The morning was still, with a light mist hovering over the calm, mirrored surface of Hanningfield Reservoir. I set out along the gravel trail as the sun began peeking over the horizon, casting a warm golden glow across the water. The air was fresh and earthy. I have been here countless times before, and yet the reservoir never fails to call me back. This particular morning, I had dropped my badminton racket off to a friend in West Hanningfield to be restrung, which gave me the perfect excuse for a wild walk.

My feet crunched rhythmically along the trail, complemented by the soft lapping of water on the shoreline. The landscape around me was quiet and tranquil. As I walked further, the rising sun burned away the mist, reflecting brightly on the glassy water. Entering a wooded area, dappled sunlight filtered down through the canopy, illuminating the leaf-strewn path. I brushed past low branches, leaves gently rustling as a light breeze blew. Nearby, squirrels chittered playfully as they scurried up mossy trunks.

Emerging from the woods, I was surrounded by open views of the reservoir’s shimmering blue expanse. In the distance, small dinghies glided silently across the surface, leaving temporary ripples in their wake like swans. Dragonflies hovered just above the plant life along the bank. The scenery was steeped in serene natural beauty. As I continued along the trail, wildflowers in vibrant purple, yellow and white hues swayed gently in the soft breeze. Nearby, butterflies danced and flickered their wings among the fragrant blossoms. I took particular notice of a brimstone, whose delicate translucent wings resembled paper with the light streaming through.

I paused briefly to inhale the fresh air and take in the tranquil reservoir reflecting the bright blue sky and clouds overhead. Before long, I arrived at the cozy Essex Wildlife Trust café and visitor centre [], where I settled in with a steaming cup of tea and packet of Jelly Tots – my usual order.

Some of Hanningfield Reservoir’s most popular inhabitants planning a walkSome of Hanningfield Reservoir’s most popular inhabitants planning a walk (Image: Andrew Millham)

As I sat gazing out the window at the copse, birdfeeders and glistening water beyond, the sky began to gradually darken with gathering clouds and the air suddenly seemed heavy. Soon after, a light rain started to fall, pattering softly on the glass. The droplets dripped off branched and rippled the reservoir’s surface as the smell of rain permeated the air – no butterflies could be seen now.

I was thankful to be inside the warm, dry café while raindrops tapped out a soothing rhythm on the vast IMAX-like window. I drank my tea leisurely, enjoying the coziness of sipping a hot drink on a rainy day – the perfect end to my reservoir walk. “Perhaps my racket is ready to be picked up?” I thought, eventually rising from my chair and heading off, thanking the Essex Wildlife Trust volunteers and feeling wholly refreshed after this peaceful morning of solitude.

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