Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary
Thursday, 22nd March, 2007
This boathouse was built in Victorian times when - apart from a few special days each year when they opened the grounds to the public - the Pilkington family had Newmiller Dam, south-east of Wakefield, to themselves. Once part of the Chevet Estate, today it’s a Country Park so, if you’ve got an hour or so to spare, why not take a walk around the lake?
When they get to the boathouse, most people continue on the lakeside path but in the first of my Walks around Newmillerdam I suggest a path that leads up through beech trees towards the eastern boundary wall of the Country Park.
You pass this old sandstone quarry.
Three or four hundred yards after you’ve passed the quarry, you take a path down towards the lake which you cross via this causeway. Moorhen, coot, great-crested grebe, black-headed gulls and a solitary heron are amongst the birds you’d expect to see at this quieter, shallower, end of the lake.
Soon my suggested walk takes you on one of the woodland rides up the other side of the valley, originally the valley of Bushcliff Beck, before it was flooded in medieval times by the construction of the first dam.
The conifers were planted in the 1950s and 1960s to ensure a supply of pit
props for local collieries but by the time they matured many of the local pits
had already closed and now the only one left is Caphouse Colliery
which you can visit as the National Coal Mining Museum for England.
Lawns Dike enters the lake from the west via a narrow valley, straddled at its top end by a three-arch grey-brick viaduct which until the 1960s was used by trains, mainly carrying coal, on a branch line of the Midland Railway.
The Dike was part of the boundary between the medieval parishes of Sandal Magna and Royston.
After zigzagging through the plantations of Kings Wood you can take a path back down towards the lake. The path aligns with the boathouse which is visible across the lake.
This is one of the six walks that I'll be featuring in Walks around Newmillerdam
but, to suit the format of my walks booklets, the illustrations will be in pen
and ink instead of the sepia vignettes that the Victorian parkland setting suggested
to me when putting this page online.