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Grafham Water

Nationally important for water birds, with ancient woodlands where nightingales sing.

This large reservoir was created in 1965 to provide drinking water for the region, and it was immediately colonised by wildlife. The nature reserve is at the western end of the site and is managed by the Wildlife Trust in partnership with Anglian Water. Elsewhere on the site leisure activities like fishing, sailing and cycling take place. 

The reserve is a mosaic of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including ancient and plantation woodland, grassland, hedgerows, ponds, wetland and open water. Famed for its nationally important numbers of overwintering and resident waterfowl, the reserve includes a 27-acre (11-ha) designated bird sanctuary. 

Grafham Water is one of the prime birdwatching sites in the county, with around 170 species of bird recorded each year. There are large numbers of coot and tufted duck in the winter along with occasional rarer visitors such as great northern diver, a variety of grebe species and various wading bird. Black and Arctic terns visit in spring and autumn, and common terns are present throughout summer. The reservoir is also great for gull watching, with upwards of 30,000 birds roosting in midwinter, and occasional visits from Mediterranean, Iceland and glacous gulls. 

Footpaths leading into the reserve give access to bird hides on the shores. The woodland offers shady walks, and in the spring nightingales sing in the scrub. In summer the meadows bloom with exquisite wildflowers including bee and common spotted orchids. We manage the site using a range of modern and traditional techniques. On the grasslands cattle graze and we cut hay. We coppice in the woodland and remove non-native trees. Around the wetland edges, we manage the willows to create diverse habitat for birds.  

Grafham Water (pdf)

Path and hides map (pdf)

Dudney hide (pdf)

Lagoons hide (pdf)

Littless hide (pdf)

Lymage hide (pdf)

Mander hide and Wildlife Garden (pdf)

Savages Creek (pdf)

Valley Creek hide (pdf)


The map below is for indication purposes only and does not show the Wildlife Trusts definitive land boundary.

Nearby nature reserves

Shepherd's Close
2 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Brampton Wood
3 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Begwary Brook
7 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire

Nature reserve map

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2012. For indicative purposes does not show exact boundaries.

Reserve information

3 miles south of the A14/A1 junction
West Perry
PE28 0BX
Map reference
TL 143 671
Great for...
a family day out
overwintering birds
spring migrant birds
stunning views
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Reserve open at all times
114.00 hectares
Ancient Woodland
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Surfaced cycle track around reservoir. Surfaced paths to Mander Hide & Valley Creek Hide.
Walking information
Surfaced cycle track around reservoir. Surfaced paths to Mander Hide & Valley Creek Hide. Other paths more awkward.
Anglian Water Car Park, closing times & charges apply.
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Grazed with cattle and ponies
Reserve manager
Tel: 01480 811075


Factsheets and guides for your visit