Hanningfield Reservoir Nature Discovery Park

Hanningfield Bluebells

Bluebells at Hanningfield Reservoir

Hanningfield visitor centre
Hanningfield view from centre
Providing panoramic views over the 870 acre reservoir. The Nature Discovery Centre is set in mature woodland and has proved a popular bat roost, with a beautiful carpet of Bluebells in the spring.


Hanningfield Reservoir Nature Discovery Centre
Hawkswood Road, Downham
CM11 1WT
A static map of Hanningfield Reservoir Nature Discovery Park

Know before you go

40 hectares

Parking information

Parking on site including disabled parking.

Bicycle parking



Various routes around the reserve, no watersports or cycles permitted on the reserve. 

The disabled toilet is separate from the ladies and men’s, no radar key needed.

Access to the reserve is through the Nature Discovery Centre.  Some walking trails are wheelchair friendly, please call into the centre and ask for details.


No dogs permitted

Please note that dogs are not permitted on the reserve with the exception of assistance dogs. Dogs can be walked at the nearby Crowsheath Wood or Crowsheath Community Woodland.



Visitor centre
Bird hides
Picnic area
Accessible toilet
Baby changing facilities

When to visit

Opening times

Hanningfield Nature Discovery Centre is open 7 days a week.

Winter opening hours:
10am – 4pm, 1 November – 10 February.

Summer opening hours:
10am – 5pm, 11 February - 31 October.

Christmas opening hours:
Christmas Eve 10am – 2pm, Closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve 10am – 2pm.

Best time to visit

All year round

About the reserve

A warm welcome will always greet you at Hanningfield reservoir Nature Discovery Centre. The centre is set in mature woodland and offers superb views over the 870 acre Hanningfield Reservoir. It is an ideal place to view the wildlife within the nature reserve and to receive the latest sightings news. The centre has full disabled access as does the Lyster Bird hide that is a short distance away.

There are lots of gifts in the centre shop and a full range of binoculars and telescopes, as well as books and refreshments. So while you're enjoying a nice warming drink you can take time to enjoy the stunning view over the water and browse the display.

The nature reserve offers some beautiful walks through the woodland, taking in bird hides, ponds and views across the reservoir. The site is run in partnership with Essex & Suffolk Water and you can walk through the reserve to the Essex & Suffolk Water Fishing Lodge and the Cafe on the Water. The reservoir itself is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the important numbers of wildfowl that use the reservoir in the autumn and winter, including Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Pochard.

The spectacle of thousands of Swifts, Swallows and Martins feeding over the water during peak fly hatches is one of the delights for the summer visitor. 30 acres of the woodland are ancient in origin and spring flowers include carpets of Bluebells and Stitchwort.

There are some really good nature trails on the reserve for all to enjoy. Advice is always on hand in the visitor centre, to help identify wildlife and to inform visitors of the best locations to see and experience wildlife.

A trail guide is available from the Nature Discovery Centre to guide you around the reserve. 

Contact us

Environmental designation

Local Nature Reserve (LNR)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Site map

Click to enlarge or download

Soprano Pipistrelle Bat

Soprano Pipistrelle Bats

Welcome to our new bat webcam, bringing you live pictures from our bat roost at the visitor centre.

Watch our live webcam
Hanningfield seed bomb


The Visitor Centre has a well-stocked shop, including binoculars and telescopes, wildlife books, bird food and feeders, gifts, greetings cards and toys.