Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society

Mills on the Air, 2009 - Stock Windmill

22nd May 2009Report by Mark Sanderson, M0IEO.


Mills on the Air, was this year organised for Saturday, 9th & Sunday 10th of May.   Patrick, M0XAP arranged with Essex County Council for CARS to operate from the grounds of Stock Windmill as it was on top of a good hill, with good take-off in all directions and had not been worked before.

Stock Windmill Stock Windmill
Stock Windmill
Photographs by John, G8DET taken in 2008.

There was an absolute requirement that no radio equipmnent (even hand-helds) could be used inside the Mill.   This was agreed.   Patrick organised that CARS could use the call-sign GB5SM for Stock Mill and this was duly arranged with Ofcom.

Mark Sanderson, M0IEO kindly volunteered to use his Mobile Communications Centre (caravan) again this year and this offer was quickly taken up - thank you Mark, M0IEO & John, M3NNQ.  

Report by Mark Sanderson, M0IEO.

Although not as warm and sunny as last year, the weather forecast for the Windmills On The Air Weekend was for dry and fine weather for the whole weekend and this proved to be the case.   John, M3NNQ and I arrived at Stock Windmill at 09:30, located the caravan in itís now customary place to the right of the grassed area within the gate just below the oak tree.   The first job was to get the tea on in time for Patrick, M0XAP to arrive at 10:00 hrs.

On the dot of 10, Patrick then Brian G3CVI, and David, G3SVI and Myra, M0MYR arrived and once the tea was finished we set about the task of erecting the awning, it is at times like that I wish Belinda was with me, she was off on other duties with St Johnís for the weekend and was unable to join us for the site set-up, still with John, Brian, Patrick and Dave and Myra we managed admirably and about two hours saw the awning up and the antenna mast finished and working.   The kit for this year was to be my Kenwood TS480SAT for HF working and for the two meter station my daughter Laura, M3LIQ's Yaesu FT897, although Laura was unable to join us as she was at school rehearsing for the school play, she was kind enough to lend me her rig as it too has HF capability and would be a backup in case of problems with the Kenwood.

By just after mid-day, we were tightening the final connections on the SGC 230 and left it to Brian to carry out the all important testing of the radio and antenna and in no time at all he was happy with the set-up and calling CQ for the first of the many contacts we were to have over the weekend.   I was impressed at how well Brian adapted to the TS480SAT until I found that Brian owns a TS2000 and most of the operating features on the 480 came from the TS200, in no time at all the first lines of the logbook were being filled in and with Patrick logging for Brian, John and I set about the two meter station.   At first we couldnít account for the high VSWR and the fact that the rig had shut itself down to less then 2 watts, this is a common self preservation feature of most rigs today and protects them from damage when things go wrong.   In this case it was an operator error in that the antenna had been plugged into the HF socket instead of the VHF socket!   I know I say it time and again but always check these things, especially if there is more then one person working in the set-up, the other person may not know the rig and associated antenna system as well as the owner, besides with two people looking it halves the likelihood of something being overlooked.   Even with the antenna in the wrong socket we were receiving GB2RWM at Rayleigh mill with a 5 by 8 signal so we knew they were working fine.

So with everything working as it should, I left Brian and Patrick to work the HF station while John worked the VHF side of things for a while, this left me to do a few housekeeping chores which would need to be done and to brew up the all important tea.   Tea drunk, we concentrated on getting as many call signs in the logbook as we could, Brian and Patrick were concentrating on finding windmills on the 40m band and were nomadically wandering up and down the band looking to see who was on and where, I think by 13:00 hrs when Brian had to leave us for the day, there were at least six windmills in the book. &NBSP: Patrick took the baton from Brian and worked tirelessly throughout the afternoon and made close on 40 contacts, not all mills, but all counting in the enjoying radio stakes, Patrick was like a man possessed calling CQ till his voice was sounding rather croaky by the time he went home at 20:00 hrs.   John was doing well with the two-meter station and was working his first pile up, not a situation you normally encounter on 2m but it was happening today!   We had contacts from as far away as Ipswich to the north and down into Greenwich to the south.   We were joined on the 2m station by Steve G4ZUL, who added a good half a page to the logbook, which gave John and me a well-earned rest.

Although we didnít beat last yearís best distance, (Walkern Mill near Stevenage) I was still impressed at the footprint we had considering we were using a co-linier antenna and only 20 watts!   Patrick and I had talked about limiting our output power some time ago in the light of the problems we encountered last year with the neighbours TV doing funny things, this seemed to work this year as we didnít have any complaints of interference at all.   By 20:00 hrs we were ready for a rest and after a dinner of sausage casserole which Belinda had prepared for us the night before, John and I retired to the awning to have a listen around the bands and drink a few well-deserved beers.


Up and about by 08:00, John set to cooking a plate of sausage, egg and bacon for our breakfast, no finer way to start the day.   While John was doing that I set about re-rigging the HF radio as I decided not to leave it in the awning over night, a quick check to see that it was working and we were off again. Patrick arrived at 10 on the dot and was followed by Peter, G4OAD, who promptly left to go and get his Morse set-up.   Patrick was well away again picking up where he left off last night, I took up the 2m station and with just one CQ call was away with a string of stations all eager to add the GB5SM call to their logs.   After half an hour, Peter returned with his Icom IC7400 and a paddle key, which was quickly connected, to the HF antenna and Peter and Patrick worked CW for about an hour but found it hard getting contacts and so reverted to the Kenwood once more.

At lunchtime I was given a tour of the mill by the mill Keeper, the first time I have ever seen the inner workings of a windmill, and was amazed to see the craftsmanship that went into building all the wooden gears and cogs.   The mill was open to the public at 14:00 hrs and there was a steady stream of visitors to both the mill and to the radio station from members of the public and from CARS members.   It was nice to see so many members coming to visit and I will admit to spending more time talking to our members and making tea then working the radio.   Among the visitors was Harry, G5HF and Ethel who took the time to tour round the mill and then came into the caravan for a sit down and to see how the station was going, to my shame I had not recognised Harryís call sign earlier when he had called into the station on 2m, my excuse was that I had worked so many stations that I had call signs coming out of my ears! Jim 2E1RMI and Anne were next to arrive along with Bob, M6IPA, (an easy call sign to remember, and they added another page to the logbook by working the Ireland Conference server on Echolink.

Also visiting was James 2E1GUA who had cycled all the way from Chelmsford, Richard M3YLB and Kris, M3YLN who had been on duty with Raynet in Chelmsford for the Walk of Life event called in to assist with the packing away.

All too soon it was 16:30 and time to pack away for another year and by 17:45 it was just a case of hitching up the caravan and hitting the road.   There was one more thing to do before we left, earlier in the day John M3NNQ had been to the shops and bought a box of chocolates and a thank you card which we wrote out to the mill keeper and his wife to say thanks for another splendid weekend and all the help and hospitality he showed again this year, our members always enjoy the weekend at Stock Mill and we are already looking forward to next year.

I have a list of people to thank and would like to start with Patrick M0XAP for all his work in organising this event for CARS, to Brian G3CVI who always manages to teach me something new whenever we go on these jaunts, to Steve, Jim, Bob, Peter, James, Richard and Chris for their contributions, all of which made the weekend go well and to any members who either came to see us at play or called in on either HF or 2m for a chat.

And to John M3NNQ, my ever suffering mate who is studying for his 2E0 license with CARS, and had to put up with me asking him to recite Ohmís law and the colour code for resistors after a few too many beers and wanting to go to sleep! Good luck with the exam John although I donít think you will need it.

See you all at Sandford Mill in August,

73 de Mark, M0IEO.

Thank you for the Report, Mark.

Patrick reports that many stations were worked in Europe as well as over 25 "Mills on the Air".

A great team effort - thanks to everyone - send your QSL cards, preferably via the RSGB Bureau - or direct - see CARS Web Site Home Page for directions.  

A special Windmill QSL Card has been produced for the event which is available on request.

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