmed our suspicion that HF activity was virtually non-existent and the reported MUF further cemented the fact that it wasn't worth pursuing further.

We agreed that Phil would shut down his station, and ARROW was then outfitted with a 2m Yagi to resume contact with a station that Phil had spoken to, and operations were transferred to the trailer and the Yaesu. Phil wrote-up around 20 contacts made with the GB0JAJ SES callsign, and we went on to make around 10 more log entries to end the day on a respectable tally.

It was good to see Gavin G6DGK who dropped in as we were packing up the trailer for the day.

I spent most of the day working an array of Meshtastic nodes on 868MHz including Henry M0VHR, who was stationed up at Ditchling Beacon, as well as a few regular nodes to the North in Horsham, Surrey Hills and up as far as Caterham, many of whom are amateurs. That's my Heltec V3 node on a 5m mast adjacent to G4KIL's 2m station in the first photo.

On Sunday, I made the trip to High Salvington Mill near Worthing, where WADARC were running a MOTA station (well three, actually).

The trip down there was pretty bad, with traffic along the A27 very slow as you might expect on such a nice weekend. The return journey was even worse, with the A27 closed eastbound at the Adur crossing, so I had to come back along the A24/A272.

Still, I arrived well before the public opening at 2:30pm and chatted with the Worthing guys, but no sign of Phil G4UDU or Gavin G6DGK who both threatened to make an appearance.

They were running a 70cm Yagi on a tripod beaming south, and a 2m station on a vertical antenna up a 5m mast. I think I transferred our bad luck from Saturday to Worthing, as no sooner as I started chatting to the chaps, their new battery died and 2m operations come to an unceremonious halt!

Over to the HF station in the base of the windmill itself, which was doing surprisingly good business with Kelvan M0KEL making several contacts on 40m while I was there. They were using a horizontal 10/15/20/40/80m end fed half wave antenna, the same as is installed at Cyprus Hall, with the coax tied off to the top of the mill steps, well out of the way of the public.

Again, I'd taken my Meshtastic radio along to experiment with, and added a few more nodes to my node list, although not as many as I had expected - just a handful to the south in the Worthing area. I was hoping to connect with a French station in Cherbourg, which a few other guys had contacted, but more disappointment for me. Spot my node on the steps of the mill...

Once the public were admitted, the mill volunteers wasted no time in demonstrating just how easy it was to rotate the entire mill on it's central post, by having three or four youngsters lean their shoulders into the steering arm, and move the mill around by maybe 10 degrees or so. Just enough rotation in fact, to snap the RG8-mini coax - bringing an abrupt end to HF operations too.

Perhaps I had jinxed proceedings enough, and I made a hasty retreat back to Burgess Hill. Sorry guys, but thanks for letting me enjoy another RF day in the sun.

That's all for this year. Hope to see you at the next one!

Berni M0XYF

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