Snowman DF - 8th February 2009

See what you missed... On Sunday 8th February ten teams assembled on Tiptree Heath for the start of the 2009 Snowman DF. The afternoon was destined to be somewhat different to the usual style of DF, as the Operators had already discovered...

It had been agreed that the Maxi TXs ( the site locating stations) would be easy to find. Following the example set at the Mid Essex Trophy, and recalling previous experiences of laying in a ditch all afternoon on a cold and wet January day, it was decided that we would operate the main stations from the relative comfort of our cars. Thereby problem number one - to find a suitable wood, pull-in, car park etc. to park the cars and sit all afternoon without attracting too much attention from Joe Public. Said wood, pull-in etc. also to be fairly close to a decent site into which to hide the Mini TXs - tricky!

Eventually, two sites were found which seemed to fit the bill, although station A was not totally happy with his Mini site due to lack of cover. (A fear completely unfounded in the event - to which XYL took great delight in telling him "I told you so"!)

Station A, G4KQE/P was parked by a small copse next to Little Baddow ford, about 14.5 Km SW of the start. Mini station A was about 500 m from the road, across water meadows, in a bramble and hawthorn bush, and Micro station A was about 200m from the Maxi in a ditch by the side of the road.

A mild panic set in on returning to the car after setting up the Mini and Micro at about 12.30 when the desperate need arose to chuck some wire in the trees only to find Mr Public sitting in his car next to mine reading his paper. How to deal with this as he is going to witness the odd sight of a heavy bolt tied to a reel of wire being lobbed in the air. Only one thing for it..... knock, knock, excuse me, this will probably sound strange, but........ (He was quite happy!)


Station B, G4ICP/P, also parked beside a wood, near Pattiswick, almost as far from the start as Station A but in a northwesterly direction. In total contrast to the start, this site had much snow still lying and the wood entrance located on a 90 degree bend, was interestingly covered in sheet ice, and so became unofficially named "Ice Station Zebra". (those who were there know what I mean!)

The mini was located at the full distance from its parent maxi, quite a trek down the Byway and along an adjacent footpath, hidden in the snow and was camouflaged in a white plastic bag. Some competitors reported hearing this mini at the Start proving much can be done with "QRP".

The micro, (station "Z" or "Zebra") was hidden in a small thicket, very roughly half way between the maxi and mini, next to a tree with its aerial wire running horizontal at just above head height.


At station A all was quiet until 2.12, when Philip and team drove up, clocked into the Maxi and set off across the water meadows. Shortly followed by Roy, and from the bridge across the ford came Ian, then Tim and all disappeared towards the Mini. Having found the Mini, the teams then ran up the road towards the Micro.

A telephone call (yes, I know it's disgraceful when 2 metres should have been used) to Richard indicated who had been in where and who was on their way.

At 3.14 the "second wave" of competitors started to arrive as Colin and Rosie drove up. Standing on the bank of the ford (see photo), Colin soon sorted out the directions of the Mini and Micro, and set off towards the Micro. I was taking a photo of Colin and Rosie running back down the road, when Steve ran past me, from the other side of the ford. With good 80m DF practice, he was off towards the Micro immediately. Shortly after John and team appeared, and Peter, all again from the other side of the ford.

By now, Colin, Rosie and Steve had located the Mini, and could be seen running back across the water meadows. Colin got his card to me, complete with the necessary punch marks, just before Steve. Half an hour later, Peter reappeared with fully punched card, followed a bit later by John, having found all three at station A.


Meanwhile at Station B, the first early arrivals were "winners-to-be" Colin & Rosie from the south followed by Steve who slid in from the north. Due to ice problems previously mentioned I spent time helping teams find suitable parking locations. Just under half an hour later all three transmitters were successfully bagged and both departed off to Andrew in a southerly direction.

Other teams arrived, checked in with me at the maxi and trotted off down the Byway to check in at the mini and micro, taking around 30 to 40 minutes for the round trip.

Graham and team had decided to find my two unmanned stations first, and suddenly appeared at the maxi on foot, their car being parked some way away.

Philip, Tim and Peter Larby all processed by car from the south and arrived at the same time, apparently they had been in convoy all the way from Station A.

In addition to Dfers, Station B welcomed other non-competitors in the form of numerous dog walkers, cyclists (on the ice?) horse riders, moto-cross riders and a couple of 4x4 drivers, (well it was a Byway). With all that activity the path looked more reminiscent of the Somme, with huge gullies and wide craters all filled to varying murky depths to delight the unwary DFer. Wet feet were compulsory, but cheer was in the form of thoughts of Tea to come, and we were certainly not disappointed.

Tea was served at QTH de G4KQE, consisting of baked potatoes and chilli beef, accompanied by the assorted "bring a bite" goodies. After the announcement of the results and prize-giving, and Colin and Steve giving their account of how they did it, the winner, Colin was invited to cut a special "Snowman" cake - a home made matured rich fruit cake, which was soon demolished by 20 or so hungry DFers.


The results........


Colin Merry



Steve Stone



Tim Parker



Phil Cunningham



Peter Larbalestier



Roy Emney


(4 transmitters)


Ian Butson


(4 transmitters)


Geoff Foster


(3 transmitters)


Graham Phillips


(3 transmitters)


John Mullins


(3 transmitters)

The Site - Station A

Station A - Maxi (TX on back seat)

Station A - Mini (TX in bush)

Station A - Micro (TX in ditch)

The Start

John and team

Phil lining up Station A


Colin and Rosie

" if I go down there, turn right by the pub, left at the cross roads, over the hump back bridge and hairpin left by the river....."

"Isn't Essex flat!"

"The Mini's that way"

"Are you sure?"


Caroline and Raymond

That's the Maxi and Mini found - just the Micro to go.

