The one downside of using radio scanners for a hobby is the line of sight problem with signals at VHF/UHF. We spend so much time installing effective antennas to get the most out of our radio but ultimately your location has the last say on what you receive, that’s why so many enthusiasts buy or rent properties that have at least some altitude.
Bagging a place on the highest peaks is usually out of the question, either due to lack of funds or the fact that houses just don’t get built there. Camping on mountains and the radio scanner hobby will always be a good fit, making the summer months a double hit of joy as the warmer weather means its time to drag myself and a chunk of radio equipment up some hills.
Not having the time to get on a long train ride during the week (even working from home there’s still demands on my time between Monday to Friday) does limit the places to use, especially as I live in the midlands (one of the flattest places in the UK).
This lack of hills does offer you the edge though with even the more modest elevations giving enough height to get good reception.
Enter the Lickey Hills, at just under 300 meters high its a much easier climb than some of the other mountains in the UK we crawl up each summer but does have the advantage of overlooking the UK’s second city, Birmingham (so plenty of radio traffic).
Scanner Radio Traffic Highlights
Since the 446 MHz license free radios were introduced there use has been taken up by countless businesses and private individuals. The low power means signals get heavily attenuated in built up areas but are great over a clear line of sight and I believe if those using them realized just how far the transmissions go, they just might switch over to a more secure system 🙂
Listening to the 446 stuff coming out of Birmingham from the Lickey’s does sometimes give overlaps and its hard to zone in on one signal but with so many users there’s always something to listen to.
These low power radios have also been serving as a sort of unofficial VHF CB radio replacement for a while now and its not unusual to hear the same style conversations you’d normally hear on 27MHz. These tend be more frequent on the weekends and with a signal clarity that suggests they might be using much more power output than the service was designed for!
Ham VHF/UHF Simplex Channels
I always like to take an extra radio scanner with me just to monitor the amateur simplex channels. This turns up a fair amount of traffic that carries on well into the night and is a good indication of how effective your chosen listening spot is, especially as mobile ham’s will often pass their location over the air.
Listening to the ham repeaters can be entertaining for a while, although I get a good number overlapping from the Lickey’s, making it a bit difficult sometimes to tell what’s coming from where.
Checking Out Old Police Frequencies
Before wrapping up for a few hours sleep I spent some time going through the block of channels around 452 MHz that were once used by the UK police force. I’ve wondered for a long time if the change over to TETRA meant these frequencies where abandoned all together of if there was some police (or other traffic) still using the exact same frequencies.
In the short time I was monitoring there were a few slight blips (which could have been data bleed over) but no voice transmissions at all.
I still remember the days when UK police transmissions were “in the clear” and a nice high spot like this would have served up a full nights entertainment just listening around 452 MHz alone.
Lickey Hills Video
To get an idea of the height of the Lickey’s and my luxurious sleeping arrangements 🙂 , I took some video and uploaded it to the Scanner Heaven YouTube channel.