Abberton Reservoir

Essex and Suffolk Water, Abberton Reservoir, Essex, UK

Plan, design, build and install orientation signage around the reservoir.

Abberton Reservoir is 5 miles (8 km) south-west of Colchester near the village of Layer de la Haye. It is a large, shallow, freshwater storage reservoir and is the largest freshwater body in Essex and the fourth largest reservoir in England with an area of 4.9 square kilometres (1,200 acres).

Abberton is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and a Ramsar site, designated an internationally important wetland, and a Special Protection Area. The site is managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust.

On its margins are found well-established plant communities that provide important opportunities for feeding, nesting and shelter. Abberton Reservoir is important as an autumn arrival area for waterbirds that then spend the winter elsewhere.

It was designated a Special Protection Area on 5 December 1991 as a result of its over-wintering populations of golden plover, gadwall, shoveler and teal and for its breeding population of cormorants. In addition there are significant numbers of black-tailed godwit, lapwing, coot, goldeneye, tufted duck, pochard, pintail, wigeon and great crested grebe.

The Reservoir was used by the RAF's 617 Squadron ("The Dam Busters") for practice runs for the bombing of the German dams in the Ruhr during World War II (Operation Chastise) . 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, from which the photograph was taken, was used as a substitute for the Eder Dam. Military police closed the causeway whilst the practice runs took place. Lancaster bombers fitted with special bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis were used. The last practice flight to Abberton was a full dress rehearsal of the attack and took place on the night of May 14, 1943; the attack on the dams in Germany took place on the night of May 16, 1943.