Heard the one about the Blue Hole? Or maybe it was the Blue Lagoon? I’m sure most of us have heard stories of ‘secret’ dive sites before; they normally surface after a few beers following a hard days diving. Those telling the story will often reminisce about a time when diving involved a degree of exploration and adventure! With that in mind I decided to seek out some of these lost treasures for myself and set out on a series of UK Diving Adventures!
I first heard about the ‘Blue Lake’ around ten years ago as a lowly Ocean Diver. It was described to me at the time as a lake inside a mountain. It sounded too amazing to be true; an actual lake inside a mountain!? I searched for details at the time but found little to go on. People were secretive about its location and details of the lake itself were vague. It eventually faded out of my mind as I poured all my passion into my newfound hobby. It came to my mind again in late 2014. I’d spent a lot of time diving and exploring old slate quarries and whilst researching them had come across a reference to a flooded quarry within a Welsh hillside. An evening spent searching OS maps & Google Earth gave me an area to explore and a reconnaissance trip was planned for December 2014. If we found something interesting, then we’d return with a dive plan.
We did find something interesting – and plans were quickly put in place to return!
The idea of walking up a hill in freezing temperatures in the New Year didn’t generate the levels of enthusiasm I had hoped for! Still, I managed to persuade two additional divers to accompany us, and even better we had a couple of volunteers to help carry equipment. As we crossed the Welsh hills to the coast the car was showing the temperature as -4c outside. We hoped this adventure wasn’t going to be non-starter when we arrived on site!
Fortunately temperatures were a bit more manageable on our arrival, one of the group was even wearing shorts for the hike to the lake. With our helpers on-hand, the long walk with our kit wasn’t nearly as arduous as we’d expected and we made good progress up the hill. Along the route we passed what remained of many of the old quarry buildings and structures. I’ve always loved these old abandoned sites and the buildings provided a suitable moody ambience as the sun continued to rise behind us. The final part of our ascent saw us splashing and sploshing along a small stream – I was thankful for my GoreTex boots as the water was so cold it still brought a wispy trail of mist down with it.
Access to the Lake itself is via a tunnel in the hillside. The tunnel was partially flooded so one of the group decided to kit up outside. Impatient and armed with my boots I ducked down and followed the old railway tracks inside.
It’s hard to describe the feeling when you walk into this amazing place. I guess the experience is similar to that of walking through a small door into a sports stadium. Or maybe walking into a huge building like a museum and being totally blown away by the view.
The water was as still and clear as it had been two weeks previously. We were the only people there – so excitedly kitted up before someone came along and asked us to leave! We agreed a quick dive plan, our main concern being potential underwater entanglement hazards, before wading in to the icy cold waters.
We descended into the lake and quickly realised we wouldn’t have any issues with hazards or navigation! Visibility was around 15 metres, and we recorded a depth of 11.5m on the bottom of the lake. Being careful not to disturb the bottom we set about exploring the lake eager to see what might find! We came across some of the more usual underwater items and litter you’d expect to find in an area frequented by the general public; odd flip flops, drinks cans and beer bottles along with other trinkets that have been thrown into the water over the years. Even the sheep skull was not entirely unexpected.
Unusually we also found a large deceased bat, a mobile phone and a pair of underpants! We even found a gnome sat on a large rock – we obviously weren’t the first divers to enjoy this unusual site.
After around 40 minutes I was completely frozen and surfaced to get myself warmed up. I’d brought a seven litre aluminium cylinder as it was smaller and lighter than a more usual steel SCUBA cylinder – unfortunately this meant I couldn’t have as much of the warming insulating air in my suit while I was underwater!
A few walkers had arrived while we were underwater and were clearly baffled to find three SCUBA divers and a support team on top of a hill!
It was a great day out and an exciting little expedition to undertake with friends. We finished off with a quick pint at the local pub before heading home to check our photo’s and video from the day.