“ Address: Norfolk / England „
How Hill National Nature Reserve lies within the Norfolk Broads, near the town of Ludham on the banks of the River Ant and is managed by the Broads Authority. The National Nature Reserve designation recognises the importance of this stunning reserve for wildlife.
The wildlife includes bearded tits, marsh harriers, and the nationally rare bittern. The rarest species on the reserve is, however, not a bird but a butterfly. Britain's largest and one of its rarest butterflies, the swallowtail is found here in larger numbers than almost anywhere else. Please note, if you want to see this butterfly, a visit from late May to early July is when they're 'on the wing'.
One of the reasons that the reserve is so good for wildlife is its diversity of habitats. Sedge and reed beds, willow carr woodland, marsh meadows, and open water are all present, and all host special animals and birds.
If you're cruising on the Broads, like I did, How Hill is easy to visit as there are plentiful moorings for your boat on the edge of the reserve.
There is, however, plenty for the visitor to do when visiting How Hill, apart from watching for rare birds. There are several nature trails that wind through the reserve. These give superb views of the reserve's varied habitats including the open water and woodland. A visit in summer will have you surrounded by dragonflies. Their iridescent blues, reds, and yellows sparkle in the sunlight making them look like flying jewels. The trails can be wet and muddy, so stout footwear is recommended.
If you don't want to walk around the reserve, then you can take a trip on the 'Electric Eel', the electric powered boat which tours the area. This is actually a brilliant way to look for the wildlife. Silent (electric power), and low in the water, the birds and animals of How Hill do not view the boat as a threat as it quietly winds its way past. You stand a good chance therefore, of observing a water vole (Ratty from Wind in the Willows) going about his business.
The history of the Broads plays a big part of the story of How Hill. An old wind pump (most people call them windmills) sits across the River Ant from the reserve, and a centrepiece of the reserve is the eel catcher's cottage. This small marsh man's cottage has been restored as it would have looked over 150 years ago and is open to visitors to look around.
The cottage is tiny! The rooms are small, and there's little headroom; I can only imagine that the eel catcher and his family were quite short (or stooped!). Authentic tools, toys, cutlery and other utensils are on display, along with interpretation boards. This small house gives a fabulous peek back in time to what it must have been like trying to wrestle a living from the unforgiving environment of the Broads so long ago.
The highlight of our visit to How Hill happened whilst back on board the boat. A commotion at the next boat along alerted us to two otters cavorting in a reed bed! We quickly hopped off our boat and on to the next boat (with permission) and got brief, but spectacular views of this shyest of animals only yards away. It was three PM in the afternoon!
The return of otters to the Broads has been a real success story, and is due to the tireless efforts of people including the Broads Authority to clean up the water quality of the Norfolk Broads.
Mooring at How Hill is free, however, there is a small charge both for the Electric Eel tour and for visiting the nature trails/eel catcher's cottage. If you are touring the Broads, by car or by boat, then the lovely How Hill National Nature Reserve should be on your list of places to visit.
Located on the River Ant on the Norfolk Broads, the reserve is home to a large Edwardian home surrounded by marsh and woodland.