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Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre

A wetland site of international importance for wildfowl. Up to 40,000 ducks, swans and geese visit each year. Excellent bird watching opportunities and fabulous views over the reservoir.

The huge expanse of Essex & Suffolk Water's Abberton Reservoir is one of Europe's top wetland sites. It is of international importance as a safe haven for wild ducks, swans and other water birds, whether resident, passing through on migration or over-wintering. It lies close to east-coast migration routes and, with its surrounding envelope of pasture and tree plantations, is a welcome sight to tired birds.

Up to 40,000 ducks, swans and geese visit each year. The top seven species are Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Coot and Black-headed Gull and they cannot fail to impress. Added to this there can be hundreds of Shoveler, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Pintail and Great Crested Grebe. In the spring there is the unusual sight of Cormorants nesting in trees, one of the few places in Britain where they do this. They began in 1981 and have continued ever since.

Late summer brings the spectacle of large numbers of swans and ducks moulting - replacing their worn-out feathers - on the reservoir. Safety is vital while they do so because they replace all their flight feathers at once, which means that for a while they are unable to fly. In dry winters water levels fall temporarily to expose large expanses of mud. This attracts large numbers of passage waders such as ruff and spotted redshank from the coast. The surrounding farmland, too, is of value to birds. In winter thousands of golden plover may be seen there, along with small numbers of migratory geese and swans. For the keen birdwatcher the reservoir boasts an impressive list of rarities visiting briefly in winter or passing through on migration.

Essex & Suffolk Water’s reservoir enhancement project is well underway at Abberton Reservoir and making excellent progress. The concrete edge has been removed and a lot of re-profiling work has been done leaving shallow muddy margins and large areas of rough grassland.

Visitors can still enjoy walks on the new Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve. There are stunning panoramic views across the reservoir and surrounding villages from the higher ground. There are 2 hides overlooking the reservoir, and one in the new woodland. The Visitor Centre offers a great viewing area, toilet facilities, and a well-stocked shop, including binoculars and telescopes, wildlife books and DVDs, bird food and feeders, gifts, greetings cards, hot and cold drinks, packaged snacks and ice creams and for the children we have our new Middleditch Wild Play Area. Staff and volunteers are happy to explain the reservoir enhancement scheme to visitors, so do please call in and see us.

The Visitor Centre is 6 miles SW of Colchester on the B1026 (a minor road linking Colchester and Maldon) just S of Layer de la Haye - follow the brown and white "Abberton Reservoir visitor centre" signs.

Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre Tearoom

It is now almost a year since the official opening by Sir David Attenborough of the reservoir expansion and, like the nature reserve and visitor centre the tearoom has also gone from strength to strength and has become a hive of activity. 

The tearoom serves a selection of hot items including breakfast baps, jacket potatoes with various fillings and soups with freshly baked rolls. As well as sandwiches, wraps, panini, toasties and children’s Lunch boxes.

We do of course continue to serve delicious handmade cakes including gluten & diary free, cream teas, toasted teacakes and seasonal homemade bakes and strive to offer something for everyone and aspire to continue to serve & support the visitor centre.

The tearoom is open daily, serving from 9.30-4.30 with hot food cooked until 3.30.


Essex & Suffolk Water

Species and habitats

Grassland, Meadow, Ponds, Wetland, Woodland
Skylark, Brown Hare, Common Tern, Goldeneye

Nearby nature reserves

Abbotts Hall Farm
2 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust
Roman River Valley Nature Reserve
2 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust
Ray Island Nature Reserve
3 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre
Church Rd
Map reference
TL 962 177
Great for...
a family day out
getting away from it all
overwintering birds
spring migrant birds
stunning views
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Opening Times
Open Daily 9am - 5pm (November, December & January 9am - 4pm)

Closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day
Gift shop
Visitor centre
Picnic facilities
Disabled toilet
Baby changing
24.20 hectares

Various routes around the reserve, some are wheelchair friendly. A wheelchair and electric buggy are available for use. Please contact the visitor centre for more information.
Walking information
Various routes around the reserve.

Restricted Dog Access: Dogs are only permitted in the car park and not on the nature reserve; there is short ‘dog walk’ area available within our newly planted woodland, although this is only suitable for a stretch of the legs. We ask that dogs are kept on their leads and owners clear up after their four legged friends.

A longer walk between the two causeways is available; for more information on this please call into the visitor centre.

Assistant dogs only in the visitor centre and on the nature reserve.
Parking on site
Guide dogs only
Reserve manager
Essex Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01206 738172