Merrydale and Hill Top Reservoir near Slaithwaite

A reservoir circuit that takes you to a popular picnic spot




1.5 miles (2.4kms)

140ft (42m)

About the walk

This easy leg stretch around Hill Top Reservoir above Slaithwaite in the Holme Valley is popular with local walkers and dog owners, offering fresh air and exercise through some pleasant countryside in a relatively short space of time. The dam crossed early in the walk – referred to as both Hill Top or Slaithwaite Reservoir – was built across Merrydale Brook in 1796, one of several constructed in the Holme Valley to provide water for the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The canal dams were built of earth with clay cores and 80 per cent of them leaked; many in Slaithwaite were conscious of the potential havoc to be wreaked if the dam failed and its 68.2 million gallons spilled on to the town. It held, though the town was one of those affected by the Bilberry Dam tragedy in 1852.

A reservoir, a waterfall and a beauty spot

The reservoir is especially popular with anglers, and is stocked with roach, bream, perch and carp. It has a reputation for being an excellent place to catch pike; the clough dammed to create the reservoir was steep-sided and the waters beneath the dam’s 11-acre (4.5ha) surface are deep, conditions favoured by large pike. Some anglers believe that large pike bite better after dusk, and night-time fishing is allowed on the dam. Fishing rights are held by Slaithwaite and District Angling Club and day tickets are available locally.

Further upstream is another body of water. The pond passed on the walk, near a fine waterfall, once served Clough House Mill, a huge woollen mill which later went over to cotton spinning. It was demolished in 1977, after almost two centuries of production. Its name lives on in nearby Clough House and Clough House Bridge. Its Schofield & Taylor vertical compound mill engine, named Elizabeth, has found a new home in Wortley Top Forge Industrial Museum at Thurgoland in South Yorkshire.

Upstream of the bridge is Merrydale, a beautiful clough that has been a popular countryside destination with locals for generations. Families employed in Slaithwaite’s mills came here to walk, swim in the dams and picnic. It remains a quiet beauty spot to this day, looked after by the Friends of Merrydale and Kirklees Countryside Service. Though not on the route of this walk, it lies just a few paces upstream of the bridge crossed at the end of Point 2 in the directions and is well worth the short diversion.

Walk directions

Take the footpath across Hill Top Reservoir’s embankment. Turn left after crossing the spill channel, on a waterside path.

At the far end of the reservoir the path emerges from beneath trees into an open area. The path follows a brook upstream to cross a small bridge, by a small weir. Soon after it veers right, up a rough track, past a pond to a road. Turn left, past a row of former weavers’ cottages, over a bridge, following the road left.

After crossing a second bridge head up the road for 40yds (37m), then pass through a kissing gate on your left on to a path that carries you along the top of a 50ft (15m) retaining wall – don’t look down – and is tight in places, where bushes have encroached. The noise of rushing water is the spill from the millpond below, passed earlier. Follow the fence-line path along the top edge of the woodland and over a stile, descending a little way towards the reservoir. Beyond another stile the path, now corralled between fences, leads out of the trees on to a grassy path below fields where muddy sections have been boardwalked.

At the far end, it slips between garden boundaries, and out on to Holme Lane. Turn left, downhill, back to the start.

Additional information

Reasonable reservoir-side trails, field paths and quiet roads; several stiles

Open water, woodland and fields

Dogs can exercise freely around the reservoir

OS Explorer OL21 South Pennines

On-street parking around Holme Lane or in Slaithwaite itself

None on route

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About the area