East Ruston Cottages

Location: East Ruston, Norfolk, United Kingdom

About us, Dermot and Sue Allen and our dog friendly holiday cottages. We started with the Old Forge running it for friends in 2005. In 2007/8 we were able to develop our own holiday accommodation, The Old Piggery. The Garden Room was added, belonging to another friend and the success of these prompted a further request to add Red Roofs at Hickling which has been doing very well. In 2012 we are embarking on our next project, New Barn. It isn't new at all (approx 180 years old) but it will be a fabulous new addition to our dog friendly holiday accommodation. Keep watching this space....!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

August - Apples and lamb chops!

August Complete weather change from hot and dry to wet and cool. Temperature is much better and we need the rain but it’s very different for the first couple of days. Managed to squeeze 4 lambs into Howells and then made life very difficult for them with a complicated, time consuming cutting list which caused one of their butchers to walk!! Lambs came in at 32kg average. Better than last year. Sold some halves at £30 each and gave some to Fiona as thanks for the grazing. I also gave her some pork in exchange for some jump wings and poles - this meat is good currency round here!

The sheep got a change of scenery during this month as they went up to Anne Green's at Happisburgh. Caused mayhem amongst the horses the first night but all settled down after that.

Put an notice in the village newsletter asking for windfall apples and have been inundated. The pigs have been fed nothing but for most of the month and will probably taste of apple! They are not terribly impressed with cookers but do love eaters.

Finally got planning permission for the barn on 11th August! Hoorah and Help! Plan to start on the piggery in January, so watch this space....!!.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Up to date...

Jan Start the year with a couple of runt male piglets who carry on clearing the yard. Horse is still living up the road so they are housed in the stable.

In February we have a slight reworking of drawings for bedroom arrangement in piggery and run them by our builder. Then we put in for planning permission. Planning officer visits and advises that we will almost certainly need a bat and owl survey - £400, several months wait and planning on hold until it is completed. Plans go to the Parish Council for approval or otherwise! I stay well out of it as I am clerk to the Parish Council and can't be seen to have any influence over the council's decision! (I just hope the chairman found the £20 note in the envelope!)

We approach the local farmer for some more land – no way. Shame but at least we have registered our interest. We seem to have a lot of rats but our young Border Terrier, Eddie, is learning how to get them. We find a chicken dead in a nest box of no obvious causes. Report to Defra because of avian flu problem.

Snow and very hard frosts for nearly a week at the beginning of March. This winter is dragging on a bit! We do our annual wood gathering on the village common land and have the luxury of putting it all in the barn!

In April the builders start work on the yard walls - brick and flint construction and needing quite a bit of repair. Move pigs out of stable to the land behind the barn which needs clearing. Weather improves marginally. Book bat and owl survey and Derm's step father (ex Highway's engineer) starts looking at an alternative access/exit for barn for next submission of planning permssion - the Highways Dept. were not happy with the existing access and we receive an objection letter from a neighbour on the same topic.

Easter weekend – collect 3 orphan lambs (2 Texels and a Suffolk cross Hampshire - pictured left) from Neville Fox, a local shepherd. £20 each. Then starts a punishing regime of bottle feeding! We then collect two slightly wild native breed crosses from Mick and Pauline and a week later Nev rings to ask if we will take on a Rouge cross – not his and not feeding from mum. We can keep her if she does well; if she doesn’t he will 'dispose' of her. Have used all the lamb milk replacement he gave me with the first lambs so buy a £21 tub of Lamlac to feed my little collection of orphans. We struggle a bit with Rouge as she goes lame and needs antibiotic jabs and has a bad case of Orf with some big sores round her mouth and on her tongue making bottle feeding difficult.

May Buy 8 x weaned lambs (January babies mostly) from Wroxham Barns, the local petting farm (£25 each) and put them on the grass at Fiona and Peter Blacks where Atticus has been wintering. Economically this is a far better way of buying and raising sheep for us but I'm glad we had the orpans. This lot are all weaned and jabbed and ready to go. Our grass comes along enough for Atticus to come back home at the beginning of the month.

The bat and owl survey is carried out by Mick Finnemere. He is surprised to find nothing at all. We are not. We could have saved our selves £350 and told him that!

