Given Britain’s maritime history one would expect that the most popular wreck dive site in British waters would be a victim of either of the two World Wars or even an earlier wreck. However the accolade of most dived wreck today—providing you accept a deliberately sunk vessel as a wreck—is held by a very modest 52-foot tugboat, sunk in freshwater about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK.
The boat was built as a steam-powered tug in 1910, converted to diesel in 1957 and stripped of its engine and anything to cause either pollution or a hazard to divers, before being sunk with great ceremony in 2000 in 20-meters (65 feet) of water. The sunken vessel is in a flooded granite quarry in Leicestershire, Stoney Cove, home of the UK National Diving Centre, probably the body of water where more people qualify as scuba divers than any other place in the UK.
The site is regularly used to train police divers and even US Air Force. It is also used by the Historic Diving Society so you may occasionally see someone using the old fashioned hard hat diving suit.
The site has numerous other underwater attractions both deliberately placed there and originating as remnants of the quarrying industry (helicopter, bus, armoured personnel carrier and several other boats). One evening per week it is open for night dives. Although the fish and other wildlife are not as colourful as one would find in the sea they can be very spectacular in their own right. The site is particularly good for the native British crayfish and for some very large pike.
Know Before You Go
If you go by car at the weekend and want to get into the parking lot next to the water you will need to arrive at the site very early.
Arrivals at 5 am are very common, such is the popularity of this site. Other parking lots are available but it is a long walk with dive gear.
If you have your diving qualifications with you it is possible to rent a full set of gear. Although there is a fill station on site the wait for a fill can be quite long so if possible turn up with a full tank.
If you dive the Stanegarth, decend down the line clearly marked by a buoy and when you have seen what you want follow the anchor chain which will lead you across the 20m shelf back to a safe ascent to the 5m shelf for your safety stop.
The visibility is variable. When it is good it is great but at certain times of year (especially at weekends), it can be less than a metre.
In Nemo's bar there is a section of floor that is glass and you can see divers diving in the flooded basement below.