This 1200-acre reservoir is just 4 miles from the coast and because of this coastal birds visit. Thousands of wildfowl congregate here during the autumn and winter months with a good range of waders and terns resting one their way to other locations throughout the UK. The numbers of waders is dependent on the water levels.
Winter Visitors include, wigeon, teal, mallard, pochard, tufted duck, coot and black-headed gull - can run to many thousands. Added to this there can be hundreds of shoveler, gadwall, goldeneye, pintail and great crested grebe.
During the summer months a large colony of tree-nesting Cormorants make it their home. Late summer brings the moulting ducks and swans, during this time they are unable to fly so the reservoir provides a safe haven for them.
There are two causeways crossing the south-west end and these provide good vantage points. When the centre is closed access to these is still possible and they are wide enough for safe parking.
The Essex Wildlife Trust have a visitor centre and nature reserve with a broadwalk and 5 hides. Two of the hides within the reserve give views of two floating nesting rafts for common terns, and there are two further hides on the peninsular trail around the land next to the reserve where Canada Geese graze in the winter. The reserve is on a well-protected bay of the reservoir and a wide range of trees and shrubs surround it to provide cover and nest sites for nesting birds. Pockets of grassland provide open spaces which attract butterflies and in spring and summer you may see small copper, green hairstreak, common blue, gatekeeper and small skipper varieties. Around the pond you will find good numbers of dragonflies including the small red-eyed damselfly. There is a pond which has a nesting island which attracts breeding Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard and Moorhen in the spring. The birds like to graze on the short grass and parade their chicks to the visitors in front the windows of the centre.
The visitor centre includes exhibits and displays telling the season story, panoramic windows giving views of the reservoir and nearby pond, a telescope for visitors to watch distant birds, a shop, drinks machine, toilets etc. Various events also take place from the visitor centre throughout the year, some free some with a fee.
Good all the year round, but especially in winter for wildfowl; May and June for breeding birds; August for moulting swans and ducks.
A bit of History
The Reservoir was used by the RAF's 617 Squadron ("The Dam Busters") for practice runs prior to the bombing of the German Dams in the Ruhr during World War II. Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the leader of the raid, referred to it as "Colchester Lake" in his auto-biography Enemy Coast Ahead. The reservoir was similar in shape to that of the Eder Dam in Germany which was attacked after the Möhne Dam had been breached. The Layer Causeway was used as a substitute for the Eder Dam. The military police closed the causeway whilst the practice runs took place. Lancasters bombers were used and were fitted with special bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis. The last flight was a full dress rehearsal of the attack and took place on the night of May 14th 1943; the actual attack on the dams in Germany took place on the night of May 16th 1943.
A view from one of the hides Glyn Baker
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