Its been nearly 20 years since I first visited Stoney Cove and since then this iconic inland site has transformed from a rough and ready ex quarry filled with cold fresh water into a well set up and run diving facility which is visited by thousands of divers from across the UK regularly. The site in Leicestershire was probably the first of its kind in the UK and love it or hate it many people still travel hundreds of miles to train ,play or test kit in its clear dark depths.
Over the years the site has placed many in water attractions at various points and depths to keep the visiting divers interested and being an ex quarry there is still evidence of the machinery and buildings that supported the working of the quarry before it was abandoned and allowed to fill with water.
So on Thursday 4 divers from Meridian divers and Ocean View trekked the 150 miles to have a midweek adventure within the coves clear green waters.
After a very early start I met up with Simon at Three Bridges and travelled up in his car we had arranged to meet Gary and Terry from Ocean View on site so with much reluctance we stopped on the M40 to fuel up our finely honed physiques with a cooked breakfast which would help keep us warm during the coming dives.
A clear run saw us at Stoney around 10 am with Garry and Terry already there and in the water. With the car park nearly empty parking close to an entry /exit point wasn't a problem.
With a stiff cold wind blowing I felt the enthusiasm starting to drain but we forced ourselves to kit up and get down to the waters edge. The OV boys were on their way back up after completing their first dives and with a brief exchange of whats it like how cold is it etc etc We jumped in and surface swam to the buoy marking the Stanegarth.
The vis was at least 10m and with the water temp a tepid 10.c conditions were very comfortable. We whizzed down the shot and explored the Stanegarth both inside and out then followed a compass bearing back towards the bottom of the drop off and the wrecks of the VW van and the Westland Helicopter. We then ascended the quarry wall to the Nautilus mock up and swam underneath the pub. We then worked our way back across to the Viscount cockpit before watching a huge shoal of roach meander across the quarry floor.
51 minutes later we surfaced and met up the G&T for a quick chat and coffee and warm up in the refurbished changing rooms.
The 2nd Dive saw all 4 of us diving together which took us to the submerged block house and back. Having done the most the inwater attractions on the first dive Simon and I had seen all we needed to see after 30 mins and decided to call it a day leaving G&T to carry on.
Now it may seem a bit daft to travel on round trip of 300 miles just to dive an inland site but diving is diving and although diving in the sea can never be replaced Stoney is a pretty good alternative when you need a midwinter scuba fix.
With G&T deciding on whether to share a shower or spend another 20p on separate ones, we said our goodbyes and headed back down South.
Stoney Cove has been accussed of being dangerous, as with all underwater enviroments there is always an element of risk. Proper risk management ,training , correct equipment and taking in enviromental considerations when planning a dive, help reduce those risks.
In the case of Stoney Cove, the biggest risk probably comes from the very cold water in the site during the winter months and the fact that the site is used by thousands of divers each year means that there will always be incidents.
The company that runs the facilty definately puts the safety of its customers as the highest priority, its down to you to respect the rules and dive within your own limits and the limits of your training.
Thanks to Simon for driving and Gary and Terry
Video Highlights to follows shortly