Like most Girls that Scuba members I love the ocean and also love travelling the world on dive adventures. However, I also work full time in my day job in London and much as I would like to, I can't always dive in the Ocean. Throw into the mix the rather changeable UK weather and coastal diving isn't always achievable all year round.
BUT this little GTS member simply cannot let her gills dry out and needs (yes needs, you girls get it right?!) to dive frequently, so what's a girl to do? The answer, quite simply, is carry on diving! There are many inland dive centres dotted around in the UK (and I am sure other countries) and they offer the chance to dive pretty much all year round, even when the weather is being less cooperative than us divers would like. Here's what I've got to say about diving in my local dive site Wraysbury lake.
Some common misconceptions about inland diving
Isn't it just a muddy puddle?
Well, the bottom is silty and if a load of divers with poor buoyancy kick up the bottom it will create a silty cloud, however even when this has happened you can always find clear patches, especially around the edges away from the busier parts. And, it's a lake, with average depths of 6-10m, so hardly a puddle!
Is there actually anything to see?
Well, yes! The centres have actually gone to a lot of effort to make it interesting for their visitors. There are boats, buses, a plastic 'cave' system and other attractions (I won't spoil it for you, go and explore), as well as platforms to practice skills over to save kicking up the bottom. There are also very healthy populations of perch, pike, tench, carp and crayfish in there as well as freshwater mussels so you're not devoid of life and if like me you love to see critters, you won't be disappointed.
Does an inland site really have much to offer?
Again, yes! Sometimes the lake freezes over and you can take an ice diver course (I have been lucky enough to do this, great fun!), inland centres also often team up with dive equipment manufacturers and have demo days where you can try out equipment before you buy, and have some fun things to try out at different times of the year - I signed up to do some full face mask try dives there for example (always nice to try something new). Basically, there is always something going on and it goes on all year round. You can of course take dive courses here too, either with the instructors based at the centre or with your own dive club. It's also a great place to practice skills, get together to dive with friends and try out new or recently serviced dive gear. It has become something of a tradition to do a New Years Day dive there each year. A great way to start the diving year!
I don't have my own equipment, can I still go
Yes! You can hire some kit and tanks and weights from the centres and they should also have a small shop where you can buy things or order them in. Contrary to popular opinion, lakes aren't freezing all year round, in the Summer months (say April / May to October) you can happily dive in a wetsuit (or layers of wetsuits) and if like me, you feel the cold or want to dive all year and give the ice diving a go (weather permitting, it's a fickle beast), you can complete your drysuit course and dive whenever and whatever the weather.
So, in essence, just because you don't have ready access to the ocean or live in perfect weather conditions, doesn't mean you can't dive all year round. Your local inland dive centre will likely provide all sorts of training and diving opportunities, a place to dive all year, a chance to try out new / different kit and a place to call (diving) home. This little mermaid is eternally grateful for all the dives at hers.
Girls that Scuba recommended inland dive centres
My favourite local inland dive site is Wraysbury lake It is a private freshwater diving lake situated near a train station, so easily reached from London and surrounds and has all year round diving. This means, the dive season never ends! Wraysbury lake is privately owned and run by Wraysbury dive centre.
NDAC - great variety, multiple depth areas, loads of attractions. super cafe. Only drawback is the need to use minibuses up and down to water.
Vobster, great parking near the water, covered kitting up area, super changing area with hot showers. Again good attractions, quite cold due to underwater river, good visibility generally, and super paying system (wear band, charge everything and pay on departure) drawbacks would be awkward exit and no covered cafe.
Vivian Dive Centre in Llanberis in Wales - They dive in a fresh water quarry and the (salt water) Menai Straight.
Planet Divers, Eastbourne, Sussex, do regular dive trips inland U.K
About the Author
Faye is a Divemaster living and working in London and diving whenever and wherever she can. Faye learnt to dive in Boracay in the Philippines in 2009 and has ensured she has rarely been out of the water since. Faye has dived in Boracay, Egypt (15 trips and counting!), the Canary Islands (Lanzarote, Tenerife, Gran Canaria), Tobago, Maldives, Thailand, Malta & Gozo, Madeira, Mozambique,Menorca the UK coast and of course the UK inland dive sites!