The Norfolk Broads National Park is the largest protected wetland in Britain and has many nature reserves. The How Hill Nature Reserve, a short 30-minute drive from Norwich City centre makes for a fun day out. You can take the Electric Eel boat tour, do a nature walk, explore a secret garden, and more.
In this guide, we will share what to do at How Hill Nature Reserve and give you some tips for your visit.
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How Hill is a beautiful and peaceful area with surprisingly lots to do. I would plan on at least half a day for your visit, but you could easily fill a day here. While there is no admission charge to visit the nature reserve, some of the attractions are not free. If you are on a tight budget, you might also appreciate our list of the best free things to do in Norfolk.
Visit Toad Hole Cottage
Toad Hole Cottage is a little gift shop and museum. It was built sometime between 1780 and 1820, although there was an earlier building on the site. We enjoyed the touchscreen exhibit where you could see the Broads from above. There is also a cute little garden in the back.
You can get a map for the nature walk and also check here for the Electric Eel Boat tour here.
Take the Electric Eel Boat Tour
The best way to explore the Broads is from the water. You can take a boat tour on the Electric Eel around How Hill to learn more about the area and its wildlife.
The boat only holds 6 passengers, but when we went we were lucky to have the whole boat to ourselves. Our captain and tour guide was Brendan. He gave us our life jackets and boarded the Electric Eel at the dock by the Toad Hole Cottage. The area we went through is a working marsh. They harvest the reeds that are used for the thatched roofs that you see around the country.
We moved slowly through the waterways. I couldn’t get over how peaceful the area was. The only noises we could hear were the Norfolk Broads birds. We saw lots of dragonflies, which the Broads are known for. There were also lots of lily pads that had bloomed, both yellow and white flowers. Brendan pointed out some places where he could tell animals, like water voles, had been.
After a short boat ride, we docked to visit a bird hide. First, we stood on the bridge so we could get some perspective, then it was less than a 5-minute walk on a path to the bird hide, which is a small wooden building with windows where you can watch the birds without bothering them.
Brendan pointed out a bittern that he spotted in the distance. Bitterns are very rare in England, there are about 100 left, so we were lucky to see one. The Broads Authority is working on trying to attract more bitterns and other rare birds to the area. We also saw seagulls, ducks, and even a swan.
Then we headed back to the boat and rode back to the dock by Toad Hole Cottage. Once we got back to the River Ant, we saw lots of other Broads boats. It had turned into a nice day, and everyone was trying to take advantage of it!
The Electric Eel boat tour lasts about 50 minutes including the short stop to walk to the bird hide. There is also a similar Broads boat trip available at the Hoveton Riverside Park. There used to be one at Whitlingham Country Park but it is no longer running.
Do the How Hill Nature Walk
If you want to learn more, you can do the How Hill Nature Walk. It is about 1.25 miles and takes about an hour. We took longer as we stopped for photos and spent a while in the bird hide.
The route was marked with signs with pictures of animals so it is kid-friendly. It wasn’t until we were almost done with our walk that I realized that in the map booklet there were explanations for each animal sign!
We also enjoyed the mini-detour to the bird hide. We didn’t see as many birds as we did at the bird hide we visited on our Electric Eel tour, but it was still fun to listen to the birds and watch. The scenery was lovely too.
I was impressed by the diversity of the landscape in the small area. At times, we walked along the waterways and other times it felt like we were in the middle of the forest. We crossed a few bridges that were so cute. It definitely kept the nature walk interesting.
We also saw a lot of different flowers and birds. I can’t count how many dragonflies we saw. The blue dragonflies aren’t the easiest to capture in photos though.
It’s a pretty easy walk as the area is relatively flat. I should mention that the path was muddy at times and there were some bugs. You should make sure you wear proper footwear and bring along some bug spray.
Explore the How Hill Secret Gardens
The Secret Gardens can be accessed from the Nature Walk and are definitely worth a quick visit. They have guidebooks right next to the donation box. We followed the circle path around and it took about 15 minutes.
I was impressed with the amount of blooms that we saw. They had a nice variety of different plants. There were also a few areas with benches where you could take a break and relax if you wanted too.
Admission to the How Hill Secret Gardens is free, they do request that you make a donation.
Behold How Hill House
The nature walk also takes you by the How Hill House. How Hill House is a picturesque house with a thatched roof now owned by the How Hill Trust that has been turned into an environmental education centre.
It was completed in 1905, relatively new by English standards! The English architect Edward Boardman decided to build a family retreat in How Hill area. He purchased the land, designed the house, and had it built in three years.
The house became the property of Edward’s son, Christopher Boardman, who won a gold medal in sailing at the 1936 Summer Olympics. Outside the house, you will see an unusual wooden sculpture with the Olympic Rings on it. Boardman, like all gold medal winners from the ‘36 Summer Games, received an oak sapling from Hitler. He planted the sapling outside How Hill House.
The tree was almost hit with a bomb during the war, but in 2013 the tree died from honey fungus. Arnie Barton (a chainsaw carver from North Norfolk) was commissioned to make a sculpture out of the remnants of Hitler’s Oak. The sapling is now an impressive reminder of the gold medal-winning sailors from the 1936 Olympics.
They offer a takeaway service every weekend from the end of May until early September and every day during the spring and summer school holidays.
Is How Hill Good for Kids?
Yes. The nature trail is not too long and definitely kid-friendly. They would also enjoy the boat ride and the bird hides. Read about more things to do with kids in Norfolk.
What to Bring When You Visit How Hill
If you plan on visiting How Hill, there are a few things to bring to make your time more enjoyable:
- Practical shoes. There were a few areas on the nature walk that were muddy.
- Insect Repellent. You are out in nature, there will be bugs, especially in the summer! Get some here.
- Sun Cream. You don’t want to get sunburned. See the options here.
Getting to How Hill Nature Reserve
How Hill is located in Ludham, Norfolk. If you input the postcode NR29 5PG into your GPS, that will take you to the How Hill House.
Just before you get to How Hill House you will see a wooden sign on the left for the Toad Hole Cottage and Wildlife Trails. Turn left at that sign and there is parking right there. If you walk across the field you will find Toad Hole Cottage. That is where you get tickets for the boat ride and nature walks.
Unfortunately, How Hill is not easily accessible by public transportation. Well, you could take the train from Norwich to Wroxham, then take the 293 bus to the Broad Reaches and walk 1.4 miles.
Visit How Hill
We enjoyed our day at How Hill in Norfolk, England. It’s a beautiful area to explore and definitely one of the places you should visit in the Norfolk Broads. I felt like we were far away from civilization even though it was only a 30-minute drive from Norwich. It’s nice to be able to have a pretty and peaceful area to easily escape to!
What’s your peaceful getaway spot?
Disclosure: We visited How Hill as guests of the Broads Authority. As always opinions are ours.
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