UK Inland Diving Locations Case Study – Stoney Cove

by   Profile Cat   When 27th July 2016
Stoney Cove
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The fact that the United Kingdom is an island, should
mean that costal diving locations are plentiful and varied enough to keep the
budding scuba diving community happy. However, due to increased fuel costs,
boat charter fees, accommodation fees and the formidable risk of the weather
turning for the worse and dives being canceled, a great proportion of divers
opt to head towards the inland diving locations for a more “guaranteed’ scuba
experience. Typically these inland locations are either in the form of a lake,
loch, or flooded quarry.

One of the busiest flooded quarries in UK is situated
in the county of Leicestershire, central England. The village of Stoney Stanton lies some 10km
south of Leicester not far from J20 of the M1 and J2 of the
M69. The area stands on an
outcrop of granite, and has been the source of various forms of stone
extraction since the Roman period. The quarry now known as Stoney Cove is one
of three that lies within the village. All are now defunct as sources of
quarried stone, and the other two have been infilled. Stoney Cove (or Lanes
Hill Quarry to give it its original title) fell into disuse in the mid-1950s
due to the economic situation, made worse by the influx of surface water.
However, the rapid flooding of the quarry, coinciding with the development of
sport diving in the UK, rapidly led to the adoption of the site by the diving
community, first on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, then on a more formalised approach
through a series of diver-oriented commercial organisations.

Stone extraction
from Stoney Stanton can be traced back to the Roman times. However, from maps
and census reviews, industrial scale extraction was most predominant in the
fifty years around the turn of the twentieth century. Indications are that
quarrying contributed substantially to village population growth between 1871
and 1891. The granite from these local quarries was being used
to repair roads. This particular quarry had been created by the joining of two adjacent
works known locally as Lane’s Hill and Top Pit. It was in around 1850, that a railway line was built to move granite out
of the Top Pit. The railway line ran through a tunnel and surfaced near St
Michael's Church in the centre of Stoney Stanton linking the village with the
busy Birmingham to Leicester line. During the quarry's working life, the spring
water was a constant problem. Pumps were used to prevent the quarry from
flooding. When all quarrying ceased in 1958, spring water was allowed to flood
the quarry workings and with a maximum depth of 35m the quarry, now known as 'Stoney Cove',
provided a more accessible and sheltered training venue than the costal areas.
Evidence suggests that access by divers was being made on an unofficial basis
as early as 1958 - by climbing over the boundary fence.

The discovery of North Sea oil was important to the
development of Stoney Cove. During the 1960s and 1970s, the flooded quarry was
used to train commercial divers en route to the North Sea. The facility was
also used for developing and testing underwater equipment destined for use in
the oil fields.

The first dive
centre opened in 1964 and in 1978, Stoney Cove Marine
Trials Ltd was formed to develop the full potential of Stoney Cove for scuba
diving and commercial underwater activities. Since then there has been a
continuous programme of improvements.

I recently had the pleasure of using the facilities of
Stoney Cove for the first time. The purpose of my visit was to conduct a series
of SSI Extended Range Nitrox instructor courses for some of the UK’s SSI professionals.
I have to say that to date, these are without question the best facilities for
an inland diving location I personally have experienced so far. The
organization, the staff members, the professionalism, the management of
logistics, the conference rooms, the filling station, the emergency rescue
services and yes the pub were all second to none.

The Cove offers a variety of depths for training, up to
a maximum of 35m in “The Pit”. Over the years various “bits and pieces” have
been added to draw more interest and provide the divers with various
attractions during their dive. I personally did not have enough time to make
multiple exploration dives there but Debbie Mason from Divemaster Scuba very
kindly took me on a tour of some of the features.

The descriptions below have been very kindly provided


Dive Site: Nautilus

Depth: 4 to 6 metres

History & Description: The Nautilus, or “Nemo” as it is sometimes called is
a small, intact, 2 man submarine and looks just like something which would have
been used by Captain Nemo himself (albeit on a much larger scale). Its serrated
nose looks like a giant upturned saw and the conning tower, tightly shut, rises
to within just a few meters of the surface. In reality it is a piece of modern
art. This can be an ideal spot for some interesting photographs and marine life
can be quite good, with roach frequenting the area. However the shallows and
proximity to the entry / exit points make this an area of high diver traffic,
so visibility is often reduced unless you are early in the water or diving here
during the week.

Dive Site: Stanegarth

Depth: 16 to 22 metres

History & Description: Built in 1910 by Lytham Ship Builders Company for
Rea Transport Co Ltd of Liverpool, the Stanegarth was a steam powered tugboat
used on the British Waterways, predominantly on the Gloucester Canal. In 1957
she had an enclosed wheelhouse added and was converted to diesel power. 18.7
meters long, with a beam of 5 meters the Stanegarth is a relatively small
vessel. Originally thought to weigh 46 tons, she turned out to weigh over twice
that amount. Apparently the Stoney Cove team removed tons of debris including
the gearbox and engine and more steel ballast, yet still she weighed just over
80 tons. Brought to Stoney Cove quarry on the evening of June 6th 2000, (from
Sharpness where she was abandoned) the stopcocks were opened and she was
scuttled, taking almost 90 minutes to sink. Interestingly, the wheel house and
bulwarks were removed to reduce the overall height to permit the load to fit
under motorway bridges and allow transportation to Stoney Cove. These were
reattached upon arrival (after the vessel got stuck in the entrance) where the
boat was also repainted before its sinking. If you look at the wreck closely
you can still see the marks where the bow and wheelhouse were cut and

The Stanegarth now sits bolt upright in
22 meters of water on a flat slightly silty bottom. With the main deck at 18
meters and the wheelhouse at 15 meters she is easily accessible to all levels
of diver. She is the U.K.'s largest inland
ship wreck. Most of her hatches
have been welded open and the wheelhouse, chartroom and interior of the wreck
are easily accessible for some basic penetration. The rudder is still in place
as is the propeller and the name “Stanegarth” (at the time of writing) is still
clearly visible on the bow.


Dive Site: Wessex Helicopter

Depth: 18 to 21 metres

History & Description: The Wessex Helicopter was XT768,
Wessex HU5, and was bought from the RAF. It apparently had been airborne for
less than 700 hours. Hard to believe when you see its current condition.
Stripped for parts above water, during the Gulf War, the Wessex has continued
to be quite literally pulled apart by divers whilst below the surface. Now full
of holes and with the ends of wires hanging out all over the place it is little
more than a helicopter shell. Nevertheless she still makes a very interesting
dive and it is easily possible to enter the rear fuselage or the cockpit.


If you would like to dive and experience the
features of Stoney Cove then drop an email to

If you would like to join an SSI Extended Range Nitrox
diving course at Stoney Cove then please contact or


References from:

Written by
Profile Cat
When 27th July 2016
Location Stoney Cove, Stoney Stanton, Blaby District, United Kingdom

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Stefan Michl on Jul 27th 2016
A must see for divers not only in UK.....!

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