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"The broads and marshes associated with the upper reaches of the River Thurne form one of the finest examples of an unreclaimed wetland complex in Britain. They are of national and international importance for nature conservation in supporting a wide range of wetland plant communities and associated animal species." Natural England SSSI Designation

Why the name Hide Cottage? Well quite simply with it’s floor to ceiling glass on three sides and positioned directly across the river from the Upper Thurne Broads & Marshes, a 3000-acre Site of Special Scientific Interest made up of numerous broads and nature reserves, Hide Cottage provides incredible bird and wildlife watching opportunities, directly from the lounge and garden, with all the comforts of home. Of course this makes it ideal for a holiday at any time of year and some of the best wildlife is seen during the Autumn & Winter months, when warmed by the wood burner

We have only had Hide Cottage for a few months, so we are still discovering the wildlife ourselves, but on the opposite side of the bank to Hide Cottage is Heigham Holmes, a secluded island reserve owned by the Natural Trust that supports a large array of bird life.

You are almost guaranteed daily sightings of Marsh Harriers and Kestrels, whilst a pair of Short Eared Owls are often seen hunting in the grazing land or perched on the windmill behind. Also spotted have been Buzzards, Rough Legged Buzzards, Red Kites, Sparrowhawks and Hen Harriers.

If you are lucky you may see the Kingfisher on his travels up the river and it’s not unusual for him to take a break on our garden fence post or bush. The Cranes, whilst not guaranteed, fly out from their breeding ground beyond Heigham Holmes and have been seen flying past Hide Cottage in flocks of 30 to 40. Reed Buntings can usually be spotted in the reeds opposite and, although we have not seen them yet, it seems a likely spot for Bearded Tits. Of course it is also an ideal location to watch the large flocks of geese that return from feeding in the fields or land in the grazing opposite.

From the rear decking Hide Cottage looks out over lowland pasture, that once again provides ideal hunting ground for Kestrels, Barn Owls and the occasional Marsh Harrier and supports wildfowl, as well as the cattle and sheep.

We have recently put out feeders in the garden, which have attracted the usual array of birds, such as Blue & Great Tits, Chaffinches, Wagtails, Wrens, Blackbirds, Green and Great Created Woodpeckers, Robins and Reed Buntings. We also have a camera bird box, which we hope will prove to be a welcome (and successful) home for a couple of avian friends.

On the river, depending on the season, you may well see Great Crested & Little Grebes, Cormorants, Egyptian Geese, Graylag Geese as well as the usual Mute Swans, Mallards, Moorhens, Coots etc

We will also be planting in the garden to attract the Swallowtail Butterfly and Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly, both of which are resident on the reserve and known to visit the riverside houses.

The river is a good spot for Otters and a dog otter as well as a female and two cubs are regularly seen, in morning daylight, fishing or swimming along. They have even been known to picnic on the lawn!

A high quality Nikon spotting scope is set up at Hide Cottage to bring you even closer to the wildlife and once the sun goes down is ideal for star gazing (perhaps in the garden with a glass of wine?).

A wildlife record book is also kept in the cottage, so that you can record your sightings and see what recent visitors have seen, together with a selection of wildlife guides, star chart and nature DVD’s.


If you can drag yourself away from the wildlife viewable from Hide Cottage, a pleasant walk down the river bank (1.4 miles) brings you to Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Martham Broad Reserve, which at least one bird guide considers to be an undiscovered gem. It’s an excellent place to look for Bearded Tits, Bitterns, Marsh Harriers and Peregrine Falcons, as well as the more usual array of wetland birds. In the summer you should be able to see the Swallowtail Butterfly and Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly..

As has already been mentioned the Cranes breed at Horsey Mere and from the National Trust Wind Pump at Horsey (4.1 miles) you can take a wildlife trip out onto the mere, with Ross' River Trips, including special early morning bird watching tours.

Slightly further away (well at least by road anyway) is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s excellent Hickling Broad Reserve (8.6 miles). It has numerous habitats, hides and viewing platforms, including a 60ft tree tower. You can also take a boat safari with a wildlife guide, including trips at sunset. In winter the Raptor Roost attracts huge numbers of Marsh Harriers each night (up to 40 at one time have been seen), together with Cranes (up to 30), Hen Harriers and Merlin’s.

At Buckenham Carr (13 miles) you can see the famous Rook Roost, with up to 40,000 Rooks and Jackdaws gathering at dusk from all over the peninsula. This spectacle was the subject of Mark Cocker's excellent book Crow Country. From here you can also walk out onto the Marshes and the various reserves along the River Yare.

The cottage is ideally situated for visiting other local reserves and you are rather spoilt for choice, with 13 reserves within a 6 miles radius. Of course another option is to hire a boat and explore the rivers and broads from the water - please see the Boating section for more details.


Another great winter treat is to go and see the seals pupping along the beach at Horsey Gap. In 2012/13 over 600 pups were born along this stretch of the beach and as they also use this time to mate it makes for an amazing wildlife spectacle. You can either drive to them (6 miles) where The Friends of Horsey Seals have a car park, guides and information or you can walk up from Winterton-on-Sea (4.1 miles) along the dunes.