Falmouths Shore Dives A simple guide to Falmouths popular shore dives. Mark Milburn January, 2012 Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page 1 !
Good SelectionWrecks and ReefsFalmouth Bay is protected from the predominant south westerly windsby the Lizard Peninsula. This makes it likely that you can go diving,even in a force 6 SW. The worst time to try and shore dive aroundFalmouth, is during an easterly or southerly wind. The winds will bringwaves, they have also brought many wrecks. There are three GermanWWI U-Boats, a 5,000 ton oil tanker and a 422 ton ﬁshing trawler onthe shore. The coast shelves slowly here, you will have to swim a longway out to get much deeper than 10m. Visibility varies from 1m to up to10m. Marine life is varied and you may see a range of things fromNudibranchs to Seals. Well start at the most northerly site and worksouth. There are always variations to the dives, these are the mostcommon ones or not to be missed ones. Most dives are only suitable athigh water, I will note ones that are do-able at low water.Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page 2 !
Falmouths most popular shore dive is the Silver Steps. The SilverSteps relate to the bright granite steps going down to the sea off ofPendennis Point. To get there head along Castle Drive, the one waysystem around Pendennis headland. The ﬁrst landmark on the left isthe dockyard, then a little further around there is a car park. A fewhundred metres more, just before the road becomes two way, there is alay-by on the left. Park there, it’s free. A photo of the lay-by is below.Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page 3 !
The path to the steps is just to the left of the lay-by looking out to sea.The path splits into two. It is possible to enter the water from the lefthand path and steps. Although it is far easier and much more sensible, to enter from the welltrodden right hand path and steps. There are quite a few steps down, formost of the way there is a heavy duty handrail. The handrail isespecially useful on the way back up.Once at the bottom of the steps you can put your ﬁns on while leaningagainst the wall. The rocks are reasonably ﬂat but there are a few rockypools to avoid. The rocks step down onto the sand which can catch youout mid tide. Once in the water follow the gully out onto the ﬂat sand.There are now several options. To the left you can follow the reef alonguntil the ﬁrst gully, in this gully are the remains of UB-97 (possibly).The UB-97 is a German WWI U-Boat that was part of a consignment toFalmouth, in payment for war reparations after the end of WWI. The U-Boats were moored in Falmouth Bay, when a southerly gale made thempart their moorings and crash onto the rocks.Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page 4 !
UB-97 is one of three submarine remains left around Falmouths shore.The most noticeable part of the submarine remaining is the large threepronged fork, possibly part of the hydro-vane hinge or rudder assembly.Back out onto the sand and along to the next gully, there the remains ofUB-86 (possibly) lie. There is much more left of UB-86 than of UB-97. Atlow water part of it even breaks the surface.Circled above is part of one of UB-86s structural ribs showing at lowwater.Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page 5 !
Back out onto the sand and into the next gully, which is narrow and hassteep walls. Its an interesting gully with a tiny cave at the end, withinthe cave are the remains of a small motorbike. The bike does get buriedin sand now and then. That is one possible route. Another option, whenyou get to the sand, is to turn right and swim along the reef. There arelots of small rocky outcrops which make it an interesting dive. Anotheroption is to head straight out, past the coarse sand and onto a stoneyarea. Within this area you can ﬁnd the odd scallop. On the coarse sandthere is a boiler from a steam ﬁshing trawler, it sank around 1849 andcan easily be missed. The Silver Steps is not really recommended at lowwater, mainly because of the entry point.The next shore dive is off of Castle Beach. Castle Beach is in front of theFalmouth Hotel just a little further along from the Silver Steps. It is thelocation of another German submarine. It is a little walk down a coupleof slopes, even worse on the way back up laden with wet gear.The submarine is not far offshore, its around 100m to the far end of theU-Boat. At high water you can swim over the reef straight to the wreck.At lower states of the tide it is best to head about 20m south of the lowerslope, there is a sandy gap in the reef which makes for an easy entry.You can ﬁnd the U-Boat by swimming along the reef, it is usuallycovered in kelp and can be hard to spot.Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page 6 !
The wreck lies at 90 degrees to the shore. If you line up the left hand edge of the Falmouth Hotel, with the left hand side of the ice cream hut and swim out, you will come across the wreck. At low water springs the highest part just breaks the surface, the deepest is around 8m at high water. Parking is usually availablealong the roadside above the ice cream hut.Along the coast another 1/2 mile and Gyllyngvase beach is our nextshore dive location. The best dive off of Gylly is from the south end ofthe beach, just in front of the wall that supports the cliff path toSwanpool. The reef is interesting enough but a little further along thereis the remains of a wreck, the 5,077 ton oil tanker, the Ponus. Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page 7 !
The wreck is well broken and spread over a huge area. The largest piecestands around 2m high. To ﬁnd it you need a straight line between thelast tall tree in the car park and the red and white beach safety sign. Keep the tree and sign lined up and you will come across the biggest piece. The only other line of sight (transit), is the white wall besides the restaurant at Swanpool becoming visible around the point.Once you ﬁnd the wreck you can swim around for quite a while ﬁndingmore and more of it. It is spread over at least 50m with steel plates,pipes and ribs exposed, or half buried in the sand. The sands can shiftand parts of the wreck get covered and uncovered, from time to time.The wreck is just 0.5m deep at low water springs and is still dive-able,maximum depth is 8m at high water. The best place to park is on theroad just behind Victoria Gardens. You can then walk around thesouthern end of the gardens to the beach. There is a wall by the beach,just as you get onto the sand, it is an ideal place for putting your kit onbefore entering the water.Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page 8 !
Next along is Swanpool Beach, Swanpool is a very easy, lazy dive.Especially at high tide. From the car park to the water can be as little asa 25m ﬂat walk. At low tide it is a much longer walk and just tooshallow. The southern reef is plain and simple, usually with quite a bit oflife. The north reef is shallower, at high water there is a very shallowarch to swim through. At low water you can walk through the arch.Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page 9 !
Maenporth Beach also has a wreck, a 422 ton ﬁshing trawler sunk in1978, it is very shallow and a long swim out. It is an excellent snorkeland a good dive at high water. The wreck is around 300m from thebeach and it is a long swim. It lies behind rocks along the left hand side,north side, of the cove and is not visible from the beach. At low wateryou can climb across the rocks to get to the wreck, then walk aroundthe remains of the Ben Asdale. The car park on the beach makes easy access to the water. You can walkalong the cliff path to see the wreck from above. You have to make yourway through some bushes, to get to the ledge above it though.Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page !10
The last two dives Ill group together as they are almost one. GrebeBeach and Durgan are just a couple of hundred metres apart, on thenorth side of the Helford River. Just off Durgan Beach there is a lot ofmoorings to swim around whilst, Grebe has no moorings at all. Theyboth have Sea Grass beds with a wide variety of life. The Helford River is a voluntary area of conservation, mainly becauseof this variety of life. It is best to dive at slack water, around one hourafter high or low water. Then head into the opposite direction of thenext tide, so you can swim back with the tide when it turns. If you dontyou may struggle to get back to where you started. The maximum depthis around 6m off of either beach. Parking isnt easy, as the free car park is at the top of the hill. Dontpark anywhere else, especially the passing places, as the police patrolthe area and give tickets out. Drop your gear off, park up and walk back.The diving is worth it, if you like marine life.Visibility is usually better at high water on all shore dives. The riverswont be so good after heavy rain. The visibility will take a few days toclear after southerly or easterly winds. It is worth the wait.Mark Milburn Falmouths Shore Dives, Page !11
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