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Confessions of a Rally Addict: 30 years of (mainly) fond Memories from David G7IBO.

March 18, 2023 By: john daws Category: Club, Fun, Hamfest

There has been something of an out break of Rally Nostalgia at Wythall Radio Club recently. (it’s that time of year) so how timely that David G7IBO should dive back in time  and recall his rally experiences.

Confessions of A Rally Addict  by G7IBO

In 1990 I was just a naïve young lad, vulnerable to the seductive pull of RF of which I knew nothing.  And there was nowhere more suffused with it than the local Radio Rally!

My ‘friend’  Ellis (GM4GZW) introduced me to my first hit.  “Come to a radio rally near Glasgow (Ervine actually)” he said, “but beware that we’ll be there all day”.  I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it or more likely get totally bored but…. YOU COULDN’T DRAG ME AWAY!

I’d discovered what I’d been missing in life:  technology that I didn’t know existed;  affordable stuff that I could buy and tinker with; rigs that I could drool over (but never be able to buy!).  I was like a kid in a sweet shop.  And that was it for me.  One little taste and I was hooked.

Unfortunately, living in Edinburgh, the Rally calendar was pretty sparse.  The few that took place were small / medium affairs and didn’t really satisfy my craving.  I was informed that to get to the good stuff required more time and commitment.  The first outing with ‘the boys’ was Blackpool.  It was a good few hours drive but I was getting desperate for a fix.

It did not disappoint.  They had everything!  I bought my first ‘Wessy’ (Pye Westminster) and spent many hours fiddling and learning, buying the relevant crystals, tuning it up, putting in a preamp etc but eventually the high wore off and I needed something more.

Elvastan Castle is the stuff of legend.  It was the best rally ever – so good in fact that four of us travelled from Edinburgh, spent the night at a Travelodge and the next day in Ham ecstasy.  It took place in a field, three main tents (huge), and a number of other small ones.  The flea market was never ending and everywhere you looked there were dealers pushing their wares.  I think that was my last really long trip (~550 miles) but it shows how much of a junkie I had become

Ellis (GM4GZW)  and   Azeem  (GM8KWQ) who were still making the trip from Scotland!                             

I moved to deepest Englandshire in 1992 and discovered that the Midlands is at the centre of all that is Rally related.  Just about all of the major rallies are within 2 hours drive.A one off rally was the MARS rally at Alderbrook School in 2006. (See below right)

I could never understand why this was never repeated.  It is just at the bottom of my road – I could have walked! But I didn’t.  And it wasn’t bad!!

But then I discovered Wythall.  It was many years before I joined the club but I was certainly a devoted attendee at the rallies.  I remember the tent between the huts, the mud bath parking, the move to Woodrush school.  And I remember the park and ride – I wonder which member was driving the minibus???

I always thought that this was a great rally.  I have many mementoes sitting on my shelves.  And it was so close too.

Wythall became one of my annual go-to events but there were a number of others.  Some of them moved location over the years.  The Leicester Amateur Radio Show was in Granby Halls in Leicester when I first sampled its delights.  Granby Halls – what a dive –but an interesting rally.  It moved to Donnington Park in 1998 and stayed for 10 years.  It consisted of one huge hall with a few flea market bits outside.  It reminded me a bit of the hall at the National Hamfest.  Unfortunately after moving to Loughborough University in 2009 (which I missed) it disappeared into the mists of time.

Another rally which has seen a number of venues is the excellent Telford Rally.  When I first went to this it was housed in a large sports hall.  I will forever remember my trip there in 1997.  I switched on radio 2 as I was heading along the M54 and was greeted with strange sombre church music, not at all what I expected.  The cause as I’m sure many will remember was the announcement of the Death of Lady Diana Spencer.  We had a moment of silence in the Rally hall, respected by all, and remembered by all who attended I am sure.

From the year 2000 it was then housed at RAF Cosford (for the next 5 years).  It was great to be able to be distracted by the large jet fighters surrounding the vendors and provided an added dimension to the whole experience.  I was sad to hear that they were leaving and I must say I did not like its new home at the Midlands Showground out near Shrewsbury.  A poor venue and it seemed like a real hike to get there.  Fortunately, the next year saw a move to ‘Enginuity’ (Ironbridge) which was a much more interesting place, and this excursion lasted 16 years.  It again offered alternative entertainment to the actual rally (my addiction must be waning – I actually went round the museum once – but then the rally had probably finished).  It recently moved again to Harper Adams University near Newport.  This is a good venue and it is still one of the good rallies to attend.

The Rugby Rally has had a couple of moves over the years but it seems to have settled at Princethorpe College and is one of the best ‘outdoor’ rallies but don’t expect any of the major retailers.  It’s like a smaller version of the Newbury rally –  great for the rummagers amongst us. 

As I’m getting older I find that much of the old technology that I used to drool over in my youth has become more available.  And then some has become unavailable again when the collectors start to move in.  I used to be able to pick up a BEEB (BBC micro computer) for a tenner at one time!   

The National Vintage Communications Fair (or RetroTechUK as it now known) is a great place for nostalgia.  Plenty of old gadgets – some even older than me!  This has some ham gear but is much more diverse than most rallies.

The Milton Keynes Rally has moved around a bit but the venue now has a mixture of indoor and outdoor stalls. The indoor bit doesn’t thrill me much but there is plenty in the field.  And after the rally it’s off to Bletchley Park for the wife and I.  If you are a member of the RSGB you can download a voucher and get in for free so it’s a no brainer really.  For those who want to see the vintage computing museum (well worth it) you will have to pay though.  It really hits the spot for those of us who have tinkered with computers since the 80’s.

There are two pilgrimages for the rally junkie.  One is the Dayton Hamvention in Ohio which is on my bucket list.  The other is Friedrichshafen.  Both are three day events and are massive.  This is just one of the four main halls and there are talks and auctions and other special events.  There was a steampunk gathering when I was there (2017) which I found particularly fun.


The Main Halls at the Famous Friedrichshafen Rally in Germany: David and Juliet (and probably Ian M0IDR) are in there somewhere!















And you never know who you will meet!  It’s a small world! Jamie M0SDV with Juliet M6RSC (below right)

Lake Constance is beautiful.  There are boat trips all around to see the sights, museums, Zeppelins in the sky, and it would be a fantastic place to just go for a holiday.  The addition of a rally with every ham related item you could dream of (including many things you don’t see in the UK) makes it one of the essentials. 

We were surprised to meet Jamie (2E0SDV) in Germany but I am never surprised to meet the only other ardent rally goer in the club.  Ian (M0IDR) seems to be similarly afflicted to me.  I am not surprised that his garage is rumoured to overflow with old radio gear.  You just keep finding bargains!

I could go on and on (you already have I hear you say) about the various rallies but this ramble would not be complete if I didn’t mention the National Hamfest.  This has been a fantastic addition to the rally calendar.  It is huge, and has just the right mixture of dealers and junk.  There is something there for everyone and its definitely  one not to miss.  It is unique in the UK in that it lasts 2 days.  It takes me 1½ hours to drive there, but I still make the trip on both Friday and Saturday.  Real hard core rallying on the Friday but I take Juliet, my wife (M6RSC), on Saturday for a gentler saunter.  I was devastated to hear that this year’s excitement was not to be.  But it will be back!

Unfortunately, many of the rallies that kept me satiated have ceased to be (including our own).  There has always been some coming and going of rallies over the years but the pandemic really did for us.  I hope that it recovers but I worry that the growth of the online auction sites has made life too easy for us gatherers of junk.  It is much easier to obtain that special item that you have been looking for for years but I still prefer that rush when you find your long searched for treasure in a box under a table marked £1.

David G7IBO

The G7IBO Rally Curriculum Vitae in Full !

