A beautiful woodland nature reserve and conservation charity – protecting wildlife for the future and for the people of Essex.
Set in magnificent woodlands, enjoy drinks and snacks in the café with a view of the reservoir, shop for quality nature-inspired products, and explore the tracks and bird-watching hides around the reserve – including our Wind in the Willows sculpture trail!
The Visitor Centre and reserve are open 7 days a week from 9am, gates close at 5pm in summer and 4pm in winter; closed Christmas/Boxing Day – please call to check opening hours and for information about our events.
Providing panoramic views over the 870 acre reservoir, the Centre is set in mature woodland, a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its nationally important populations of wildfowl and a mecca for woodland and wetland bird-watching. Diverse habitats ensure there is always something different to see throughout the year, including bluebell carpets in spring.
The reservoir, the second largest in Essex, is nationally recognised for the wildfowl that visit to breed and overwinter. Four bird-watching hides look across the water, also nationally acclaimed for angling run from the fishing lodge, a mile’s walk from the Centre through the reserve. Well-marked paths meander between the Centre and lodge, passing through ancient coppice and secondary woodland and past the dipping pond.
Magnificent wooden sculptures of Wind in the Willows characters create a trail for younger visitors. These sculptures, including Badger and Mr Toad, bring Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved book to life. Start at the Centre where you can buy a trail map, then set off following the numbered points on the map. When you find a sculpture, take a brass rubbing to create your own piece of artwork to take home for your wall!
Essex Wildlife Trust Hanningfield’s conservation work helps the wildlife populations here flourish, providing the diverse refuges and resources they need. For example, providing tern rafts as nesting banks out on the water, siting dormouse nesting boxes throughout the woodland, and monitoring bat roosts and owl boxes. Our “café with a view” offers hot and cold drinks and snacks – toasties, soup, sandwiches, ice creams and homemade cakes, including gluten free and vegan. Our nature-inspired products for sale range from binoculars to books. Toilet facilities include disabled and baby-changing, with wheelchair access.
Due to the reserve’s conservation status, no cycling and no dogs allowed (except licensed guide/assistance dogs).