Hanningfield Reservoir is located in South Hanningfield, on the border of Chelmsford and Billericay. It is a reservoir and nature reserve run by The Essex Wildfire Trust and Essex and Suffolk Water. It is a site of special scientific interest. A playground was added at the Waterside park end of the reservoir in 2019.
Hanningfield Reservoir is a lovely place for a walk for all ages. It’s mostly woodlands with some clearings and lovely views over the reservoir. In order to protect the wildlife, no dogs are allowed.
The Essex Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre End
One of the best things for children at Hanningfield Reservoir is the Wind in the Willow Trail. You can buy a map for £1 from the gift shop which shows you the route to find all of the characters from Wind in the Willows which are around the reserve. There are brass rubbings to do at each sculpture. Near the visitor centre there is also a wildlife garden to encourage mini beasts which includes Mr Toad’s caravan.
Along the water front of the reservoir are a number of hides where you can bird watch, generally better done with older, quieter children who have more patience!
The visitor centre includes a gift shop and a cafe area, with views over the water and woodlands. The cafe sells hot and cold drinks and snacks.
The Waterside Park End of Hanningfield Reservoir
You can either walk from the Essex Woldlife trust end or drive straight to the waterside park end and use the car park there. You’ll find a cafe serving breakfasts, lunches and snacks along with scenic views across the reservoir. My children were very keen on the giant bench too.
There is a children’s playground at this end of the reservoir that was added in 2019. Older children’s I’ll enjoy the long swing that all the family can go on and the larger climbing frame.
For younger children there is a role play area with a small hut and a table and seats made from tree trunks.
There is also a good climbing frame for younger children, swings for both toddlers and bigger children and a spinner. It was very muddy when we visited in the winter so definitely take your wellies.
Events at Hanningfield Reservoir
Once a year, Hanningfield Reservoir holds an open day which I highly recommend. It varies each year but usually features mini beast hunts, pond dipping, making grass heads, archery, giant insect handling and drumming as well as traditional fete games like splat the rat and smash the crockery.
There are toilets in the visitor centre which are themselves a bit of a feature as they are composting toilets. At the other end of the site is Cafe on the Water which has a more extensive food offering. There is free parking on site and entry is donation based. On this side of Chelmsford you’re not too far from Hylands Park if you want to make a day of it.
The postcode for the car park at Hanningfield Reservoir is CM11 1WT. You can find out more on the Essex Wildlife Trust Website. If you just want to visit Waterside Park and the play area there then you’re better of using the car park at CM3 8HX.