National Hamfest Newark, Elvastan Castle, Drayton Manor, Wythall, Rugby, Junction 28 Alfreton, Milton Keynes, Derby, Black Country, Leicester Amateur Radio Show, TelfordNEC (RSGB & Vintage radio) ? 90’s, Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker, Brighton and Hove, Newhaven Fort, Galashiels, Cockenzie & Port Seton, Blackpool, Wakefield, Lancaster University, Newbury, Kempton Park, Dunstable Downs (Luton) Andover, Harwell-Didcot, McMichael Rally Reading

Wherever next??!!



Wythall Hamfest – Midlands Inter-Club GMT Award Presentation

February 29, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, Hamfest, News

Solihull ARS will be announcing the results of the first MIDLANDS INTER-CLUB GMT AWARD at Wythall Hamfest:

12 noon, Archery Hut (Hall 4), Sunday 15th March 2020

The overall winner will receive a radio, kindly donated by Martin Lynch and Sons Ltd.

There is also a prize for the leading ML&S Martin Lynch & SonsFoundation operator.

Come and support this new initiative to increase activity in our region.

Full details at:  www.solihullradioclub.co.uk/award

Wythall Hamfest is FULL!!

February 12, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, Hamfest, News

Wythall Hamfest on Sunday 15th March is well and truly Image result for photographs ham radioFULL!

Click here for Hamfest programme 2020(pdf file – download Free Adobe Acrobat if file won’t open).

Please SHARE CARS where you can.

If free on-site parking reaches capacity, we may have to ask you to find a location nearby where you can park legally and safely.

As in previous years, Silver Street will be coned off by the Police, Image result for photographs ham radioand it may be subject to road works.

Please visit our website for regular updates.

Wythall Hamfest – trader list updated

February 08, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, Hamfest, News

The list of traders at the popular Wythall Hamfest has been updated – click here for the ‘2020 Trader List‘ or see the Hamfest side panel on our web site.

Image result for photo of amateur radio

Wythall Hamfest on Sunday 15th March always attracts large crowds to view and buy from our many traders.Image result for photo of amateur radio

Whether it’s small components, second-hand equipment or a brand new antenna or rig – you’ll find them all at the Hamfest.

We also have our popular ‘bring and buy’ stall.

Don’t forget to make a date in your diary!  Doors open 9.30 for disabled visitors and 9.45 for general entry.

Upgrade your Foundation licence with Wythall Radio Club

February 05, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, Hamfest, News, Training

Upgrade your Foundation licence through study at home with Wythall Radio Club.

Our new FREE on-line Intermediate level training course under the new syllabus starts this Spring.

The course will run over 10 weeks, from 2nd March until 11th May, with two lessons per week.  The examination will be around 23rd May.

You now need to register your interest.

You study this course at home in your own time from lessons you download from the internet, as you did at Foundation level.

Image result for radio amateur using radio photoIn addition there will be one practical assessment session, usually on a Saturday, where you will learn soldering, digital measuring and other skills. This will require you to be available for ONE Saturday in April, but there will be a choice of dates.

Wouxun dual-band handheldThe course is FREE but there will be an exam fee of £32.50, an exam room hire fee of £6 and a project kit and materials fee for the practicals of £12.  You will not need to pay this until the course starts.

You will also need to purchase the RSGB Intermediate Licence Manual from them at £9 plus postage – or visit the RSGB Bookstall at Wythall Hamfest on the morning of Sunday 15th March. 




Wythall Hamfest – book the date!

February 03, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, Hamfest, News

Our 35th ANNUAL WYTHALL HAMFEST will take place on SUNDAY 15th March 2020.  Doors open 09:45am – DISABLED ACCESS FROM 09:30am.

Our growing list of traders includes…..

RadioWorld – regulars at the Hamfest who bring you a wide range of goodies.  They are one of the largest suppliers of radio communications equipment within the UK. Check out their comprehensive stock (they also do a nice line in mugs and T-shirts!).

Sinotel UK make a welcome return with a selection of antennas and radios – they are authorised UK dealers for Baofeng, KYD, Quansheng, TYT, Vero and Xiegu Technologies.  Their stand always has lots of interest.

