On Friday, 16/11/18 I planned to activate the Swan Reach Conservation Park VKFF-0832 for the Murray River Parks Award that is administered under the umbrella of the World Wide Flora & Fauna in Amateur Radio (WWFF) Program, so popular with Amateur Radio operators world wide now days.
My Chauffeur (my affable 16yo son Riley) and I left our home location at approximately 8:15 am for the journey to Swan Reach. We followed the conventional route from home via the Sturt Highway, and stopped to stretch our legs at the look-out above the town, just before you ascend into the town itself from the Blanchetown Rd cliffs. It was then the chauffeur’s first go at navigating us across the Ferry, over the mighty River Murray, and onwards to the park,
The Parks is located about 15km from Swan Reach heading west on the Stott Highway towards Sedan and Adelaide. We accessed the park after turning off the the Stott Hwy onto the Old Punyelroo Rd and into the Park entrance itself. It is all clearly signposted. The blue dot on the satellite image was our operating spot, in a nice clearing, a short drive into the Park under some trees.
It was a beautiful day, wall to wall blue sky and a slight, cool southerly breeze, the temperature about 22 deg C. The Chauffeur expertly parked our Millennium Falcon under the nearest shade shrub, and I wasted no time in setting up the portable antenna. For drive-in activations I have settled on my trusty ALDI bike stand tripod, 8M squid pole and 40-30-20 M inked dipole. It goes up in minutes, and radiates my signal very well. I have opted for the tripod instead of tying to a tree or support, as I have usually found that the available centre antenna supports like posts and tress don’t suit where I want to set up. The tripod takes that unknown out of the equation, and allows me to have my squid pole supporting the antenna, right next to the operating position. I have a couple of heavy sandbags to stop the lot tipping in strong winds, but its not often needed. certainly not today in the perfect weather! Coupled with my Icom IC-7300 Transceiver, this setup is a pleasure to use on the air.
I was soon on the air and calling CQ Parks on 7.144Mhz, the 40 Meter band. First in the Log was Gerard, VK2IO with a lovely 55 signal into Swan Reach, followed by numerous stations in VK2 and 3, including Peter VK3TKK/M and Brad VK2BY/M who were both very readable from the mobile, Paul, VK5PAS/3 and his wife Marija VK5FMAZ/3who were enroute to Bendigo, also called in. They were easily worked 56 and It was nice to get them both in the log. After about an hour I decided to change bands by removing the 1st link on either side of the dipole (quick and easy when the antenna is supported by the bike stand) and started calling CQ again, but now on 14.244, the 20 Meter band. This only resulted in 3 contacts, including Geoff, VK3SQ, who had a massive 59++ signal into my location. I was equally strong at Geoff’s end. There weren’t any other takers so I headed back to 7.144 on 40 Meters after about 10 minutes to finish up my activation. This time John, VK4TJ, was obliging along with Marija and Paul, who had found a park to operate from and popped up for a park to park from the Barrett Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2264. Thanks Guys!
By this time, my Chauffeur was starting to eye off the Falcon’s upholstery he was that hungry! Likewise, I was also keen for a feed as well. We packed up, left nothing but footprints, and headed straight for the Swan Reach Hotel.
Swan Reach Hotel – a bit of history
The Swan Reach Hotel wasn’t actually purpose built to be a hotel , but morphed from original Swan Reach Station homestead built circa 1865.
Beginning 1861 the original Swan Reach Station was just of a couple of huts, workers’ and shearers’ quarters, some shedding and ramps. You can still see the remnants of some of the buildings located in the beer garden. On the other side of the fence are the remains of the loading ramp, where wool bales from the shearing shed were loaded on to the small tramway that sent the bales down to the river’s edge via wooden slides, and on to the waiting barges that made their way to Goolwa.
In 1896, a Mr Paul Hasse from Lobethal purchased 520 acres of land which included the Homestead. His wife, Emma, applied and was given a licence on the 12th September, 1899. Unfortunately Emma passed away the following year, then Paul continued to run the hotel until 1909.
There have been many major additions to the Swan Reach Hotel over the years of its operation. The stone, single room public front bar was built after 1907, and the second storey added in 1912. Around in 1940s the block form of the hotel evolved with its rendered finish. The grand dining room was added in 1996. The hotel boasts a spectacular view overlooking the Ferry as it completes its never ending to and fro crossing across a lazy river.
Most importantly , the food, drinks, service and view were first class, and my chauffeur pronounced his Chicken Parmy ( we’re from South Australia, so deal with it) one of the better ones he’s had. My rump steak was delightful, and cooked to perfection! We bid Swan Reach farewell, we’ll be back!