Situated just off the A12 and A130, north-east of Billericay and south of Chelmsford, this delightful, tranquil and undiscovered part of the Essex countryside is a must if you want to escape the hum-drum of a busy lifestyle.
Set within a 100 acre Reserve with its mosaic of habitats, including ancient woodlands, open glades and farmland, together with its meandering pathways and bird hides dotted throughout. This offers visitors and bird enthusiasts alike a spot of relaxation and a chance to explore the lovely wildlife here.
Opened in 2000 as a Millennium Project, the Visitor Centre boasts a large purpose-built education room together with sustainable features including composting toilets, reed bed filtration, wood burner and recycling points. It offers an exceptional wide range of activities and events for children, adults and families throughout the year, including guided walks, exhibitions and demonstrations, together with an array of education programmes and activities for children, schools, clubs and youth groups.
The Visitor Centre also stocks an extensive range of optics, wildlife books and gifts. There is ample parking for cars, disabled parking and coaches. Light refreshments are available at the Visitor Centre and a short walk through the reserve will bring you to a further range of other leisure facilities, including boat hire, fishing, local pubs and a restaurant.
Further Leisure Facilities nearby the Nature Reserve
By walking through the Nature Reserve to the Fishing Lodge gate entrance, you can reach the Fishing Lodge, boating area and Waters Edge Cafe overlooking the length of the Reservoir. Private fishing and boat hire is available, but you do need a permit. Members of the public can also hire rowing boats during the summer months. For further enquiries and opening and closing times please telephone 01245 212034.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE
Essex Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve caters for a wide range of educational activities for children, young people, families and adults. The Visitors’ Centre offers a fantastic location for both formal and informal environmental education.
Hanningfield specialises in Secondary, Higher and Further Education, and also offers visits for the local schools. Groups can share a day visit between Essex and Suffolk Water Treatment Works and our Nature Reserve. Field visits cover a wide range of topics, tailored to the National Curriculum and other educational syllabi. The day’s activities can be tailored according to particular needs of the school.
Hanningfield also offers wildlife birthday parties, evening activities for youth groups, and we are pleased to provide activities for special needs groups. In the school holidays (excluding the Christmas Holidays) a number of wildlife themed days are run, including Wildlife Discovery Days for 8 to 12 year olds and Practical Conservation Work Parties for over 11’s. Throughout the summer we hold unforgettable ‘Wild Nights Out’, which is a whole night devoted to wildlife activities, and includes dinner, breakfast and a tent to sleep in!
Family events for all ages such as bat evenings, pond dipping days, nature trails and much more are all very popular.
THE NATURE RESERVE
This wonderful green space boasts a 100 acres Nature Reserve and 870 acres Reservoir (a nationally important Special Site of Scientific Interest).
Come and take a closer look at the wildlife by visiting the bird hides with panoramic views overlooking the reservoir. Even follow several miles of accessible meandering footpaths in this beautiful and tranquil part of the Essex countryside through ancient woodlands, open grassland glades, forest plantations and farmland. Over the seasons you may also see butterflies, bees, dragonflies, lizards, bats, owls and much more.
The Reserve and Reservoir are renowned for their wading bird life. You can see displays of spectacular colourful plumage from migrating and residing wading birds and woodland birds from all over Europe and the African continent. We also have dazzling displays of seasonal flowers from carpeting colours of snowdrops and bluebells, to the aromatic foxgloves and yellow archangel, together with a colourful feast of various fungi in the autumn. You should not forget all the other flora and fauna which can be seen on the reserve such as butterflies, bees, dragonflies, lizards, wood ants and much, much more.
If you want hands on, then why not come and join the Warden on his practical conservation days volunteering on the Reserve. All year round on Wednesdays and Friday the volunteer teams build pathways, fences, clear scrub, coppice trees, lay hedges and much more. So if you fancy doing something a little different, then come along. As long as you are over age 16, all abilities welcome; with full training provided.
Opening times of the Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre is daily, from 9am to 5pm, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day when we are closed. During the winter months the Fishing Lodge gate entrance to the Reserve closes at 3.45pm. The main gates to the Nature Reserve close at 5pm.