Found it!

Don't ask!

"Could be over there"

Mini here we come!

They can't be far ahead

Come on Chaps!

Who will clock in first?

Why can't I hear anything?

Perhaps its that way.

Station A Mini TX (in black bin liner)

Station A Micro (in coffee jar)

Richard and competitors at station B (note the snow!)

Just what you need after an afternoon's DFing.

"...then the bearing went this way..."

Richard, Master of Ceremonies.

Colin wins the Trophy.

Steve gets the beer.

The Snowman Cake

The winner has the honour of cutting the cake.

The new revelation to DF as we know it - the fully automated Mini TX

and the Micro TX

That's all there is to it.

It's just as well the competition was not 24 hours later....................

Compare with photo above of John and team on this bridge!

My thanks to Richard for jointly organising the event and operating the other station, to Roy for building the new equipment and for "encouraging" us to use it, to Daphne, Ian, Phil and Peter for some of the above photos, to Daphne for doing the tea and of course to all the Competitors, especially those who travelled quite some distance, without whom all our efforts would have been in vain.

Till next time........

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Some of the comments received from competitors:

Just a note to say we had a great day out yesterday at the Snowman event.

This is the second time we have tried a bundle of new innovation and it's still a bit scary and unsettling. As a rule I like to stay in my comfort zone. Talking of scary, I am not looking forward to having to run one of these sites as it seems to me there is a lot to worry about.

As the second event some bits fell into place but I still found myself taking too many bearings.

Think it is interesting to note how well Steve did on his first time out with us in the new format and on his own. Clearly his experience from 80 meters and similar helped stand him in good stead.

It's good to know Essex is pioneering the way in DF and trying to give newcomers in particular a chance to have some positive experience to build on, and in this vain is was good to see John getting in three stations from one site.

I really did like the new Micros, complete contrast to the Minis and a simply joy to DF.

So well done and thanks to Roy for all the time building the kit – which worked really well in the field.

Also to Andrew and Richard for running the event, getting all the kit to work, sitting around in the cold all afternoon and for listening to all our moans and groans afterwards. Two good sites and excellent signals at the start (actually some of the minis seem to over-perform).

Also not forgetting the wonderful tea we had at Daphne's. Again another innovation, with the Snowman cake, which was beautiful (I have had the second slice with my coffee this morning).

So Caroline is limping today with a twisted ankle, I hurt my knee – but we enjoyed a brilliant day out yesterday.

All the best



Just a quick call to say thanks for all your efforts on Sunday with the DF and of course the wonderful spread of food, and snowman cake afterwards.

What a successful event and everyone achieving some results, even if at times frustrating for a few of us!!

Congratulations to all the winners, and to all involved in making the competition work.

Have included some photos to use, also pics of transmitters we were seeking, and proof in one photo that I actually did find Richards' micro TX. (just in time, but not for the competition though.)

Thanks again both, and look forward to seeing you all later in the year.



One of the extra 'spices' that this style of event adds near the end of the competition, is the judgement, 'play safe and return' or 'go on and risk wasting unregistered finds'. Unfortunately it appears that I was the only one to taste that spice so perhaps I can share it with you now....

The results show I found 4/6 stations, the fourth recorded time was Richard' Maxi (I India). I then had a Mini and a Micro left to find. I was running close to Tim and Philip and realised that if we found the Mini at similar times there was no way I was going to win the leg race back to find the Micro and then back to Richard. So I retuned to see if I could hear the Micro. I could, so thought I would try to find that easy Micro, then go after Tim and Philip, hoping that the more difficult Mini would stall them long enough for me to catch up. Then, on the way back, as they diverted to find the Micro, I could sneak past and register both. Thus inspired by the great profit Baldrick my cunning plan was put into action, sadly the execution also had the smell of Baldrick about it....

I found the Micro as planned, retuned back to 1960 for the Mini - sadly brain was seriously out of gear - did not check that I was listening to the right station thus took a bearing (without sense!) on Richard instead of his Mini. This had me running through dense low level brambles for 5 mins until the next pair of transmissions came up. Having realised my mistake I then corrected my track for the Mini but instead of following the nice (if wet) path the rest of my route was through that dense undergrowth. Just as another transmission was due we encountered the gamekeeper - by the time we had explained to him why we were there, and he had explained to us why we shouldn't be, a second transmission had been missed. On through the undergrowth, a look at my watch, it's 4:13 there is the signal and we are close, very close; 4.14 and its off. OK it's within this small group of trees (in fact I was within 20 feet) but if I don't leave now I won't get back to Richard. In fact I did leave then, but I didn't get back to Richard! So 5 stations (virtually 6) found but of course only 4 counted.

Now you might think I would feel miserable at this, in fact I didn't. I had been DFing for a full 3 hours and 10 minutes, loads of good signals, I was pleased with my strategy but I had just pushed on one bearing too many before giving up and screwed up. No one to blame but myself, it had been an excellent event, well planned by the operators. Sorry to Graham (honourable navigator) who may feel he has someone else to blame for all that undergrowth tramping. And sorry to Graham again for apparently sending him down the extremely long route back to Richard when I returned to retrieve the Mini at the end of the competition - yes I did get to DF it in the end!

My only regret about the day was that no one else seemed to face the same decision - go on, or play safe. You know what, we should have had eight Txs, so no one had time to complete, then all could enjoy the multi-Tx dilemma. Ah well there's always next time. Of course it would be possible to have timing systems at the Minis (perhaps we may try that in future) that would be fairer for us oldies, who are bound to miss out on the run back. However, I don't know, I still like the 'great dilemma' a new flavour of DF spice!



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General Description of Top Band DF, Multi TX Event (Roy's web site)