Norwich, England is lucky to have a National Park right on its doorstep. The Norfolk Broads (or “the Broads”) National Park is a network of rivers and lakes covering over 100 square miles!
For my first introduction to the Broads, we decided to visit How Hill Nature Reserve, a short 30-minute drive from Norwich City Center. We would take the Electric Eel boat tour and then do a nature walk.
Let me tell you more about our experience so that you can visit How Hill too.
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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.
Things to See And Do at How Hill Nature Reserve
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. Check out our How Hill video to see what we got up to.
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.
Electric Eel Boat Tour
After checking in at the Toad Hole Cottage, we headed down to the dock to catch our boat. The Electric Eel boat tour of the Broads lasts about 50 minutes including the short stop to walk to the bird hide. There are also similar Broads boat trips available at the Hoveton Riverside Park and Whitlingham Country Park.
It was nice to see the Wherry Hathor moored by Toad Hole Cottage. It’s one of the old boats that was used on the Broads. A Wherry has one huge sail to catch the wind that can be lowered to go under bridges. You can also remove the keel of the boat so it doesn’t get stuck in shallow water.
We got our life jackets and boarded the Electric Eel for our Norfolk Broads cruise. The boat only holds 6 passengers, but we were lucky to have the whole boat to ourselves. Our captain and tour guide was Brendan. The area we went through is actually a working marsh. They harvest the reeds. These reeds 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. This was my first time in a bird hide. It’s a small wooden building with windows where you can watch the birds without bothering them.
It was fascinating and we could have stayed here for hours! I love listening to the birds as well as watching 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!
From June to September, the Electric Eel tour runs hourly from 10 am to 4 pm. In April, May, and October, the boat tour runs every hour from 11 am – 3 pm on weekends, bank holidays, Easter week, and school holidays. Tickets for the Electric Eel are £7 for adults, £6 for children or you can get a family ticket for £19.50 which covers up to two adults and two children.
How Hill Nature Walk
After our Broads boat tour, we decided to do the How Hill Nature Walk. We picked up a map from Toad Hole Cottage and were on our way. The walk is about 1.25 miles and should take about an hour. We took longer as we stopped for photos and spent a while in the bird hide.
I thought it was cute that the route was marked with signs with pictures of animals. 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! I think kids will have a fun time finding the signs and it’s a great way to help them learn.
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 were fascinating, they 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. (Click here to see the options available on Amazon.)
Tickets for the How Hill Nature Walk are £2.50 for adults and £1.50 for children. This includes the guide booklet with information about the plants and wildlife you will find along the nature trail.
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.
How Hill House
The nature walk also takes you by the How Hill House and the Tea Room. How Hill House is a picturesque house with a thatched roof now owned by the How Hill Trust. 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.
The tearoom is open from 11 am to 4 pm every weekend from the end of May until early September and every day during the spring and summer school holidays. In addition to hot and cold drinks, they also serve scones, sandwiches, local ice creams and traditional English cakes. There is usually a dairy-free and gluten-free option.
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. It’s nice to be able to have a pretty and peaceful area to easily escape to! What’s your peaceful getaway spot?
Expert Tips for Visiting How Hill
- It’s a good idea to bring insect repellent and sunscreen.
- It’s definitely worth taking one of the Norfolk Broads boat trips. We loved the Electric Eel at How Hill.
- There were a few spots on the Nature Walk that were a little muddy, so proper footwear is helpful.
- Pack a picnic! We saw several groups picnicking in the field close to the parking lot.
Disclosure: We were guests of the Broads Authority during our visit to How Hill Nature Reserve. As always opinions are ours.
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