Around Newmillerdam

A pleasant oasis, close to Wakefield, and a chance to feed the ducks.




4.5 miles (7.2kms)

328ft (100m)
1hr 45min

About the walk

Called Thurstonhaugh by Norse settlers, the area subsequently became part of a large medieval estate held by the Neviles until the 18th century. The lake is actually a mill pond and the place gained its present name in the 13th century with the construction of a new corn mill. The original mill is thought to have stood near the boathouse, but has seen several reincarnations before ending up in its present location in the 17th century after the lake had been extended to increase the head of water to drive the machinery. The mill continued to operate until 1960 and, although subsequently partly destroyed by a fire, still stands.

A hunting estate

The Pilkingtons bought the estate in 1765 as a hunting preserve, and at one time nine keepers were employed to manage the game and prevent poaching. Each was housed in a separate lodge, two of which stand by the main entrance to the park.

The Pilkingtons also built the impressive lakeshore boathouse in 1820 to serve as a pavilion where the ladies could relax while watching their menfolk shoot wildfowl from punts. A grade II listed building, it has been restored and is now hired out as a meeting venue with a difference

A local country park

Wakefield Council bought the park in 1954 and opened it to the public. The 16th-century Chevet Hall at the heart of the estate, however, was affected by mining subsidence and demolished in the 1960s.

Today, the park is a popular haunt for local people who come to walk, fish, watch birds or just feed the ducks. The lake is surrounded by three woods containing a mixture of larch and pine as well as oak, beech, birch and sycamore. The beech are from the Pilkingtons' time as do clumps of rhododendron, which were planted as game cover. The majority of trees, however, date from the 1950s, planted as a commercial crop to provide timber for pit props. The softwoods and rhododendrons are now gradually being removed to allow a more diverse woodland that will benefit flowers and wildlife. Bluebells and wood anemone are beginning to carpet the understorey and birds such as tree creepers, long-tailed tits, coot and heron can be spotted amongst the branches or around the shore. Great crested grebe breed on the lake and insects flying above the water attract several species of bat to feed during summer evenings.

The gift of a local photographer

Nearby Seckar Wood was part of a separate estate. It was bought by local photographer Warner Gothard, who left it for the enjoyment of local people on his death in 1940. Encompassing heath, wood and wetland, it is now an SSSI, rich in wildlife from woodpeckers to weasels. Go quietly and you might spot roe deer.

Walk directions

Turn right out of the car park and follow the main road down across the dam. At the far side, swing right in front of the Dam Inn through the park gates and follow the lakeside path. Ignore a causeway and carry on beyond the head of the lake to find a bridge across Bushcliff Beck.

On the far bank, go left and immediately right onto a path climbing into the trees. Keep with the main path to the crest of the hill, continuing ahead to a junction. Swing left on a broadening track, walking for 300yds (274m) to major junction. Turn right, crossing a bridge over the disused Chevet branch line to follow a rough track out to the main road.

Cross and turn right, walking downhill for 350yds (320m) to find a barriered track leading left into Seckar Wood. Stick to the main path rising through the trees, ignoring a crossing and eventually emerging onto the edge of open heath. Keep going forward across the high ground to a belt of trees that appears on the far side, passing out through them onto a crossing track.

Follow it right beside the wood, eventually crossing a stile and footbridge into the next field. Go right, passing through a gap in the corner to then swing left beside the hedge. Approaching houses, turn right within the corner and follow the hedge down to a broad gap. Turn left on a field track that soon leads out onto the road at Chapelthorpe.

Walk right, passing the Bay Horse and then a junction to a mini-roundabout. There go right along Wood Lane for almost 0.25 miles (400m). After passing the Pennine Camphill Community, turn off left along a field path that leads through to the bend of a lane. Follow it ahead down to the A61 and turn left back to the car park.

Additional information

Good paths by lake and through woodland, several stiles

Reservoir, heath and woodland

Keep on lead beside roads

OS Explorer 278 Sheffield & Barnsley

Pay-and-display car park at western end of dam, on A61 between Wakefield and Barnsley

Near start of walk

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About the area

Discover West Yorkshire

Everybody knows that Yorkshire has some special landscapes. The Dales and the Moors first spring to mind, but what about West Yorkshire? That’s Leeds and Bradford isn’t it? Back-to-back houses and blackened mills… Certainly if you had stood on any of the hills surrounding Hebden Bridge a hundred years ago, and gazed down into the valley, all you would have seen was the pall of smoke issuing from the chimneys of 33 textile mills. But thankfully, life changes very quickly in West Yorkshire. The textile trade went into terminal decline, the mills shut down forever and in a single generation Hebden Bridge became a place that people want to visit.

The surrounding countryside offers walking every bit as good as the more celebrated Yorkshire Dales; within minutes you can be tramping across the moors. And this close proximity of town and country is repeated all across West Yorkshire. There’s such diversity in the area that you can find yourself in quite unfamiliar surroundings, even close to places you may know very well. Take time to explore this rich county and you will be thrilled at what you find to shatter old myths and preconceptions. 

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