OVER A WEEKEND with such fine diving conditions, finding a parking space anywhere near the top of the ramp that leads to divers’ best beach access can be tricky unless you get there early.
Protocol if you don’t invest in that early start is to drive as near to the elevated sea-wall as possible, dump your gear off there and park somewhere down the road.
From the sea-wall it’s just a short walk down a ramp to the pebble beach itself.
High tide will of course shorten the distance from your beach base-camp to the water’s edge, and if you can rustle up a non-diving assistant to lighten the load, convincing them that they can enjoy a nice day out at the beach, you’re winning.
Ana and I were diving with friends during this “Super Saturday”, and by staggering our dives we could make use of those out of the water to carry cameras and weights.
On the face of it, the conditions looked suitable for wetsuits, but in June the water temperature might be climbing but will only have reached around 12°C.
That said, of the (at least) 100 divers we saw on the beach at any one time over the weekend, many were diving in wetsuits – and good on them!
I prefer to put my fins on by the water’s edge at Chesil Cove and walk in backwards, only really because juggling a camera while putting on fins waist-deep in water is more work for me. Once under water, a slight surgey pull takes you to and fro, and the pebble-beach theme continues until you reach somewhere between 6 or 8m, depending on the tide.
With so much stormy weather falling on Chesil through parts of the year, the beach changes shape massively above and below the waves, often covering and uncovering pieces of wreckage, as well as large parts of the lower sea-wall.
One small wreck, the Preveza, came into view just moments after we left the surface. There isn’t much left of this Greek steamer now. It piled into Chesil Beach on 15 January, 1920 in thick fog.
This is a typical story for any wreckage found along this stretch of coastline. There are several larger wrecks just out of reach of shore-divers in the cove, but a trip around Portland Bill with a boat will give you access to those.
Super Saturday at the cove provided all arrivals with vis likened to dive locations found further afield. At least 15m of visibility surrounded us and, as the pebbles finished, coarse sand began. The light was fabulous and, as we descended deeper still, big boulders began to appear.
With these came weeds, soft corals and sponges and, with them, fish life and bottom-dwelling slugs and crustaceans. June is still quite early in the cycle of new spring life, so shoals of many juvenile fish species hang in the water between, beside or under anything that will offer cover.
Searching for critters in a snakelocks anemone.
As spring goes on, John Dory appear and it’s possible to watch these striking fish hunt. As the summer draws on, rays can be spotted too.
That morning, while having cylinders filled, I had caught wind of an over-the-counter story about a sighting of a good-sized anglerfish (or monkfish as your restaurant menu will list it).
Chesil Cove sees a reasonable amount of spearfishing, so reports of a creature like that travel quickly. Ana and I kept one eye on the sand for it – anglerfish are masters of camouflage, but if you look for them, their eyes will give them away.
Plenty of cat sharks live there too, and we witnessed one gorging on the remains of a dead bass. They’re lazy creatures, and siding right up to one on the seabed is no problem at all. They will move away only if they feel they really have to.