57ac/23ha SSSI, SPA
Grid ref: TL 965 180 (click for o/s map)
Mouse over links for pictures; click for detail page.
This is a new visitor centre and reserve run by Essex Wildlife Trust, opened on higher ground in 2012 to replace the old ones lost as a result of Essex & Suffolk Water raising the levels of Abberton Reservoir. Areas have been planted up to develop into woodland and scrub, bordering a large area of grassland leading down towards the reservoir.
Two bird hides overlook the reservoir and tern rafts, and a third hide overlooks the developing woodland. There are several ponds. Nature trails have been laid out giving access to all the habitats and to the hides. There are also fine panoramic views across the reservoir and surrounding villages from the higher ground.
Brown hare, skylark, lapwing and various butterfly species have already been attracted to the rough grassland, which has green-winged and common spotted orchids, and dragonflies to the ponds. Raptors including short-eared owl visit in winter and marsh harriers all year, and in summer common terns nest on the rafts moored nearby and grey herons in the heronry.
Huge numbers of birds spend autumn and winter on the reservoir. The numbers of the top seven species – wigeon, teal, mallard, pochard, tufted duck, coot and black-headed gull – run into thousands, and there may also be hundreds of shoveler, gadwall, goldeneye, pintail and great crested grebe.
Five miles south-west of Colchester on the B1026 linking Colchester and Maldon, just outside Layer-de-la-Haye. Watch out for brown 'Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre' signs.
Open daily 9am to 5pm (closed Christmas and Boxing Day). collect a permit from the centre (free to Essex Wildlife Trust members, otherwise a donation is requested).
Good all the year round, but especially in winter for wildfowl; May and June for breeding birds; August for moulting swans and ducks.
The centre is all on one level and fully accessible to disabled visitors. There is a circular all-weather footpath suitable for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
Dogs must be kept on leads. A short dog walk is provided