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UK Inland Diving
Dive Site: Buckland Lake
Description: Underground reservoir
Depth: 15 metres max (50 feet)
Visibility: 5 - 10 metres (15 - 30 feet)
This is a new site quite close to London just off the M2. It's run by Polaris Scuba. The lake is large and is mainly given over to a wildfowl reserve. The diving section is bouyed off with about fifteen metres maximum depth. The centre is well equipped, with a toilet, a couple of changing rooms and a decking area where they serve a range of hot drinks good quality food. They also have a portable compressor. The prices are very reasonable.
Parking can be difficult at this site and will probably get worse as the place gains in popularity. On site is room for about fifteen vehicles is a purpose built car park. Access to the kitting up area is via a narrow roadway. They provide trolleys so it's not much hassle. The organisation seems quite geared up on health and safety issues - they actually ask to see your qualifications. They give you a dive brief. They have a rescue boat and oxygen on site. I was reassured to hear the rescue services can be in attendance within twelve minutes.
Entry to the water is from a platform set in two metres of water or for a gentler entry there are large steel steps into a sheltered area. There are five 'shipwrecks' of varying dimensions plus a small airliner which has been stripped and opened up for a swimthrough and various other attractions in depths of ten metres or less. Once again there has been thought given to safety with a large scale map of the site next to the entry and notices at the various entry points warning of the dangers of wreck penetration. On the downside the day we went, in July, the visibilty was not too good and could be reduced to zero by a carelessfin stroke. Having said that it's no worse than other places and considerably better than some. Overall I thought this was a well presented, safety concious operation which has a
lot to offer for training and out of season diving.
I use this site regularly for trying out new kit, or just to get wet. Very friendly staff. It's advisable to book ahead to make sure you get a place. I believe they limit the number of divers due to parking restrictions (check this!). I still haven't bumped into jaws!
Vickie C | 04/22/2011
We dive here regularly and it is definitely a gem. I am surprised that there are so few reviews here as it is only an hour from London.
The shore facilities are modest compared to Stoney, of course, but real thought has gone into them and it is very reasonably priced but do phone ahead to book. The kitting-up area is great, with a sturdy bench all the way round to put tanks on and kit beneath that makes getting ready so much easier than places where it is all done in the car park. Burgers and coffee are available and there is a decked area with tables to spend the surface interval if you wish. Entry into the water is from a platform and there are stairs to exit the water. Social convention is to retrieve Max the Labrador’s tennis ball from the water as you leave. He generally drops it back in within minutes, so there is unlikely to be any waiting.
Although it is a small operation the underwater attractions are very much more impressive than might be expected. These are lined off in such a way that it is possible to tour from one to another, which takes us about an hour. Most of such a tour will be at about 7–8m with a maximum of 15m (it is possible to find another metre or two in a very few places on this route but only for academic interest not really for any dependable training purposes).
The Airliner (about 7m deep) is perhaps the most notable attraction and provides a nice swim-through from the cockpit door to the rear door. All the internal fittings have been removed but it can give some nice photos from the cockpit and with sunlight coming through the line of windows and the nose of the aircraft is good too. Visibility is often quite poor under the tailplane. There are several lines coming off of the Airliner to different attractions so keep this in mind when leaving.
There are two other reasonably substantial vessels: The Port Rose fishing vessel and a houseboat. Both allow easy penetration but the first probably requires a bit more confidence. The Port Rose is about 4m high, rising up from about 12m. It is right on the edge of a small drop-off so it is possible to shoot photos up at the rudder from about 15m but I do not think the visibility in this area is ever good enough to photograph the vessel as a whole (partly because everybody goes there). It has scaffolding poles stabilising it (I am guessing) and is entered through the wheelhouse and exited through a hatch toward the bow. There are dials and gauges in the wheelhouse that can provide some photographic interest in the right light. The houseboat is not actually lined off but can be seen from the line in good conditions or found by following a narrow channel in the lakebed that leads to it after only a few metres. It is only 7m deep and quite roomy with many fittings still in place and gives quite surreal photos in good, bright conditions.
There are several other small boats along the rope trail. In addition there are two small platforms and a large flat-bed trailer, all useful for training at the 7–9m range.
Furthest away from the fishing vessel is the old pumping station. Talk to Polaris before doing this bit as it is really only for divers who are confident and have had appropriate training and are carrying lights. Although it is not a large area, it is quite possible to destroy all visibility here with careless finning and it is generally a fair bit darker and colder. It is below ‘ground’ (7m) and may be entered either down a narrow flight of steps and the skylight (which is a bit awkward) or through from within the well beside it. This large circular shaft has a room coming off from it that can be dimly seen from the ladder. Within it are a number of large pipes and at the back of it is a doorway that leads into the the room with the skylight and steps, which can then be ascended. There is a fair bit of silt here so minimal finning is essential.
The well itself is big enough for perhaps two buddy pairs and has a metal ladder running to the bottom. It goes down to something like 17m but it feels much deeper as visibility rapidly decreases and it gets quite cold. There is a tunnel out of this well into the deeper water area away from the usual route (although I prefer starting the other side and coming in to the well). It is very narrow and partly obstructed but has a guide rope through it. Beyond having the appropriate training I honestly do not think it should be tried without having familiarised yourselves with the well on previous dives and being fully confident handling a total loss of visibility in narrow enclosed conditions.
As well as the deliberate attractions, there are also some incidental ones away from the roped route: two gated tunnels (closed), mopeds and at least one car (a Cortina, I think).
It is open year round and run by friendly people (for example: they had a surprise easter-egg hunt on Easter Sunday so everyone came away with chocolate eggs). Mr. Grumpy, the swan, is not associated with the operation so his hissed criticism of your diving should not be held against them. (I think he might be DIR)
Adam Horwood | 28/5/2011
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