Our latest statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Essex Wildlife Trust's latest statement on Coronavirus.

We continue to closely follow guidance set out by the Government, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Public Health England, as well as The Wildlife Trusts movement.

Our thanks for your ongoing support, patience and understanding at this challenging time. We are extremely grateful to our members and to those who have donated to Essex Wildlife Trust so that we can continue to protect wildlife and wild places in Essex.

If you are able to make a donation to help us, your support makes a huge difference. If you are not already a member and want to join us, our thanks in advance.

Our Nature Discovery Centres

Following a period of careful planning and preparing, three of our Nature Discovery Centres opened from Thursday 16 July: Belfairs Woodland Centre, Ingrebourne Valley and Thorndon Countryside Centre. Following a successful reboot with takeaway offers, a one way system and social distancing and safety measures in place we are now opening two further centres from Friday 31 July: Hanningfield Reservoir and The Naze Centre.

All five centres are open from 10am to 5pm and closed on Tuesdays & Wednesdays. We will be limiting numbers to keep our staff and visitors safe within Governmental guidelines. We are encouraging contactless payment if possible but cash is still welcome.

The following facilities are available at each centre:

Belfairs Woodland Centre – open from 10am to 5pm, Thursdays - Mondays. There will be a takeaway food and drink offer, the toilets are open and the council owned play area is now fully open.

Hanningfield Reservoir – open from 10am to 5pm, Thursdays – Mondays. There will be a takeaway food and drink offer and the toilets are open. There is a one way system onto the nature reserve and The Wind in the Willows Trail is open with maps purchasable from the centre. The bird hides are open with social distancing restrictions.

Ingrebourne Valley – open from 10am to 5pm, Thursdays - Mondays. There will be a takeaway food and drink offer, the toilets are open and the council owned play area is now fully open.

The Naze Centre – open from 10am to 5pm, Thursdays – Mondays. There will be a takeaway food and drink offer and the external toilets are open.

Thorndon Countryside Centre – open from 10am to 5pm, Thursdays - Mondays. There will be a takeaway food and drink offer, the council’s toilets are open and you can purchase your Gruffalo Trail map from the centre.

Our remaining centres remain closed for the time being (Abberton Reservoir, Bedfords Park, Fingringhoe Wick and Thurrock Thameside) but are expected to follow soon after, with clusters of centres opening once staff have been unfurloughed and trained, so that we can provide the safest possible experience for both you and our wildlife. We are looking forward to welcoming you back to our centres soon.

Outdoor learning events

We are offering Forest School drop-off days for children aged 5-11 years old, in small, isolated groups (maximum of 5) throughout the summer holidays. Children will be able to make shelters and climb trees, use natural materials for crafts and make fires, with social distancing in place. Each group will be led by an experienced Forest School leader or Education Officer. Find your nearest event and book online.

Our practices have been updated to work within Governmental guidelines, with health and safety at the heart of our plans. All of our activities are fully risk assessed and a copy of our COVID risk assessment is available on request. If, under Governmental guidelines, it is necessary for us to cancel the event, we will contact you to reschedule or refund as appropriate.

Our nature reserves

Our nature reserves are open with the exception of four, which remain closed to the public for either health and safety reasons, in order to undertake important conservation work in preparation for reopening, or through partnership agreements relating to leased or sensitive land. The reserves that remain closed are:

  • Fingringhoe Wick
  • Abberton Reservoir
  • Abbotts Hall Farm
  • Weeleyhall Wood

Council-owned land

Five of our Nature Discovery Centres are situated within council-owned parks and land. Please therefore check your local council’s website and follow their latest guidance. These sites are:

  • Ingrebourne Valley
  • Bedfords Park
  • Thorndon Countryside Centre
  • The Naze Centre
  • Belfairs Woods

Car parks

Several of our car parks remain closed currently, these include:

  • Abberton Reservoir
  • Brookes
  • Chigborough Lakes
  • Colne Point
  • Fingringhoe Wick
  • Great Holland Pits

Looking after our sites

We urge visitors to be respectful to the wildlife on site. Thousands of people have enjoyed and sought solace in our beautiful Essex countryside and stunning reserves over the past few weeks, but some of our sites have been under a considerable amount of strain as the relaxing of lockdown rules has coincided with warmer weather leading to a surge of people outdoors.

Some of our sites have been under the additional strain of anti-social behaviour, including littering, toileting and vandalism; burglary and theft; portable barbeques; and disturbance of ground-nesting bird eggs and rare plants, trampled by people and dogs. In some cases, there has also been abuse directed towards staff. Please support us in discouraging this behaviour so that we can focus on the business of conservation.


While aspects of the lockdown remain, there are still many ways for you to enjoy our wonderful wildlife and wild places. For the last 14 weeks we’ve brought you nature and wildlife themed content every day on our social channels. You can watch all the videos on our YouTube channel.

Stay in touch

You can sign-up to our e-newsletter for regular advice, tips, inspiring stories or news from the Trust, follow us on social media, or explore our website. You can even watch our wildlife live on one of our Wildlife Webcams.

A special thanks

The natural world continues to need our help now more than ever, so if you would like to turn your garden into a mini nature reserve you can find endless ideas here. We need to connect up our gardens and create wildlife corridors for species to thrive in our county.

To all of the members of the Trust, we would like to express our whole-hearted thanks for your ongoing support. We will continue to share our expertise and offer you the tools to help us create a Wilder Essex.