“ A woodland and lake setting perfect for walking, cycling or horse riding in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. „
Newmillerdam Country Park is situated off the A61 Barnsley to Wakefield Road, approximately 3 and a half miles south of Wakefield in West Yorkshire. Covering 237 acres, it makes an attractive setting for a walk due to the combination of woodland and water. The lake and woods were formerly the grounds of a 16th century country house (now demolished). From 1765 the park was owned by the Pilkington family. There is a boathouse situated on the lake, which was used by the Pilkington family in the 1900s to entertain their shooting party guests. The boathouse is a grade II listed building that has been recently restored. These days the park is in the hands of Wakefield Council's Countryside and Conservation Service.
Blessed with a sunny, crisp autumn day after a week of mainly vile weather, my family decided to head to Newmillerdam Country Park for a leisurely Sunday walk. I stress the word 'leisurely.' There are a variety of walks available at the park. In addition to the circular walk you can veer off and explore the many different paths through the woods and even extend your walk to the bridleways that surround the park or along the disused railway line. (A map of the different walks can be downloaded from www.wakefield.gov.uk) However, since the purpose of our visit was simply to get some fresh air and build up an appetite for lunch, we confined our walk to the main lakeside path.
There is a pay and display car park (£1 for 2 hours) but otherwise entrance to the country park is free. Maybe because it was such a beautiful day, the car park was busy and we could not get a space. We ended up parking at the pub across the road, The Fox and Hounds, where we had a drink before starting our walk. This seemed a very nice pub and, although we didn't end up eating there, the carvery menu on offer did look tempting. I also noticed that there was an ice cream van in the car park, but ice cream in November did not really appeal to me.
The vast lake is surrounded by trees and the lakeside path is wide enough and flat enough to be accessible to pushchairs and wheelchairs. Despite the recent wet weather and the dense carpet of damp leaves underfoot, it was not overly muddy or slippery. However, sensible footwear is obviously advisable.
Armed with a whole loaf of bread, we hoped the ducks would be hungry and we weren't disappointed. We didn't take any bread home with us. However, the ducks were pretty laid back in comparison to the gulls. They seemed to come from nowhere but were soon flapping in circles above us, bringing to mind Hitchcock's The Birds. I must admit, they made me feel a little uneasy and very young children might have found them scary, but at the same time I found these birds utterly fascinating to watch. They are astonishingly agile and I was almost transfixed as I watched them soar and swoop down to catch the bits of bread in midair. My kids loved feeding the gulls. It was the highlight of the trip for them. They found it so cool how the gulls would hover above them, clearly waiting for the next piece of bread to be hurled upwards. In addition to ducks and gulls, there are also Canada geese and swans at the park. I prefer to give swans a wide berth, although I noticed one family hand feeding 2 swans - actually placing bits of bread into the swan's beak! Perhaps these were exceptionally tame, but I wasn't going to put that to the test!
It is approximately a 3 km walk around the shore, but you can shorten it a little if you cross the causeway over the water (as we did.) It should be noted that there are no railings at the water's edge so care must be taken when crossing the causeway, especially with young children, as this is quite deep water.
There are plenty of benches along the walk so you can stop for a rest, eat a picnic lunch, or just take in the scenery. I noticed that some of the benches had plaques on and were in memory of people who had clearly loved Newmillerdam. We spotted some grey squirrels in the woodland and I was able to get quite close to one, although not close enough to get a decent photo. Apparently it is not uncommon to see rabbits and foxes too, but we didn't spot any this time. Fishing is available on the lake and the place is a haven for walking dogs and I saw many off their leads, clearly having a lovely time. People must've been cleaning up after their dogs because I didn't walk in anything unpleasant!
The boathouse is open every Sunday and contains a visitor centre where you can find information about the history of the park and leaflets about other natural attractions in the area. There was a children's autumn artwork activity going on in there too, with several little kids engrossed in making collages from leaves. There is also a viewing point from the boathouse, where you can look out over the water and take photographs. Although the lakeside walk is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, it should be noted that the boathouse has to be accessed by steps.
I won't lie and say this is the prettiest walk I have ever been on. I do prefer to be out in the country, away from the trappings of urban life. At Newmillerdam, you can never quite pretend you're out in the middle of nowhere. The main road is just a little too close. Another thing I found rather depressing was seeing quite a bit of litter around. Having said that, if you're somebody, like me, who enjoys the simple pleasures of feeding the ducks and ambling along, chatting to your family in a picturesque setting, this is a great place to go. If, like me, you want a brisk, not too strenuous walk to whet your appetite before lunch, you can round things off by taking advantage of a choice of eating establishments close to the park. I have already mentioned the Fox and Hounds pub across the road. The long-established Beuley café and a Toby Carvery provide two other food options within a stone's throw of the walk.
If you are looking for some peace and quiet, you might find there are just too many people around, as it's certainly a very popular, busy spot. However, if you meander off the main path and explore some of the woodland walks, this will probably be quieter. For me, Newmillerdam is certainly a place I would love to go back to, because I know there is more for me to explore and it makes for a pleasant family day out, with something different to offer according to the season. The autumn colours make it very attractive, but equally I would like to see it in spring when the bluebells are out. It is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.
Nearest railway station: Sandal and Agbrigg (3 miles)
Nearest bus station: Wakefield (4 miles)
Bus routes: The 59a Stagecoach Yorkshire (Wakefield-Barnsley) passes the park entrance.
Further information: 01924 303980
Newmillerdam Country Park lies adjacent to the main A61 Barnsley to Wakefield road in West Yorkshire. I have driven past here many times and I have always made a mental note to pay it a visit but it was only very recently that I finally got the chance to stop and have a look around.
The country park is located approximately 5 kilometres south of Wakefield and covers an area of 237 acres. It consists of mixed broadleaf woodland centred around a large lake. When I visited here in early November the trees were lovely shades of golden brown. There is a large car park (pay and display) and a footpath goes all of the way around the lake. There are smaller footpaths that extend into the woodland and these are all popular with walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
The earliest reference to this area date back 1285 when the area was known as New Mylle on Dam, taking its name from a corn mill that stood on the site. This mill was located upstream towards the far end of the park but in 1633 it was moved to its present location by Francis Nevile who lived at nearby Chevet Hall. The current country park is located within the grounds of the former Chevet Hall estate and the once grand house has long since been demolished. A large water wheel was built to power the mill but in the 1820's the mill was largely demolished and a new mill was built on the same site.
In 1765 the estate was purchased by the Pilkington family and during their ownership a grand boathouse was built on the water's edge. We know that the Newmillerdam Boathouse was built by William Pilkington and that it first appears on a map in 1826 but very little else is known about its early history.
Today the Boathouse is open to the public every Sunday at the following times:
1st April - 31st October: 13.00 hours - 16.30 hours
1st November- 31st March 12.00 midday - 15.30 hours
Entry is free. It is available for private functions including parties and seminars. It can accommodate up to 30 people.
Newmillerdam is now managed as a local nature reserve by Wakefield Council's Countryside and Conservation Service and it is an important habitat for both water and woodland birds. Angling is allowed around the lake by permit.
The footpath around the lake is flat and of good quality. It is suitable for both wheelchair users and pushchairs providing that the weather has not been too wet. Towards the far end of the lake where the mill is located a bridge crosses a narrow span of the water and many people cross the bridge at this point. A circular walk around the lake from the car park via the first bridge is 2 kilometres in length. If you wish to walk around the very top part of the lake then this will extend your walk to just over 3kilomteres. Whichever route you take it is an easy and pleasant stroll.
Newmillerdam Country Park
Telephone: (01924) 303980