CIEEM are the leading professional membership body representing and supporting ecologists and environmental managers in the UK and abroad. The CIEEM Awards celebrate the success of projects, businesses and individuals who have made a significant contribution to protecting and restoring the natural environment. The NGO Impact Award, sponsored by The Ecology Consultancy, is the opportunity for members to recognise a Non-Governmental Organisation that has delivered a project or initiative that has had a major impact in benefitting nature.
Essex Wildlife Trust’s Abberton Reservoir Nature Discovery Park was nominated for their partnership project with Essex & Suffolk Water on the expansion of Abberton Reservoir to secure future water supplies. The local wildlife charity saw this as a unique opportunity to enhance the area for nature and people.
The new Nature Discovery Centre was constructed on the nature reserve as part of the Abberton Reservoir Enhancement Scheme and opened to the public in spring 2012. The bespoke visitor centre and 25ha nature reserve have since been outstandingly successful in creating suitable wildlife habitats as well as encouraging visitors to engage with nature.
The impact of the centre and nature reserve is far reaching, multi-generational and accessible to all. Its design was inspired by the landscape in which it sits and its management benefits both wildlife and people. Year on year visitor numbers continue to increase with regular outdoor learning activities to engage and educate children, various events offered for adults and centre or reserve volunteer opportunities. Essex Wildlife Trust, working in partnership with Essex & Suffolk Water, delivered volunteer work parties undertaking crucial habitat creation and management around the reserve; so far, volunteers have helped plant over 40,000 trees and shrubs in the new reserve area already.
Throughout the project, the vision to enhance the site for wildlife was at the centre of decisions. Some of the conservation work carried out to benefit wildlife includes profiling the slopes of the new reservoir to maximise habitat for wetland birds, planting saplings, creating new wetland habitat and establishing aquatic vegetation. Together with Essex & Suffolk Water, Essex Wildlife Trust also undertook innovative projects resulting in increases in populations of water vole, a range of bird species and reptiles and carried out pond management to benefit insects and amphibians such as great crested newt.
This project has enabled an already important wetland habitat to be transformed into a thriving nature reserve and inspiring Nature Discovery Centre.