Essex Wildlife Trust has taken the difficult decision to close Hanningfield Reservoir Nature Discovery Centre and nature reserve to prioritise the welfare of our staff, volunteers and members of the public and sadly we have cancelled all of our events until the end of August.

Please read the Trust’s latest statement on COVID-19 here.

Thank you for your support and patience, we look forward to welcoming you back as soon as we can.

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


Hanningfield Reservoir Visitor Centre
Hawkswood Road, Downham
CM11 1WT
A static map of Hanningfield Reservoir Visitor Centre

Know before you go

40 hectares

Parking information

Parking on site

Bicycle parking



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


No dogs permitted
No dogs allowed - dogs can be walked at the nearby Crowsheath Wood or Crowsheath Community Woodland.


Visitor centre
Bird hides
Picnic area
Disabled toilet
Baby changing facilities

When to visit

Opening times

Closed until further notice.

Best time to visit

All year round

About the reserve

A warm welcome will always greet you at Hanningfield reservoir visitor centre.The visitor 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 and the new orienteering course is proving extremely popular. 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 visitor centre to guide you around the reserve. 

Contact us

Environmental designation

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


We serve a selection of sandwiches, wraps, children’s lunch boxes, delicious handmade cakes including gluten free, cream teas, toasted teacakes, hot and cold drinks and ice creams. Open daily, from 9.00am - 4.30pm

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.