New wooden boat at education centre harks back to Broads history (Official press release)

June 3rd, 2019

A piece of floating history has been recreated to help youngsters explore a Norfolk Broads environmental haven.

School pupils are sailing down the river at How Hill in a wooden “reed lighter” boat, like the ones that used to transport roofing materials along the river.

And the classic boat has been specially built in East Anglia at a college keeping the time-honoured skills alive.

The reed lighter will be used to transport hundreds of youngsters each year during day and residential courses to study the landscape and wildlife of the Broads.

It is named the Alderman Norman II after the charitable educational trust in memory of an 18th century mayor of Norwich which paid for it.

And it was built by the International Boatbuilding Training College at Oulton Broad near Lowestoft, using the skills of recent graduate Alex Hunter, 35, from Norwich, who now works at the college’s commercial boatbuilding arm, which supports its training work.

How Hill director Simon Partridge said: “The boat is magnificent – and we are thrilled it was made at a centre which is keeping alive wooden boatbuilding skills.

“Our visitors will ride in it to explore Barton Broad and the marshes – including seeing crops of reeds which boats like this helped harvest. But we could not have done it without the generosity of the Alderman Norman Foundation which also paid for another boat in 1988.”

The foundation’s chairman the Rev Jonathan Boston smashed a bottle of bubbly over the bows at an official launch at the Swallowtail boatyard in Ludham which maintains the How Hill fleet.

The 23ft boat took seven months to build, from an oak and hardwood frame clad in larch planks. It is painted in Donegal Green, with black tar varnish below the waterline.

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Best View In Broads Gets Even Better

May 13th, 2019

It has often been claimed that the view from How Hill is the best in the Norfolk Broads.The house sits at the summit of a mighty hill (rising some 16m above sea level) with views out over the river Ant, marshes, woods, meadows and windmills.

But an even loftier viewpoint is afforded from the scaffolding which currently wraps around the north side of the house. Thatcher Mick Aldred last replaced the sedge ridge on the thatched roof twenty years ago, and now he’s back to do it again. He says this is the highest roof he has ever worked on, and on a fine day “it’s like heaven up there.” With binoculars it is even possible to see the spire of Norwich Cathedral, nearly eleven miles away.

Mick’s dad and brother are also thatchers. Once when they were cutting reed on the marsh beyond Turf Fen Mill their reed cutting machine fell into a hole. They later heard that the hole is one of several craters made by bombs dropped during the second world war.

The locally grown sedge, secured with a lattice of brotches (short lengths of split hazel wood) is only expected to last around twenty years, whereas the reed which makes up the majority of the roof lasts much longer –  in this case  sixty years and counting. By the time the work is finished in July the scaffolding will have been erected in three different positions and over nine hundred bunches of sedge will have been used.

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New Boat Nearly Finished

April 15th, 2019

We are very excited about our new boat, which is almost completed. The Alderman Norman 2, generously funded by the Alderman Norman Foundation, has been lovingly constructed at the International Boat Building Training College in Lowestoft.

Once ‘Norman 2’ has been officially launched she (he?!) will primarily be used to take visiting children on boat trips along the River Ant to Barton Broad.

Watch this space for a report of the official launch event, which should take place within the next month.

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Invasion Of The Recycling Monsters

February 11th, 2019

We are always looking for ways to make the How Hill Trust a greener, more environmentally responsible organisation, so we were delighted to learn about a new crisp bag recycling scheme operated by TerraCycle. We do produce a fair bit of this type of waste as crisps are a popular lunchtime treat for hungry groups of visiting school children. (Don’t worry – we give them lots of healthy food too.) Previously there was no way of recycling them but now the crisp bags are collected, sorted, cleaned, shredded, and then made into new recycled products… much better than ending up in landfill.

Children are often much better at recycling than adults, but to help make it more fun we have turned two pedal bins into recycling monsters. Today was their first outing and the children of White Woman Lane Junior School made sure that they were extremely well fed.


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New Year, New Sofas

January 8th, 2019

Thanks to funds donated by the Friends of How Hill we have started 2019 with some brand spanking new leather sofas in the Sun Room.  The old sofas had served us well for many years. Originally donated from various sources, and not the smartest furniture in the first place, they were starting to look decidedly shabby. That’s when the Friends came to the rescue. We now have five smart new leather sofas, two pleasingly chunky new coffee tables and seven lovely new cushions with Robert Gilmore nature prints.

Slowly but surely we are working our way around the house; repainting, renewing and updating as we go. Come and visit us this year and see what we’ve been up to…

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Polecat Found In The Garden!