Worsley Communications supply all major brands of Amateur radio equipment, towers, rotators and aerials.  They specialize in ex-NATO pump up masts – which may be a way to get that antenna a bit higher without annoying the neighbours.Online Catalogue

RSGB Bookstall will provide a full range of technical and general radio interest books.  Come and have a brouse, meet the team and add to your bookshelf!

Solihull ARS will be on hand.  And don’t forget that they will be hosting the Midlands Inter-Club ‘GMT’ awards – sponsored by Martin Lynch – at 12 noon, Archery Hut (Hall 4).

MA Components specialize in the supply of small electronic components together with a comprehensive range of nylon nuts screws and washers.  Just what’s needed for small and large construction tasks in the shack.

Alan Clegg Valves – another regular at the Wythall Hamfest – supplies a wide range of ‘tubes’ to meet your needs.

….And many more traders to keep you interested – together with ‘Burger Bob’ for fast food and drink and the Wythall House bar open at lunch time.

Our full trader list will be provided later this month.

Wythall Hamfest is FULL!

February 10, 2019 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Hamfest, News

Wythall Hamfest on Sunday 15th March is well and truly Image result for photographs ham radioFULL!

You will find 4 halls with over 100 tables and lots of traders – including Radioworld – plus the usual refreshments and bar facilities.

Click here for Hamfest 2020 Programme  (pdf file – download Free Adobe Acrobat if file won’t open)

With free parking, we will do our best to accommodate as many cars as possible on-site. 

Please consider sharing cars where you can.

If on-site parking reaches capacity, please be understanding if we have to ask you to find a location nearby where you can park legally and safely.  As in previous years, Silver Street will be coned off by the Police, and it may be subject to road works.Image result for photographs ham radio

Please visit our website for regular updates.

Another Fantastic Hamfest!!

March 26, 2018 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Hamfest

Almost 500 radio amateurs visited Wythall Radio Club’s 2018 Hamfest. 

Visitors arrived from as far away as Devon and Cambridge – and the sun came out, too!

There was plenty to offer our visitors, with 39 traders in 4 halls.  And our Club room was packed to hear Chris G7DDN’s talk on network radio.

Thanks to Wythall House for letting us use their facilities, our traders, Burger Bob for his tasty refreshments – and our Club helpers, especially Warwick G4WMH for his skill in winching Radioworld’s van and three cars off of the soggy grass!




Special lecture at Wythall Hamfest

March 12, 2018 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, Hamfest, News

What is so different about this HT?

Wythall Radio Club is pleased to announce a special lecture at this year’s Hamfest.

Club member Chris G7DDN will be giving a talk entitled “Network Radios – The Next Big Thing?”

If you’ve not heard of Network Radios, then this would be a good time to find out what all the fuss is about – if you have heard of them, this is a good opportunity to lean more and even have a bit of a hands on!

Chris’s writings on the subject have already created a bit of stir in the Amateur World. Extracts of his articles are being featured in upcoming editions of Practical Wireless magazine. You can read Chris’s musings on Network Radios here and here, if you want to gen up before the day.

The lecture will take place in the Wythall Radio Club shack at 11.00am on Hamfest day – Sunday 25th March.

Another good reason to come along this year!

New Trader at Wythall Hamfest

March 08, 2018 By: Chris G7DDN Category: Club, Fun, Hamfest, News

As part of an occasional series, we are featuring some of the new traders you will see that this year’s Wythall Radio Club Hamfest

The SNS Workshop near Wythall

Stick ‘n’ Stitch are a local embroidery company who produce, among other things, the Wythall Radio Club Polo Shirts and other clothing. 

In addition they produce other promotional items such as mugs. 

Wythall Radio Club members have been pre-ordering purchases from Stick ‘n’ Stitch, as there will be a limited amount of embroidery they will be able to do on the day, due to time limitations.

If you are interested in having your callsign on a piece of clothing, why not have a look at their website and pre-order too?

Remember the Wythall Hamfest is on Sunday 25th March at 10am. Don’t miss it!