A walk through a country park, now a haven for watersports and wildlife.




3 miles (4.8kms)

75ft (23m)
1hr 15min

About the walk

Originally Chasewater was a natural reservoir called Norton Pool, but little is known about its history prior to the late 18th century; with its poor acidic soil, heathland and forest, it was unsuitable for cultivation. But during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15) there was a drive throughout the country to increase food production for the army, so areas of heathland and forest went under the plough.

Chase that water supply

In 1797 a dam was constructed to turn the pool into a feeder reservoir for the Anglesey Branch Canal, newly built to carry coal from local pits to Birmingham and beyond. As the canal had little natural catchment, any extra water in winter was lifted back from the canal into the reservoir by a steam-driven pump. The valve house of this remains today, on top of the dam wall.

Steam carries coal

With the arrival of the railways in the second half of the 19th century, canals were – quite literally – overtaken by the new technology. A network of tracks in the area included the causeway across the water, which carried coal from Cannock Chase. Mining around Chasewater continued well into the 20th century, but by 1950 it was an industry in decline, leaving a desolate landscape of disused railways, sidings and pit waste.

Reservoir leisure

Even back then, the local authority had the foresight to transform Chasewater into an aquatic pleasure park, complete with funfair, big wheel and miniature railway. The funfair is no more, but the park has recently undergone renovation and now features a waterskiing centre, as well as sailing and wind-surfing. For those who prefer their leisure pursuits a little more leisurely, there are displays at Chasewater Innovation Centre (free admission, open daily all year).

But the most significant achievement of the reclamation programme is its thriving wildlife. Today, much of the area has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). In summer, when the water is low, the sediment along the shore makes an ideal feeding ground for birds such as herons, pied wagtails and ringed plovers. The stringy mat of weed over the exposed beaches is the rare but aptly named shoreweed. During winter, coots, mute swans and a vast roost of gulls are best watched from the south shore in late afternoon. Cormorants and Canada geese are also common, and great crested grebes can often be spotted displaying in spring. Some 230 different bird species have been noted here.

Heathland favours acid-loving plants; areas reclaimed from mining support only coarse grass and little in the way of wildlife. Natural grassland, though, boasts a rich variety of plants, such as lichens, mosses and cowslips. Finally, there are the bogs – disliked by walkers, but, as a habitat, appreciated by naturalists.

Walk directions

From the car park, go past the Innovation Centre and adjoining cafe down to the shore of the reservoir, and turn right. Bend left around the corner of the reservoir, and follow the tarmac path along the top of the concrete dam. At its end, drop to the right, off the path, to join the road running round to the left, towards Chase Sailing Club.

After 220yds (201m), as the road turns hard left, carry straight on along a wide gravel track, following cycle route signs. Keep following this track around, ignoring a path to the left, then forking left alongside the busy A5195 road. The wide path is sometimes gravel, sometimes tarmac. It passes to the left of some sports pitches, then bends right to pass alongside what looks like a pond but is in fact a corner of the reservoir. Finally it turns away from the reservoir, with a small stream on its left, to reach Chasewater Heaths Station.

Don’t cross to the station, but stay on the wide tarmac path as it veers left, back towards the reservoir. It crosses open heath, to rejoin the railway at the start of its causeway across the north end of the reservoir. Turn left, alongside the railway, to cross the causeway.

Turn left on a wide dirt path along the shoreline. There are some carved picnic benches along this shoreline if you want to stop for a rest or a bite to eat, or just to watch the world go by. The sound of the steam train is carried across the water. The shoreline itself is reinforced by the roots of the tough willow trees that grow there.

The path becomes tarmac as you pass to the left of Brownhills West Station, then pass around to the right of the Chase Water Ski Centre at the reservoir corner. Bear left off the main tarmac path to join a well-made gravel one along the shoreline. This path even ventures out on decking across the water of a tiny bay, before arriving at a swan pond just in front of the Innovation Centre. Pass around (or through) the Innovation Centre to the car park.

Additional information

Gravel tracks

Lakeside and heathland

Can be taken off lead

OS Explorer 244 Cannock Chase

Ample parking at start point; follow signs 'Chasewater' off A6

At Chasewater Innovation Centre

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About the area

Discover West Midlands

After Greater London, the West Midlands is the UK’s biggest county by population, and after London, Birmingham is the UK’s largest city. There’s a lot to seek out here – it has a vibrant culture, with exceptionally good nightlife. Coventry used to be more important than Birmingham, until the 18th century when the Industrial Revolution started and Brum forged ahead. 

Apart from Lady Godiva, Coventry is best known for its cathedrals. The medieval parish church became a cathedral in 1918, but the Blitz on Coventry in 1940 left only the spire and part of the walls. After the war, it was decided to build a new cathedral alongside linked to the ruins. 

Dudley was one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution, and this history is reflected in its architecture and the Black Country Living Museum, a recreation of an industrial village, with shops and a pub, cottages and a chapel. Stourbridge is also worth a visit, mainly due to its involvement in glassmaking, which has been going on since the 17th century, and is still a part of the town’s culture; there’s a glass museum and a bi-annual glass festival.