Newmillerdam Country Park, Barnsley Road, Newmillerdam, WF2 6QP – Visit Now
Newmillerdam Country Park, a 14 minute bus ride or approximately 15 minute drive from Wakefield, is a welcome expanse of greenery outside the city centre. With a central lake circled by a path and stunning woodland slopes, the country park is also a site for nature conservation: the lake is an important breeding ground for the Great Crested Grebe, once hunted for its plumage to near extermination in the UK. Here, you can watch the birds’ ritualistic courtship dance in spring, as well as spotting mute swans, mallards and coots on the water. There are grey squirrels and bluebells in the woodland, while bats feed above the dam at sunset in the water months; keep an eye out for the UK’s smallest and largest varieties, the Pipistrelle and Noctule respectively.
Newmillerdam Country Park has a lengthy history. It was first known by an old Norse name, Thurstonhaugh, before a new corn mill was built on the site around 1285, and the area became known as ‘New Mylle on Dam’. The country park was once part of an estate owned by the Pilkington family, with a grand house called Chevet Hall on the site. Nine gamekeeper’s lodges were built by the family in the 1870s to protect the wildlife on the site from poachers – only two lodges remain today. There’s also the boathouse, constructed in the 1820s as a place for entertainment for the family and friends, with men shooting waterfowl from punts on the lake, and the women joining them for lunch.
The park was originally managed for its game and commercial forestry, but is now a haven for wildlife, with a café for visitors in the Boathouse. Here, you’ll find food made from fresh, locally sourced produce, barista coffee and great cakes – all in a picturesque setting. The country park is a perfect area to explore, tracing walks across the landscape; alternatively, take the Chevet branch line, a disused railway that’s accessible from the southwest corner, out into the wider surrounding countryside.