THE LAKE at Capernwray, in Lancashire, is a water-filled quarry, opened in the late 18th century to supply stone for the construction of the Lancaster Canal. Today it is a real gem of a dive site. I went to investigate the area with my buddy after hearing that it boasted five wrecks, including a World War II minesweeper and a Dragonfly helicopter in fresh Royal Navy livery.
We started with two fairly innocuous little buoys near one of the cliffs. As we swam to the first buoy, we noticed strange shapes looming up at us from beneath the surface. We descended and came face to face with a weird and grotesquely huge beast with cartoon-like features. At about 6m, a pair of large teddy-bear eyes stared out at us. The enormous bulk of the beasts body was carried on four immense legs, which were planted firmly on the lake bottom at 7-8m.
The creature was a huge fibreglass horse called Shergar. Apparently, divers sit on the back of this monster to have their photographs taken while clutching the reins. Meanwhile, another horse, Lord Lucan, sits nearby, squatting on its
haunches and reading an enormous newspaper, with a comic-looking jockey in a green and white tunic standing at its side.
Finning past this odd scene to a depth of 8m, we came across the wreck of a 6m boat. A solitary rainbow trout stirred from its resting place in the cockpit before darting off. This fine vessel, called Dreamer, once graced Lake Windermere, and it was still sporting its registration ticket in one of the windows.
We found the boat largely intact. Swimming past the throttle control and a broken steering wheel down into the forward cabin, I could see the galley area, complete with sink. Outside, the decks were lined with mahogany handrails.
Another wreck at Capernwray is the African Queen, so named because she bears an uncanny resemblance to the boat used in the film of the same name. She lies with her bow at 12m, and her more intact stern rests on a sloping rocky bottom at 14m. Then there is the Candida II, an 8m river boat sunk here in May 1995, lying upright at 18m so divers can access the toilet and galley below decks.
After a surprisingly good morning dive, my buddy and I enjoyed a coffee at the lakes edge while we had our cylinders refilled. We sat looking out on the nature reserve that forms the western edge of the site, and could see the Over Kellet hills on the horizon. I took a stroll around the picturesque cliff tops before kitting up again on the long jetty. Next to the jetty is a gently shelving pebble beach, which we found was a handy place to do buddy checks.

We entered the lake for a 90m surface swim until we reached a blue marker buoy. Descending the shotline to a depth of 8m, we enjoyed the comparatively warm 17C water. From 8m onwards, the temperature dropped to a more invigorating 8C.
The visibility was not great, but this was to be expected in a quarry. Out of the gloom appeared a set of bow rails, then a line of portholes set in a hull, which was painted blue, white, and grey. This was HMS Podsnap, a World War II wooden minesweeper. At 18m long, this 14-tonne wreck is large enough for divers to get lost in, so it deserves healthy respect from visitors.
The ship lies on its starboard side at 18m. We finned along the port side towards midships, passing several glass-windowed deck hatches and white air vents. We descended one deck level and found a doorway into the forward cabins, next to an open hold with a few pipes and cables. Still finning aft, we passed three long hatches before finally ending the dive at the stern rails.
As we dropped down to our next site, clean white Royal Navy livery and markings stood out from the background green of the quarry water, and we soon found ourselves swimming into the cockpit of a Dragonfly helicopter.
The helicopter sits on the uppermost edge of a large ships container. The aircraft was first used in 1953, and saw service on HMS Eagle before being moved to Stansted Airport. It was last flown in 1962, and was sunk in Capernwray Quarry last year. Visit the site soon, before it suffers any scars from irresponsible divers!
Below the helicopter lies a large rectangular container known as the Artificial Cave, with its uppermost surface painted white to help in the training of novices. Slits and holes have been cut into the sides to simulate the sort of entry points normally found on shipwrecks or in caves. Once inside, you have to be careful of the dormant silt, which is a problem common to most wrecks, and which therefore makes this an ideal training ground.
Although the depth here is only around 14m, the darkness and cold are more akin to the conditions found at 40-50m on sites like Scapa Flow. It follows that divers training regularly at this site will find sea diving easier at almost any depth!

  • B&B is available locally at Capernwray House for£16 per night. Diving is available seven days a week, from 9am to 5pm during weekends, and 10am to 5pm weekdays. Night dives are also organised for divers by appointment.
  • Divers pay£3.50 per day plus 50p registration for unlimited diving.
  • For more information contact Capernwray Diving and Leisure, Overhead Quarry, Capernwray Rd, Over Kellet, Carnforth, Lancashire. LA6 1AD. Tel: 01524 735132.