MY ORIGINAL PLAN WAS SCUPPERED as soon as I tried to organise the trip. Vobster Quay couldnt entertain me on the Saturday, so I had to rearrange my days and start at Chepstow, stopping in Bristol and then diving Vobster on the Sunday.
So on a cool but bright Saturday morning, I was being passed by people-carriers and 4x4s along the M4. People-carriers are hideous contraptions and 4x4s that have never seen wet mud are the worst things on the road, particularly as drivers of both pay only the car rate to cross the grossly overpriced Severn Bridge, whereas my little Escort has to pay the van rate. It cost me almost a tenner to get into Wales!
Im sure the Welsh people going the other way pointed at me and laughed. I used the toilet at Chepstows Tesco but I didnt buy anything. Revenge is sweet!
Chepstows National Diving Centre, located a mile or so back on the English side of the border, wasnt particularly busy when I arrived.
Its still a dive centre in its infancy in terms of customers, though everything else is fully fledged.
It has a decent shop, good gas station (air, nitrox and trimix) and, most importantly, a good catering van with a covered area where divers can sit and enjoy a hot drink and something to eat.
Neil Brock and his wife Mags, who run the shop, had arranged for me to dive with Gerry, one of their regular divers and a BSAC Area coach.
The lake was once a limestone quarry. The original roadway is an extension of the road that takes you down to it.
A rudimentary bus service takes divers from the car park at the top to the lakeside entry platform.
The centre has installed a huge floating pontoon so that divers can access the lake easily. Here you find the dive supervisor who oversees all divers entering the water.
We chose to enter at the shallow end of the site, by the training platforms. Being a Saturday it had already been visited by a group of students, and visibility was somewhat affected, though not terrible. We would make our way to the other side of the lake and follow the quarry road for a way before dropping down to see some of its attractions.
As the suspended silt cleared, we dropped onto the first of two cabin cruisers. As we descended, dropping light levels had much the same effect on the viz as the silt. The second cabin cruiser emerged from the gloom, as the Titanic does in the film, so I asked Gerry to do his best Leonardo DiCaprio impression on its bow.
A little further round is the old quarrys explosives safe. Now lying on its side, I had trouble working out what it was at first. Its essentially a big metal box, but adding words to the sides made it so much more interesting somehow. How weird we divers are!
There are a few perch, and apparently some pike too, though they proved elusive that day. The managers plan to improve this situation and, given time, whats in there now will multiply.
Onto the important stuff. There are, in a divers menu, various food groups: vegetables, fruit, meat andÉ bacon sandwiches! These are what feeds most of us, as they provide carbohydrates, protein and saturated fats. It may not be the healthiest of meals, but after a dive in cold British water, no salad can hit the spot like a bacon sarnie with tomato or brown sauce oozing out of the side.
Chepstows catering van is run by some friendly women who seem proud of their bacon butties, and so they should be - they are magnificent. If an unmade bed can be a work of art, so can these butties. Served in a large bap with plenty of meat and a slightly runny egg, it is the food of the gods.
The sun was setting as I left, and the scene over the Severn estuary was not improved. The mud was a little warmer-looking in the reddening light, but it was still essentially mud and not worth the money I had paid, even if it was free on the way back.
Saturday night in Bristol was quiet. I stayed with a friend but, too tired for a raucous night out, retired to bed early.



Chepstow
Chepstow with its pontoon system in the distance
Neil
Neil Brock by Chepstows chamber
The
The original quarry explosives safe
Topside
Topside at Chepstow
Gerry
Gerry plays Leo DiCaprio in Titanic mode