We arrived at the start, Broadway Tower, in plenty of time, and after saying hello to a few fellow competitors, walked the short distance to the tower to admire the magnificent views over the Vale of Evesham.
Three signals were heard at 12.50. Station A was to the North, a quite weak station B was almost due West, and station C was to the South-west. Although it would have been possible to split B and C for the 1.30 transmission, the bearing on C went between two big hills and it looked like the run in could be hard work, so we decided to use the time until the 1.30 transmission to cover the distance up the map towards station A.
We were aiming towards the clump of woods to the West of Alcester, but didn't get quite as far as we would have liked. Indeed, at 1.30 we were actually on the start bearing, but as we were still between two woods, decided to take a bearing anyway. We were too far out to even consider trying to take bearings on the other two stations, so as the first fixed transmission is four minutes long, decided to do a "runner", by driving down the road a mile or so to take another bearing on the same transmission. The second bearing was quite a bit different from the first, and crossed, not in the woods as we thought it would, but near to a footpath running alongside the River Arrow.
There were two ways in, about a mile apart, and we chose to go in from the North. As we ran along the footpath, the signal came on, getting stronger and stronger, and slightly pointing to the river side of the path. We spotted wire in the hedge alongside the path, so investigated that. I found the end tied off to a fence, so decided to let Phil and Peter carry on investigating the wire, whilst I crossed the other side of the path to where the set had pointed. At that point, I was joined by Graham Nicholls and team running in from the other direction. A few seconds the other side of the path and I saw Graham coming away from the station, so clocked in, called to Phil and Peter and ran back to the car.
We headed South with the intention of getting an indication of C on the way to B, and stopped to wait for transmissions in a good place to split the two start bearings. B came up, but very weak, and C came up, but the bearing was no where near the two big hills noted at the start. We even checked for a reverse sense! In the event the bearing on C was pretty much spot on, although we didn't know it then. Thinking that B was on a river bank or in a water park North of Tewkesbury, we headed in that direction, only to hear a strong C signal on the way, with the bearing going through Tewkesbury. When we came to a dead end with no bridge across the river to the footpath the other side, we really thought we had blown it big time! Driving round and up the other side of Tewkesbury, a still very weak B signal said he was definitely not where we were headed, and still a long way off.
Trying to find our way Westwards, a navigational error (or blessing in disguise) sent us up the road we had just come down. Once again a very strong C, but this time going through a thin wood by the River Severn, and a still very weak B going approximately West.
Changing tactics, we abandoned B and headed for the thin wood, to arrive in the car park to find two DF cars already there. As we ran down the footpath along the river, the signal came up and instead of pointing to the wood, pointed along the river. A bit further and we saw another DF team run out of the wood and head for the river bank. After a short run with the other team, our Champion Aerial Spotter did his stuff and saw the aerial. At that point the TX came on, so I ran into the open away from the river bank to try to get a close in bearing on the station, only to turn round to see Phil waving me over to a slope down the river bank to the TX. Roy was now in front by a few seconds, having claimed back our 12 minute lead on him at the first station.
We were right behind Roy as he left the site, and about a mile out of Tewkesbury station B came on, Roy stopped, then we did, and the bearing still went vaguely North-west and we still didn't have any idea where the TX could be. Roy got away first, only to stop again a few minutes later when the signal came up again. This time the signal was much stronger, and had started to turn, through the Malvern Hills. The earlier bearings now seemed to be indicating the Hills as well (we hadn't even drawn some of them long enough!), so we decided to head for the car park on the edge of the Hills. Another DF car was already there, but the signal was still fairly weak (shielded by the Hills we now know) and pointed straight up the hill. Nothing for it but to start running? up the Hills. The signal came on as we were going up, so guided us along the footpath, then just started to turn as we got to the top of the hill, and went off! Phil and Peter started to investigate the bushes on the slope of the hill, but I stayed up the top with the set for when the signal came on again. At that point we were joined by George's team who had come over the hill from the other direction. When the signal came on, initially it took me across the hill, then back again towards the bushes on top of the hill. I followed the set, the team spotted the aerial, but the set took me right to the transmitter, to clock in at just after 10 past 4.
George's team called him in a couple of minutes later, then Min arrived after short while. Whilst swapping stories with the other teams, a very hot and bothered Roy's navigator arrived on site, and yelled to Roy, who could be heard in the distance. After a few minutes, Roy appeared on the other side of the bushes and then decided to take the direct route in, straight through the bushes to the transmitter, cursing that he hadn't taken the turning to the car park earlier, losing him the top spot.
Not knowing of course how other teams had done the other way round, we set off right across to the other side of the map, to arrive nearly last at the tea site back at Broadway Tower. Listening to others, it soon became apparent that not many teams had found all three, so we were in with a chance. Geoff read the results in reverse order, and when he announced third place, and had not yet mentioned us or Roy, we knew that we had won the National Final for the second year running.
2006 has been a good year for us again, for not only did I collect the RSGB trophy and the BTBDF trophy for winning the National Final, but I also collected the Rosebowl, having amassed 40 points with 3 second places, 2 wins and a third. Those trophies now join the Geoff Peck Trophy, finally won in March after a nine year chase.
This year's National Final was quite a tough event, but good roads and easy access to all sites, and most of our decisions fell into place, despite the cock-up and change of tactics half way through the afternoon. My thanks to Geoff for organising the event, the TX operators, and to Phil and Peter for their teamwork.
For full results see B.T.B.D.F. web site www.topbanddf.og.uk/06finalres.htm
and for pictures see B.T.B.D.F. web site www.topbanddf.og.uk/pics/2006final/index.htm