Abbotts Hall Farm
697ac/282ha SSSI (part), SPA
Grid ref: TL 963 146 (click for o/s map)
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This coastal farm was bought by Essex Wildlife Trust in 2000. It is the Trust's headquarters, and also a working farm rich in wildlife and a demonstration site for sustainable coastal defence.
The coastal realignment project at Abbotts Hall Farm was designed to recreate lost habitats by allowing sea water back on to the land reclaimed when the seawall was built. Two new counter walls were constructed at either end of the site to protect neighbouring land but elsewhere the land rises gently, checking the incoming tide without additional sea defenses. This has allowed the creation of 200 acres of mudflat, saltmarsh and coastal grassland.
The seawall was breached in five places in October 2002 and very quickly saltmarsh plants moved in. Other signs of marine life include shore crabs, jellyfish, lugworms and shrimps, and a number of fish species.
New grassland has been created between the developing saltmarsh and the remaining arable fields, and sheep are now back grazing as in they used to in the past.
Over much of Essex, wildlife has been finding it more and more difficult to keep a foothold on the modern arable farm. Farmland birds such as grey partridge and corn bunting have experienced massive declines. The Trust is aiming to improve the lot of wildlife on the farm while continuing to grow food economically.
For over 30 years the previous cropping regime was dominated by wheat. Now the Trust is growing a wide range of crops, including wild bird seed mixes.
Conditions for wildlife have been improved in other ways by planting and coppicing hedges, leaving uncultivated field margins, and creating beetle banks across the centre of fields to encourage predatory insects.
Results have been good. The skylark population has increased along with many species of breeding bird, including yellowhammers, whitethroats and wagtails. Overwintering finches and thrushes feed on the food-rich field margins and in the hedgerows. Water voles breed on the stream and round the lake.
Seven miles south of Colchester just off the B1026, south of Abberton Reservoir and west of Great Wigborough. From Colchester take the B1026 towards Maldon and turn off left towards Peldon about 3km beyond the causeway across Abberton Reservoir, or follow the B1026 from Maldon and keep straight on where it turns sharp left about 4km beyond Tolleshunt d'Arcy. The entrance is about 1km down on the right. SatNav: CO5 7RZ.
Open to the public Monday–Friday only, 9 am–5 pm.
Dogs are restricted to dog walk adjacent to main building.
This is a working farm and sometimes paths will be closed for safety reasons.