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Inland diving overview




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Scuba Diving at Inland Dive Centres in England


Water temperature:

3°C (37°F) in winter to 17°C (63°F) in summer

Suit:

Drysuit for most of the year, but a semidry is sufficient from June to October, or all year round if you are hardy enough!

Visibility:

1 - 20 metres (3 - 65 feet)

Type of diving:

Skills, training, introductory 'wreck' diving and gradual depth experience in controlled conditions

Marine life:

Most inland sites have no fish at all, others have pike, roach, perch and fresh water crayfish

When to go:

Inland dive sites are the perfect places to visit during the winter when diving in the sea isn't an option in order to keep your diving in practise. They are also there for the rest of the year when dives are blown out or in order to develop skills

How to get there:

See individual dive site locations for details


The inland dive sites that are featured on dive site directory are all flooded quarries that have been adapted to serve as scuba diving training centres. In the UK, the lack of predictable weather conditions (and tropical reefs!) mean that open water training is not something that is always possible to complete in the sea. This is where the numerous inland dive sites come in handy as a controlled, predictable environment where it is easy to complete first open water dives and subsequent training.

Most sites offer the same services - varying water depths, underwater 'attractions' (such as small boats and old cars), platforms on which to complete skills, food and air. However, there is a big difference between how well the different locations do this. Here we look at these differences and why they may affect your choice of which one you visit for your training.


Topside facilities

Vobster Quay has brilliant facilities as far as dive site directory is concerned. The food and air are reasonably priced, there is a good shop, free hot showers and nice, clean toilets. Stoney Cove also has good facilities, with a hotel that is currently being built and even a pub! However, as it is a busy place queues become inevitable and showers cost 20 pence - remember to take some coins with you, especially if you are diving in a semi-dry! The facilities at Wraysbury are adequate, but there is no shower, the toilets are in the form of two portaloos and the shop has a very limited stock. However, the food is quite good! At Horsea Island there are toilets, showers and food available but all have a minimalist design. There are no facilities at all at Littleton Pit except for a small car park.


Underwater attractions

This is where Stoney Cove excels. There are things to explore at a whole range of depths and especially at the six metre level. For a first open water dive on the six metre ledge, it would be possible to visit a submarine, helicopter cockpit and a sizeable block house which you can enter easily. Add to this the drop off where the ledge ends that gives novices an idea of how deep over six metres can appear, and the vast number of perch, roach, some very large pike and lots of little crayfish it can make an excellent first underwater experience. Wraysbury has made a token effort to provide divers with something to look at, but it doesn't come anywhere near to the staggering heights of Stoney Cove. Horsea Island and Littleton Pits attractions are on a similar scale, although Horsea benefits from having a bit of marine life find its way into the centre through its link with the sea. Vobster is gradually putting more in its waters, which is great news, and the tunnel and crushing works set it apart from the other inland quarries.


Number of visitors

Stoney Cove is busy every single weekend of the year. It gets so busy that the three car parks often struggle to cope and parking ends up spilling onto the road. The early morning 'fight' to get a position in the bottom car park near to the water becomes ridiculous with people showing up hours before you are allowed in the water. You have to ask yourself whether it is worth being exhausted for the day to save yourself a few minutes walk with your kit on your back! When dive site directory visited Vobster Quay, it was nearly empty which was a luxurious experience! However, we expect that this is not always the case, but they do have parking for two hundred cars by the water, which can be reserved. Horsea Island has ample parking spaces and is not usually overrun with people but being a Ministry of Defence training ground, the entrance procedure takes some time! Wraysbury is also usually very busy at weekends but a lot of people leave around lunch time, freeing up some parking for those who could quite drag themselves out of bed early enough to be there when the gates opened. At Littleton Pit it is common to see no other divers at all.


Entry and exit points

Littleton Pit only has one entry and exit point, but this is all it needs as visitors are not too abundant. Wraysbury has a couple of jetty entry and exit points that will hold a number of divers. There is also a spacious, sloping entry point makes a great place for practising rescues. At Stoney Cove the slope frequently becomes too crowded to use, as does the small platform used for stride entries. However, the entire concrete concourse between the blockhouse and the platform is only a small drop above the six metre ledge and ladders to get back out with, which is a similar set up to the one at Vobster. Horsea Island has entry points all around two of its edges. In dive site directory's experience, all of the inland dive sites have enough entry and exit points to mean there is never more than a few minutes wait, if any at all.


Visibility

Quarries are renowned for their bad visibility, but some are worse than others. Horsea Island, Wraysbury and Littleton have muddy bottoms, so quickly become very silty especially when new divers discover the bottom as they practise buoyancy control. Stoney Cove and Vobster can have great visibility on days where there are fewer divers or early on, but it deteriorates throughout the day as more divers make use of them.


Depth

Stoney Cove and Vobster Quay both have a good range of depths for progressive training up to 36 metres. However, Stoney beats Vobster when it comes to the long ledge at six metres that extends a third of the way around the quarry that is covered in life and things to look at. Although Wraysbury has an abundance of platforms at 6 metres, the lack of depth can be a problem sometimes - if you dig around in the mud you may manage to get 12 metres! Horsea averages seven metres and is a fairly consistent depth across most of its length. Littleton is very shallow indeed and only has one platform at six metres.


Location

Proximity to where your club or your novices are based is bound to play a part in your choice. Stoney Cove and Vobster Quay are definitely worth using for training, no matter how far you need to travel.


All of the quarries mentioned here serve a purpose. If you go not expecting too much from them, you can be pleasantly surprised by how good your dives can be! They are great places for training and just keeping up your diving in the UK during the winter months and dive site directory is glad that more have opened in recent years. The only question we ask is why do more inland dive sites not populate their waters with fish? Surely looking at fish is one of the reasons to go diving. (If you do go to Stoney cove keep your eye out for the giant pike. We saw it lounging on the nautilus at six metres early one January morning. Coming in at about three foot long and looking very mean indeed, it makes for a very impressive sight!)

We know there are more quarries out there that are not featured on dive site directory. If you have dived at any of them, please submit a review of the services they offer and what the underwater environment is like - you will be aiding the training of the hundreds of UK divers that use this web site each week!


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