Mole, Ratty and friends


EXG JUN 14 EWT - Credit: Archant

The Essex Wildlife Trust has something new in store at its Hanningfield visitor centre

Ahead of summer, Essex Wildlife Trust is gradually introducing new themes at each of its visitor centres to further excite and enthuse members of the public. They say there’s no such thing as a gruffalo, well, take a trip to the Thorndon Countryside Centre, near Brentwood, and see him for yourself, standing tall with terrible tusks, claws, teeth, jaws and all.

Ideas for most other centres are still in their infancy, but at Hanningfield Reservoir near Billericay The Wind in the Willows is the chosen theme and The Wind in the Willows Wildlife Garden, opens on Sunday, June 8.

The garden is situated outside the visitor centre and is designed to show visitors what they can achieve in their own gardens, but it also has Toad’s caravan for children to play in and Ratty’s boat is moored in one of the flowerbeds. The opening, which runs from midday to 4pm, will feature a themed trail, activities and a chance to meet characters from Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved book.

Later plans include a wooden sculpture trail on the nature reserve of characters from the story, a new trail guide, events and activities linked to the characters and items to buy in the shop including, of course, the famous book itself. While the book is out of copyright, EH Shepard’s famous images from the 1933 edition are not, so Essex Wildlife Trust has been extremely lucky to have been granted permission to use them by the company who manage his estate.

‘The Wind in the Willows seemed an obvious theme choice. For a start, we have the characters on the nature reserve: Badger, Toad, Mole, Ratty the water vole and weasels,’ said Gayle Dyer, visitor centre manager at EWT Hanningfield Reservoir. ‘Our ancient woodland on the nature reserve also evokes the Wild Wood and the book appeals to all ages with its depictions of the river bankers and their adventures. This was important, as we wanted all generations of visitors to Hanningfield to enjoy and relate to the theme.’

For more information about the event on Sunday, June 8, call 01268 711001 or go to

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