Swallows arrive and we hear cuckoos. Discover Roger, the farm manager, oversprayed the field side hedge last year and killed a lot of our hedge plants. He and Mr Callow take a bit of ribbing from Derm (when he has calmed down!) and agree to replace them.

Very wet, particularly towards the end of the month, and got so cold too. Rugs back on Atticus and Rayburn relit.

We go away for a week's holiday on a canal boat and manage to get holiday cover for all the animals. The rouge lamb is the main worry as she is still lame and still being bottle fed as she needs all the food she can get. Sarah Caswell takes her on and when we get back from our holiday tells us she would like to keep her as a pet. Hoorah! She gets her lameness cured – an abscess in the hock - and turns her into a lap lamb!.

June Got another 8 lambs from Wroxham Barns to join the others at Fiona and Peters. As Atticus lived on their grass all winter it seems fair to make an effort to keep it down now that we have taken him home. The original 8 aren't keeping up with it, hence these new ones.

Got a fair bit warmer thankfully. Atticus and 5 orphans grazing field well. Atticus bucks me off in field for no apparent reason - probably because I am asking him to do some work!

Damaged hedge seems to be recovering. Laughed about it with Roger at Jane’s 40th birthday party at the local farm. Great fun - 60's and 70's theme and just about everybody dressed up.

Book pigs in to Arthur Howells (slaughterer and butcher in Wells) for beginning of July. Book hay cut for some time soon.

Revised planning application goes in – sign goes up on barn on 22 June. Mr and Mrs May (who complained last time) are pre-warned and invited to come round to discuss any objections they might have (rather than just sending us a snotty letter!). Here we go again….

Finally move pile of wood from garden. Only taken three years and two working parties plus countless additional hours. Found body of missing cat Boris under part of it. No idea how he died but at least we found him.

July Took two, year-old boars in. Some concern at butchers about size and possible boar taint
but the meat tastes fantastic. Completely different butchery this time by Howells but a lot cheaper. They worked out at £93.75 each. No idea of dead weight. First attempt at ham and bacon - used Hugh Fearnley Whittinstall's bacon cure and it is a bit too strong so will go for a simpler brine solution next time. Ham will be ready later in the year. 44 bags of sausages from the beasties too. The sausages win in a comprehensive taste test! (Just us at home but not biased really) They really are very good.

Hay cut middle of the month. A bit over dry and only 95 bales but should keep us going. Got all into the barn whilst weather was dry - not too difficult as it is a very hot and dry July generally. Almost drought conditions for a while.

Took 70 bales straw off one of Edwards DeFeyter's fields at Edingthorpe. All by myself in 30+ temperature! 10 dellivered to Fiona and Peter.

2005 in a nutshell

In February the horse - Atticus is the name on his passport, Ned to his friends - comes up for sale. I have spent a few months getting to know him and I know this - he is good to hack alone and in company, shoe, clip, box, do in the stable, load, travel, hunt, jump but he is spooky - I ended up in hospital in January with concussion after a fall from him. I can just about afford him and Dermot is on my side so we buy him! My first ever horse at 40! What a fantastic birthday present (my actual birthday was in January - a lovely few days in Prague) So now we have a new barn, some land AND a horse! We clear out the stable for him and put up an electric fence round the field, although it is not ready for the horse yet.

I am delighted that Dermot spends the money on the builder tidying up and reinforcing the stable. The builder is probably equally delighted as the weather is very snowy and there is not a lot he can do outside! In April we really get the small holding bug and buy 2 weaner pigs from neighbours and two sheep from the nearby petting farm at Wroxham Barns. In May we have a work party to take more ivy off the walls and repair the barn doors. Once again, the friends come up trumps and a huge amount is achieved in one day.

The grass is going well so we put the horse in the field with the sheep. It is far too rich and goes to his head - he jumps out and is caught by the police (very enterprising - they use a borrowed piece of washing line - as a lasso?!) half way to the coast! A lesson for me to learn - spring grass is like speed to horses!

We have our first hay crop cut in July - cut, turned and baled in a very hot dry week and we just managed to get it in before the rain started so we have to throw them into the barn. We are very excited about this and get 195 bales of really nice hay for just 66p/bale.

We get 3 more sheep from Wroxham Barns. One of them
has a name - Shorn!