November 27th, 2018

Everybody was surprised and delighted yesterday when Chris The Gardener found an unexpected animal in one of his live rabbit traps. It was the unusual smell which first alerted him as he approached the trap, which was in the corner of the walled garden in front of How Hill house. Closer inspection revealed an extremely cute and incredibly stinky European polecat – what a catch! The polecat was understandably quite jumpy and keen to be on its way so it was immediately released back into the garden. Chris hopes that it will help to keep the rabbit numbers down, many of which rudely ignore the rabbit-proof-fence which surrounds the How Hill gardens.

Polecats were once common in the area but were almost wiped out by hunting because of their appetite for chickens and game birds. This is the first confirmed sighting of a polecat at How Hill for many years, although during the summer one school’s nocturnal camera traps did capture footage of a ‘mystery animal’ which now seems likely to have been a polecat. It is believed that polecats first returned to the Thetford area of Norfolk in 2010, and they have been slowly extending their range ever since.

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Friends of How Hill Craft Fair – A Great Success

October 29th, 2018

Last Wednesday the Friends of How Hill (the brilliant band of volunteers who support the charity) put on another excellent craft fair, which raised a triumphant £2254.26 for the How Hill Trust. Once again it was a lovely sunny day and several hundred visitors came to browse the varied craft stalls, enjoy the demonstrations and treat themselves to homemade soup and cakes. The crafts on display included metalwork, weaving, spinning, stained glass, stencilled and painted artwork, beading, all sorts of exciting jewellery, wickerwork, wood turning, quilting, pottery and many more. As it was a day at work for me I didn’t intend to buy anything…but the pull of the stalls was too strong to resist! I came away with ten wool and felt jellyfish/octopus Christmas tree decorations, a dress made from upcycled tablecloths, several pounds of Ivor’s legendary raspberry jam and four giant leeks!

Thank you to all the Friends who helped out, especially Chief Organiser Bella. You did a grand job.

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Hathor Sails Home For The Winter

October 18th, 2018

Wherry Hathor has had a busy summer moored down at the staithe, where she has welcomed over eight thousand visitors on board. It is lovely having Hathor at How Hill. She makes the riverside even more picturesque than usual, and even from the house her mast and Jenny Morgan (wind vane) can be seen poking up above the trees. Hathor’s skipper Peter Bower becomes an honorary member of the How Hill team and can be found most mornings drinking coffee in the office with Sam the dog at his feet. But like the swallows which circle over Fisherman’s Field, Peter and Hathor are seasonal visitors. On a quiet Saturday in late September she sailed off down the river and back to her permanent moorings at Wherry Yacht Charter’s base in Wroxham.

It takes a lot of work to keep a historic boat like Hathor afloat and this winter she will be pulled out of the water for some essential maintenance. A team will clean the hull and scrape off the zebra mussels which have attached themselves. Any decayed planks will be replaced and then the whole boat will be prepared and treated with fresh coats of paint, varnish or linseed oil. Luckily Wherry Yacht Charter have a fantastic team of volunteers who seem to revel with sandpaper in hand!

Hathor will return to How Hill next May – September when she will be open for public viewing, chartered sailings and school visits.


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Looking Back at a Brilliant Summer

September 9th, 2018

When the school visits stop the house and grounds are opened up for a range of public events. Our four Family Fun Days were attended by a record 520 guests who made many wondrous crafts and took part in lots of exciting nature-based activities. Wherry Hathor has been visited by over 8000 people since she moored up at How Hill staithe at the beginning of May. The tea room served over 4000 scones and pieces of homemade cake to thousands of hungry customers. The house and gardens have seen numerous private parties and the darkest nooks and crannies were thoroughly explored on the Heritage Open Days. Lively theatre group The Pantaloons performed on the field and a residential art group enjoyed the beautiful view from the house.

A real highlight of the summer was our sailing holiday on board Ardea – the largest and grandest pleasure wherry ever built. The intrepid party of Broads fans travelled over six days from Wroxham to finally arrive in Norwich, where Ardea had not been seen for nearly sixty years.

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Tearoom Open Every Day All Summer

July 17th, 2018

From this weekend until Sunday the 9th of September the How Hill tearoom will be open every day from 11am to 4pm.

We serve a delicious selection of homemade cakes which may include chocolate and orange, local blackberry drizzle, bakewell slice, trillionaire’s shortbread, fruit and guinness, Victoria sponge, coffee and walnut and ginger cake. There is usually a dairy free and gluten free option. We also sell freshly made scones and sandwiches, local ice creams and hot and cold drinks.

The tearoom is located in the wooden building to the rear of How Hill House, and is signposted from the public car park.

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