Our Editor-In-Chief Dave Alexander has been so busy running Scubaverse that he hasn’t had time to actually go diving for… well, quite some time. But it’s never too late to get back into the water, so at the weekend he decided to blow the cobwebs off his dive gear and head North to get wet…
It was starting to get embarrassing. “So when was your last dive?”, I got asked with increasing regularity by people who actually, you know, go diving. “It’s been a while,” I’d say, hoping they wouldn’t ask how long, exactly. When they did (and they all of course inevitably did), I’d say “Well it’s been about 9 months”, but in all honesty that dive 9 months ago was in a pool testing gear, so it didn’t count; not really. In truth, it had been years.
It’s not that I don’t want to go diving – I do – but I’ve been locked away in Scubaverse HQ for what seems like centuries now. It’s not easy building an empire, y’know. Lots to do.
But enough was enough. How can I be running a diving website if I don’t go diving? Something had to be done. I had to get back in the water.
Luckily, there are other members of Team Scubaverse who do go diving on a regular basis. I called Nick and Caroline, our Underwater Photography Editors, and told them of my plans. Before I knew it I was heading for their place in Manchester with the promise of beer, curry and diving (although not necessarily in that order).
I arrived at Nick and Caroline’s house on Friday evening and we headed for the pub to plan the next day’s diving. We would be driving to Capernwray, one of the UK’s best known inland dive sites, the following morning.
Once a quarry, Capernwray is near the village of Over Kellet in Lancashire, and a great site for divers to train and hone their skills. To gain entry you must first become a member. There are two options: temporary membership for £10 (which lasts for 6 months), or a lifetime membership for £25. If you go for the temporary option, you can pay the additional £15 and upgrade to lifetime membership at any time within your 6 month membership period. On top of that you do have to pay a £12 entry fee, so as I opted to pay for a lifetime membership (ever the optimist), in total my first visit cost me £37 – but it will only cost me £12 a visit from here on in, a real bargain considering the first-class site and facilities on offer.
There is a dive shop on site which offers air fills and a wide range of diving equipment for you to buy or hire for the day. Other facilities include a conference room which can seat up to 30 people and is ideal for teaching/seminars; the Porthole Restaurant, which serves hot and cold food and has a fully licensed bar; and changing facilities which are clean and well maintained. There is plenty of parking space too.
Caroline had been experiencing some issues with one of her ears and although she had been given the all-clear to dive by the doctor, she decided that as her and Nick would be jetting off to go diving in the Bahamas the following week she wouldn’t risk it (fair enough!). So Nick and I, along with one of Nick and Caroline’s other friends, Luke, kitted up and made our way into the water.
The water wasn’t too cold – about 11°C – and I was nice and toasty in my dry suit, so it was all good. With Caroline acting as surface support, we soon descended down to the novice training area, which is no deeper than about 8 metres. Here there are a couple of fibreglass cartoon-style horses (one of which you can get on and ‘ride’) which, according to Capernwray’s website, originate from Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
There are plenty of fish too, which I was, for some reason, not expecting – lots of trout (seriously, they were everywhere), perch, roach, and some MASSIVE sturgeons, one of which I came face-to-face with at one point. Alas, Nick was looking the other way at the time, so there is no photographic evidence of my close encounter with this impressive creature.
We then moved out to the end of the training area where the wreck of a small boat called ‘Dreamer’ came into view (the vis was around 5 metres). The wreck has been gutted so it’s fairly easy to penetrate. After a short inspection and a few photo ops we started to make our way back to the surface where Caroline was waiting for us.
It was time for a spot of lunch, so we headed for the Porthole, ordered some drinks, and grabbed a table. After witnessing a waitress deliver what I can only describe as one of the biggest burgers I have ever seen (triple patty alert!) to a starving diver, I ordered a cheeseburger and chips to go with my cup of tea. It wasn’t long before I was doing my best Samuel L. Jackson impression (“Mmmm! This IS a tasty burger!”).
After lunch it was time for dive number two, so we kitted back up and made our way back down to the water. This time the plan was to remain to the right hand side of the quarry and descend 18 metres down the slope to the wreck of an impressive Hawker Siddeley HS 748 airliner. Unfortunately, Luke was having some issues equalising, so after several attempts to descend he finally admitted defeat and we all returned to the surface. Luke called it a day, but Nick and I decided to go back down and check out the plane.
When the Hawker emerges from the depths it’s an impressive site. The fuselage of the plane has been completely gutted, making swim-throughs easy, and it’s a great setting for photos.
It wasn’t long before we had to return to the surface ourselves. Once we had left the water, got changed and packed up our things, it was time for the drive back to Manchester for more beer and another well-earned curry.
I’d forgotten just how exhausting diving can be! I was shattered. Some rookie errors may have occurred (which I won’t be divulging here!), but for the most part it was just like riding a bike – it all came back to me once I got going. What was nice about going with friends, after not having dived for a while, was there were no expectations, no pressure… it was great to get back in the water and just go for a dive.
Now I’ve paid for a lifetime membership at Capernwray, I’d better make the most of it! There are still a few wrecks I haven’t explored yet and a gnome garden (that’s right – a gnome garden) to visit.
So…. anyone up for a dive?
Find out more about Capernwray Dive Centre at www.dive-site.co.uk.
All photos by Frogfish Photography unless otherwise stated.