September starts very dry - I love this month. The pigs go to the abbatoir in Wells on the 12th. Far less stressful for us all than we imagined. Orders for pork coming in thick and fast. Some rain over the second weekend made a 20 mile charity ride at Newmarket a real treat and brought the grass on a bit. Nonetheless Atticus had to go back to his original owners for the grazing and to escape from our closest neighbour's rave! A very settled month – getting autumnal towards the end. Had to start rugging the horse towards the end of the month. Hunting started – some lovely early mornings

October is another warm month – some lovely weather. Grass growing still. A friend's groom comes to clip Atticus. Just starting to be stabled at night at end of month.

We take the sheep in during November and again have no problem getting rid of the meat. All rather tasty. A friend gives me a set of clippers and I have a go at clipping horse myself - not too bad a job I hope!

After getting a couple of silly quotes from architects for the work on the barn we have recommended to us an architect technician who comes round and measures up barn and piggery. Drawings appear a week later and we pore over them with friends. Changes are made.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The first summer

On 17th July, the day after completion, we have ourselves a celebratory supper in the barn. We use a table and chairs donated by my grandma and drink two bottles of champagne (!) and eat fabulous fish and chips from the Stalham takeaway. All our dogs share the evening with us, including the new Border Terrier pup, Ed. The evening is a volatile one weatherwise and we watch storms and rain clouds come through with a brilliant sunset to finish!

The emptied bottles are still in the alcoves in the barn. They will one day be incorporated into the finished barn.

Having got over the first of New Barn Farm hangovers we start to tentatively claim the barn and yard as our own. We move the stuff into the barn and we start parking our cars in the yard. This sounds like small beer but for us it is a very real indication that this space is now ours!

At the end of July we come back from a wonderful holiday in Tuscany (little realising that it will be one of the last foreign ones for a while!!) and find that the crop in 'our' field has been cut. In August the field is ploughed, harrowed and seeded for the cost of the grass seed only - about £90. In October the grass starts showing an exciting faint green sheen on our land!! Then the rabbits move in! We have a lurcher so the rabbits move out! We take delivery of all the fencing posts and netting from the soon to be bankrupt Atlantic Trading.

About this time I start riding a 16hh Irish Sports Horse type for a neighbour. After a few hacks out she wonders if I might like to take him hunting as she and other family members have no time for him. Sounds like fun. Have never hunted before and love it!. The first meet is within hacking distance of home and a cold, wet, windy day. Who cares? I think this will turn out to be the beginning of a new hobby and become a fully paid up member of the North Norfolk Harriers for next season!

In November we ask our long suffering friends to help us out with hedging the field. There are several hundred yards to do and they do a cracking job. Its muddy and sticky and grey but they all toil on regardless. Two are detailed for ivy removal on barn and set up a roaring fire. Soup is provided - we know how to reward our workers!! When finished we have – hawthorn, blackthorn, guelder rose, spindle, field maple, hazelnut, crab app(malus), sweet chestnut, horse chestnut, holly, honeysuckle, dog rose, dog wood, oak, ash, sycamore, gorse, elderberry, lime, beech and silver birch. (21 varieties)

March 2004 - It all kicks off

We find out that the barn next door to our lovely little cottage is going to be sold at auction - we have coveted it for several years so we need to move fast! During the years between us moving into Gothic Cottage and now we have had a variable relationship with the farmer who owns the barn. It didn't start off too well but we've stuck with it and I think he has realised over the years that we are relatively harmless and are staying for the duration. So, he is approached, with a bottle of duty-free whisky in hand (the first of many over the period of negotiation and beyond!) and, eventually, a price is reached for the barn and approx 2 1/2 acres of land.

The financial effort required to come up with the readies is considerable and involves financial advisors, re-mortgaging other properties, generous and much appreciated loans from relatives and friends but finally the barn (and land) is ours on 16th July 2004!!!!

Are you sitting comfortably? This is where the story begins

Jan 1994 - We buy and move into Gothic Cottage in East Ruston and settle comfortably into the country life. Next door is a huge threshing barn, overgrown with ivy, an old stock yard full of half grown trees separating the barn from the cottage. There is a scrap of rough land out the back and we are surrounded by fields. We often look at the barn and ponder how lovely it would be to own it and some land of our own. When we take a visit to the records office to find out more about our old cottage we see that the cottage has, in the past, been part of a farm complete with the barn. About 150 years ago the whole set up was called 'New Barn Farm' Ten years pass.........