I first went to How Hill when I was 9 years old. A couple of halcyon days pond dipping in effervescent water and running around the house gardens on a field trip with Middle School. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia but revisiting the National Nature Reserve a couple of decades later is pure magic. My most recent visit was on the morning that followed the summer solstice and I must’ve wandered around for near on 4 hours. By car, you park up outside How Hill House and walk across a well-maintained field that overlooks the River Ant (the perfect setting for a picnic in the Norfolk Broads) and down to Toad Hole Cottage before entering the Wildlife Walking Trail. I think I paid £2.50 entry to the Broads Authority staff at the cottage before going in and it was the best £2.50 I’ll probably spend all year.
As soon as I walked in I was greeted by a fox on my right, who quickly scarpered when he clocked me, leaving me with a swallowtail butterfly to my left. It was the first of several swallowtails I saw that day – it is a great spot to see them at the right time of the year owing to the milk parsley that their caterpillars feed on. There was an abundance of dragonflies, particularly at the pond dipping area, they are amongst the deadliest flight technicians on the planet and some of their behaviour was dazzling. Further along, there was a debonair kingfisher darting across Crome’s Broad where a gentle breeze moved around the peaceful broad, into the hide and across my face. I had actually seen a bittern flying over the marshes at How Hill earlier in the year. Still, some of the more common-place moments such as the charcoal sunrise underwing of a speckled wood butterfly or a skating raft spider can be just as engrossing and How Hill is full of these moments for anyone ready to stay still and let nature come to them.
National Nature Reserve
Site of Special Scientific Interest
Special Area of Conservation
Special Protection Area
What to wear:
You’ll want wellies in wet conditions
Best suited to: