Self catering cottages near wildlife reserves.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust: Hickling Broad
When you’re staying at Boundary Stables, in Happisburgh, there are so many wonderful places to visit. Hickling Broad, managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust, is less than seven miles from Happisburgh, and well worth a visit.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) – where the future of wildlife is protected and enhanced through sympathetic management – was the pioneer of UK wildlife trusts. It has provided a model for effective and economical conservation that has since been replicated all over the country. Now 91 years old, the NWT has more than 35,500 members and cares for over 50 nature reserves and protected sites in Norfolk.
Covering an area of 1.4 km2, the slightly brackish Hickling Broad has a greater surface area than any other of the broads, although it’s a very shallow body of water. Hickling Broad’s reed-bed, which is the largest in England, supports a wide range of flora, including several rare species of Charales, an order of freshwater algae, also known as stoneworts; this name is possibly due to the fact that Charales can become encrusted in calcium carbonate (lime).
When it comes to birds, some true Norfolk residents, such as the marsh harrier and the bittern, can be seen almost all year round at Hickling Broad, and during the winter, they’re joined by many species of migrants. As winter approaches, we can look forward to spying on the raptors at sunset. Stubb Mill, which is owned by NWT, and is just 1 km from the carpark, is an ideal viewpoint from which to observe red kite, sparrowhawk, barn owl, common buzzard, peregrine, and common crane returning home to roost. It’s not unusual to see between 40 and 90 individual birds of prey of a winter evening.
Rare insects to be seen at Hickling include the Emperor dragonfly and the swallowtail butterfly. An endangered species of dragonfly, the green-eyed hawker (Aeshna isosceles), which thrives at Hickling Broad and throughout Norfolk generally, is known in the UK as the Norfolk hawker. This insect’s wings are completely clear, and it has a yellow triangular mark on its back; as you would expect, its eyes are green.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has a no-dog policy, so Hickling Broad is, unfortunately, not a destination to head for with your dogs. However, there are several footpaths close to the reserve boundaries, and dogs may also be taken to the raptor roost. (At Boundary Stables, we positively welcome dogs.)
NWT Nature Reserves are not suitable for wheelchairs. All five cottages at Boundary Stables, though, are specially adapted for people with restricted mobility, with level access, wet-room showers, and disabled parking close to the cottage entrances.