Who needs pubs anyway?

Barrow

I started the week off with a stunning 12km walk from Bloomfield Green/Linear Park in Bath, through the Two Tunnels Greenway, through Midford, Rainbow Wood, Hankley Wood, the village of Wellow, and finally to the Long Barrow at Stoney Littleton. All the pubs along the way were closed on Monday and so we stopped at the village shop for a pasty and two bottles of Honey's cider. It had become even more sunny and warm, and before long we were up by the Neolithic barrow, sitting and looking at the views in every direction of the green valley. Just lying on the grass, chatting nonsense to Dan, and enjoying the warmth and breeze.

After a while, we descended the hill to Wellow Valley Farm and talked about his big Ryeland ram who was relaxing under the shade of a nearby tree. We got some ice creams and sat by Wellow Brook. If we had more time we'd have dangled our feet in its clean and cool water.

Trail camera

On Tuesday, Dan came over and we went to visit the woods to get the latest camera footage. On the way back we noticed the ewes had got into my neighbour's garden, tempted by the unmunched vegetation. My single specialised knot, the midshipman's hitch, came into its own when we used some paracord to pull up the wire fence so that the sheep wouldn't push it down again. We used yellow paracord, which they seem to be very hesitant to munch, plus they don't like things above their head. It turned out my knot choice wasn't great, though, as I had to reach well above my reach to give it any tension. I need a new knot.

Dan back on Saturday and further proved the recent sentiment of 'who needs pubs anyway?'. The day started with the regular visit to the local farm shop for lunch. I had my regular cauliflower dhal, and Dan had a burger with the biggest lump of cheddar in it, covered in calcium lactate crystals. We went back to the woods to check our trail cameras. Overhead power lines run over part of the wood, and a few trees have been felled for safety. It seemed to have spook the animals a bit, but there was still some good stuff on there.

Dan has recently got a new musical instrument, a hollowed-out cattle horn with a mouthpiece at one end. These blowing horns were used in the Viking age, and are like bugles. They produce a loud, deep, resonant sound. He gave it a full blast in the wood and, in the distance, we could see a family walking towards the wood turn around and walk faster, in the other direction. It's safe to say it works, I think.

Later we tried to make a hybrid instrument by putting the fipple from a tenor recorder on the horn. The experiment didn't work.

I prepared a minor feast of Greek food while Dan reviewed the trail cam footage. We sat and ate and talked and drank cider. Later, we collected wood and put it in the chiminea. It burned very well and we kept talking. We drank stout, and in particular Ola Dubh, a delicious stout matured in whisky barrels. And soon, the sun set and the fire had become embers. With the stars coming out, so did Dan's telescope. We looked at the new craters on the moon, at Mars, at the light coming from Betelgeuse that's taken over five hundred years to get to us. I thought more and more about the age of the light coming to us, and how what was laid out before us were glimpses of light from all ages of history, in some cases from stars that are known to no longer even exist. Likewise, the radio waves that we send out from my house, a twenty-watt slow-scan television transmission of a picture of Shrek the ogre, are now radiating out from planet Earth for interception by some distant civilisation for decoding.

As the sun's glow subsided, more and more stars appeared. We headed to a nearby field, checked out the some of the sights of Orion, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, Cygnus and a binary star in Capella. The programs Stellarium and SkyChart were fun to look at, but it was rather Dan's enthusiasm and knowledge of the night sky made it a real experience. The moon was at nearly its full illumination, but it was so bright that we didn't need our headtorches: the moonlight was perfectly adequate to see by. On Tuesday we'll have a supermoon, when the full moon will appear near to its closest point to the Earth.

Each month, the coming of the new moon may mean a couple of hours looking skywards.

Radio

I have been throwing soft drinks bottles over my house. When I showed my antenna to CDARC people, Bryan M0IPO's first reaction that my issue may be of height. Since then, other people have said the same thing. The problem is that where an antenna like mine is less than half a wavelength off the ground, the radiation starts to get more and more vertical. This in turn reduces the range and contacts become more local.

The bottle throwing was about throwing paracord over some high objects, like the satellite dish bracket on the roof of my cottage and the branches of trees, and pull the antenna up. The ends of the antenna, are now maybe 6m rather than 2m. But I tend to mess about on the 40m band, so this is still only about a sixth of a wavelength. I did some tests with WSPR, at well under a watt of output power, and things definitely improved, but I think if I'm going to get that antenna above the requisite 20m I'm going to need a pretty serious mast, so it's more a case of any height being good, really.

The maximum radiation from a dipole takes place in the centre, and so any mast, even if it's not 20m, is best placed there. The inverted vee antenna with a fibreglass pole therefore seems like the best adaptation of my setup.

Coming out of quarantine

You may wonder why Dan appears in this blog so often. Since November — six months ago — he alone has been my only social contact. Looking back, this is extraordinary. The government continues to slowly relax the pandemic restrictions which have been in force for months now. Along with this, for one reason or another, the additional personal precautions I've been taking can be less strict. I'm beginning to talk to people about finally seeing them again. I know that this situation has changed me, mostly for the better actually, but this will feel strange at first. It looks like next month will begin to bring possibilities which have seemed remote for a very long time.