National Final - 25th September 2005

We left for the National Final in plenty of time to allow for any possible delays on the way, but the roads were surprisingly quiet so we were heading down the A31 at about 11 o'clock. Knowing that the "Watercress Line" steam railway ran just a few miles from the start, we decided to have a quick look at one end of the line at Alton. To our delight we found that the weekend was a steam gala, so there was plenty of action to see. We watched "City of Truro" couple up and steam out of the station with another large engine, then waited as another double-headed train came into the station from the other direction. With an hour to go until the first transmission, we thought we had better set off for the start, to find most of the other competitors already there!

Team at the start

The team at the Start.

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Good signals were heard from stations A and B, and we were pleased to hear that the approximate bearing given on C was very close to our estimate. A was to the North, B was just North of West and C just South of West so we decided to head out West to split B and C for the 1.30 transmission.

We didn't get quite as far as we would have liked, and ended up at 1.30 on a green in a housing estate. The bearing on station C, our target, indicated woods at the bottom of the map, we got a 90 degree cross with the start bearing on B, and an indication that A was just South of Basingstoke.

Heading down towards the woods, the signal came up as we were still on a minor road on the M3/M27 junction, very strong, and indicating Lords Wood. We saw a track into the wood crossing the motorway, so drove down it as far as we could go, to park behind Roy's car. Running into the wood we came to a junction of footpaths, so waited for a signal, which came up within a minute or so. As we ran down the footpath, the set started to turn until the signal was at right angles to the footpath, so I shouted to the team to go straight into the wood at that point, where we split up to search the undergrowth. Very soon, Phil frantically called me, having fallen over a ridge, and found Colin in a rhododendron bush.

Station C

Station C - all I saw was a hat and a hand!

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Back to the car, and with remarkable driving skills, Phil found his way back to the start of the M3. (I had lost the plot completely on the navigation round the maze of roundabouts, slip roads and exits that make up the M3/M27/A33 junction!)

We headed for, and left, the motorway two junctions up, where our 1.30 bearing crossed the start bearing on a track leading from the B road over a river. Imagine our delight to see Graham Jones coming out of the track as we drove in, then a bit further down by the river bridge we saw George's car. Out of the car and running down the track, we soon passed George's team running out. But which side of the track? At the end of the track was a disused railway line on an embankment, so we climbed up the steps onto the path on the old railway. I held back, just in case the signal indicated the other side of the track, whilst Phil and Peter ran off to investigate along the railway. Soon Peter ran back to say that they had found aerial wire - loads of it both sides of a viaduct over the river.

With luck the signal came on shortly after I arrived at the viaduct, and whilst I couldn't get a sense as to which side of the viaduct/embankment to go, the signal peaked up in the middle of the viaduct right over the river. I knew that Phil had gone down one side of the embankment, so I decided to go down the other side and head for the river. Phil came round one of the viaduct pillars and followed me to the river bank where we found a fresh black bin bag, but no station. However, we had just turned to continue the search, when Phil spotted Steve the other side of a bush next to the river. 2 down, one to go, and it's only half past two! Back up the track to the car, but heading back to the motorway we saw about four DF cars parked on the slip road - right next to the viaduct - the easy way in!

Station B

Station B in his bush by the river

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