IN THE CHILDRENS BOOK Too Busy To Play the main character, Jake, is unable to find anyone to play with him. However, through the creative use of ordinary everyday objects, Jake soon discovers that his own imagination is the best playmate of all.
Jake built himself the best adventure in the whole world, with oceans and mermaids and ships with huge sails as well as creatures who came slurping and burping from a dripping lagoon and huge gleaming ships that flew to the sun. It wasnt long before Jakes friends wanted to play with him.
At Capernwray, the inland dive site in Lancashire, Director and Operations Manager Chris Collingwood is the grown-up version of Jake. Through a bold vision for the dive site, Chris and his colleagues have designed what I consider to be the most creative underwater playground in the UK.

I CAN STILL REMEMBER my first dive at Capernwray, back in the mid-90s. Todays purpose-built conference and diving centre was just a dream back then, as were many of the current underwater attractions. But it did have a wreck that I was particularly keen to visit, the minesweeper HMS Podsnap.
Before my dive, my imagination fuelled by old war movies, I had had a mental image of what a minesweeper should look like. But this Dickens-class minesweeper, built for service in World War Two, didnt quite live up to it.
There was no Bofors gun pointing up at the surface, nor were there several decks to explore. What was I thinking This is an 18m-deep inland quarry - how could the vast ship of my dreams end up in such a place
To get the most out of our inland dive sites, a healthy dose of imagination and a playful attitude helps. At Capernwray it all starts with a sign pointing out that youve arrived at the entry point for The Reef.
Once on the Reef, its not long before you come across the almost obligatory collection of old cars and vans.
Stop to watch, and youll soon witness divers entering vehicles by the windscreen and swimming through the interiors.
Theres no real point to this activity, except that its something you cant do on land. So youre suddenly transported to a different world, one in which you can fly in and out of everyday objects.
Go a bit deeper, and you arrive at The Caves. These are old containers with holes cut through them to simulate diving in a no-clear-surface situation. But no matter how much experience you have, theres something in divers that compels us to swim through them.
Theres an added bonus - sitting on top of the Caves is an old Wessex helicopter, its cockpit pointing out into open water. Once again, youre compelled to position yourself by the controls and peer out into the milky fog that is this aircrafts sky.

FURTHER ALONG THE SITE youll find another aircraft, in the form of a hand glider, placed for you to hang beneath it and simulate the feeling of flying.
Several years ago, Capernwray was home to the Flintstones, twice-life-size glass-fibre Barney and Freds. The idea of putting them in a quarry (Bedrock) was just too perfect, but then someone knocked their heads off, and they had to be removed.
However, Blackpool Pleasure Beach came to the rescue with the addition of Lord Lucan and Shergar, two cartoon-type horses that over the years have drawn divers attention.
Who can resist claiming to have ridden Shergar while diving But the pleasure-beach theme doesnt stop there. Look hard enough and youll see oversize pigs and a flying saucer that hangs in mid-water, with a surprise character at the controls.
The latest addition to the collection is Giant Devil, and with its cheeky grin and twice-life-size form, its sure to prove popular with Capernwray fans.
Chris tells me that the centre is continually looking for new things to put into the quarry, and enhance the underwater adventure.
How bizarre it must seem to non-divers: helicopters, minesweepers, strange creatures, flying objects and a ride-on Shergar. All they can see is a flooded quarry, but to us its an underwater adventure, proof that, like Jake, were not too busy to play.

Capernwray Diving & Leisure, Jackdaw Quarry, Carnforth, Lancs. 01524 735132,