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.

Location

Church Rd
Layer-de-la-Haye
Colchester
Essex
CO2 0EU
A static map of Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre

Know before you go

Size
25 hectares

Parking information

Large free on site car park

Bicycle parking

Yes

Walking trails

Various routes around the reserve and reservoir, please call in to the centre and ask for details.

Access

Some walking trails are wheelchair friendly. A wheelchair and electric buggy are available for use. 

Dogs

Guide dogs only
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.

Facilities

Visitor centre
Bird hides
Toilets
Shop
Cafe/refreshments
Picnic area
Disabled toilet
Baby changing facilities
Outdoor play area
Wifi

When to visit

Opening times

Open Daily 9am - 5pm (November, December & January 9am - 4pm) Closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day

Best time to visit

All year

About the reserve

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. Staff and volunteers are happy to explain the reservoir enhancement scheme to visitors, so do please call in and see us.

Contact us

Essex Wildlife Trust
Contact number: 01206 738172

Environmental designation

Ramsar
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)
Abberton tearoom

Skylark tearoom

We serve a selection of hot items, sandwiches, wraps, panini, toasties, children’s lunch boxes, delicious handmade cakes including gluten & diary free, cream teas, toasted teacakes and seasonal homemade bakes,

Open daily, serving from 9.30-4.30 with hot food cooked until 3.30.

Abberton shop

Shop

The visitor centre has 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.

Abberton Middleditch Wild Play Area

Photo: Carol Durrell - River Photography

Middleditch wild play area

The Middleditch wild play area is ideal for younger visitors to explore the outdoors.