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, January 31, 2012

Promoting local food ......

Many of our guests come to stay with their cars laden with food and drink, determined not to do any food shopping while they are here (and I can't say I blame them, most supermarkets are horrible places to be in!) and some take advantage of our offer to put away their groceries and do an online shop for delivery before they arrive.  Others bring some basics, arrange for us to provide some local goodies and then shop locally during their stay - I do think these people get the best out of their Norfolk holiday because we do have some very good locally produced food.

One of the top places for this is a gorgeous little shop in Stalham High Street called Truly Local.  It is a not for profit community shop where all the goods are sourced from within a 35 mile radius.  Why 35 miles?  Well that enabled them to include Norfolk's very own whisky!  The stuff in this shop is just wonderful - imaginative, fresh, all delicious and not expensive.  They regularly do a price comparison with Tesco and many of their items are often cheaper. Truly Local website  And it doesn't just do food ... check out the ever changing selection of local art, cards, pottery, bags and bunting!

Also in Stalham High Street there is an excellent butcher who also sources much of his meat from local suppliers and does some wonderful cooked meat baguettes at lunchtime and pork pies to die for!  James Cawdron website

They did the hog roast for our wedding.  Most people went back for seconds!

For fish, there is the bestest, freshest fishy delights in a tiny little shop in nearby Happisburgh.  The shop is called Fair Maid, after the boat used to catch the fish.  Can rarely resist stopping on the way back from walking the dogs on the beach.  As well as the fresh fish, they do little pots of cockles and prawns, frozen fish, sandwiches, crabs, lobsters and Morston mussels in season and their smoked fish is some of the best I have ever tasted.  Not too heavily smoked which means you can eat their fantastic kippers for breakfast and not have them repeating on you all day!

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Friday, January 27, 2012

First booking taken for 2014!!

Not yet out of the first month of 2012 and we have just taken a booking for June 2014 at the Old Piggery!  Our regulars do like to make sure they get 'their' weeks and these guests are certainly planning ahead!  Love it!  The New Barn should be up and running by then so even more dog friendly accommodation available.
Our Sonny looking over the deserted beach at Waxham

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First load of roofing reed in the yard

There are 350 bundles here - a fraction of what is needed.  Not the best looking stack in the world but the first time we have ever done it and on one of the windiest days of the year so far - not too bad a job considering!

Now you might have to use your imagination here (!) but this is the yard for the barn, fully walled and safe for dogs.  We plan to have planting in pots and raised beds round the outside, some paved areas, some gravelled areas.  Outside furniture and a covered porch area are planned too. Should look lovely when finished.  The corrugated iron doors on the right will be the entrance into a hall way with utility room/wet room on the side.

Meanwhile, in the field the footings of the straw bale barn are being prepared.  This will house all the wood, (all of our heating in the house is wood fuelled and it is coppiced locally) animal feed, building materials etc that are currently in the big barn so we can actually do the conversion!  There are 500 straw bales in the barn ready for this project, all taken from the fields at the back of the house last summer.  A local coppicer will be supplying the hazel rods to secure the bales and our builder, Chris, will be doing the lime mortar render on the outside. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More photos from Red Roofs at Hickling

A guest who has made a recent booking has asked to see some more pictures (there are some on the gallery page of the website - here)

Out to the back garden through the porch from the kitchen.

View of the house from the private lane, down one of the drives either side of the front garden.

View from the front of the house, across the front garden and private road to the boat houses on the edge of Hickling Broad.

Twin bedroom.  Two generous sized single beds with good quality mattresses.  These can be combined to a super king size double.

Stairs to upstairs bedroom.  Paintwork looking a bit bashed in this picture but will be decorated in early Feb 2012

Upstairs bathroom.  Since this photo was taken, carpet has been replaced by laminate flooring and new rugs.

One of the gates beside the house.  Solid wood, spring loaded catches/bolts and about 4ft tall (I am 5'2")  These gates are either side of the house to stop dogs/children/wayward old people (!) heading off on an unscheduled trip to the water.
Downstairs shower cubicle

Downstairs bath/shower room.  Cant's see the shower cubible in this picture - it is to the right of the sink.
One of the other twin bedrooms.  Doors straight out onto the front garden.


Friday, January 20, 2012

The calm before the storm.

Our first delivery of Norfolk reed, intended for the roof of the barn.  The thatchers are due to start in July.  Many more loads of reed to come and a whole lot of work, mess and stress.  This blog will document progress ......and quite possibly my nervous breakdown!!

Eating out in Norfolk

This website is just what I have been looking for.  Up to date information and reviews about places to eat in Norfolk.  www.eatoutnorfolk.co.uk/

Monday, January 02, 2012

Why aren't there more dog friendly holiday cottages?

Why aren't there more of them?  We often have this conversation with our guests and can't really get to the bottom of it.  Every year we like to go on holiday with friends and between us we have 5 dogs.  We are a fussy lot and want a certain number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a wood burning stove or open fire, we like an Aga, we must have a good pub nearby etc etc  But the very hardest thing to find in a property is the acceptance of 5 dogs - 2 small, 3 large, all house trained. And when we do find them we often have to pay an arm and leg for the privilege of taking them on holiday.  We have in the past resorted to subterfuge and lies!  Not nice and quite stressful but sometimes the only way we could get into a property.

So, when we started the conversion on the Piggery it was a no brainer to decide that it was going to be properly dog friendly.  I was already running The Old Forge and the owners have always had dogs so they were supportive of making it properly dog friendly too.  I know there are plenty of properties out there allowing one or two "well behaved dogs" but if you are allowing one or two, why not three or four?  If you had four as an upper limit it would be far more flexible.  And what extra work do dogs produce that warrant a charge of £25/dog for example?  That's £100 for 4 dogs!  However hairy the dogs and how ever well paid the cleaner that is a lot of extra dosh!  

Since the Piggery opened in May 2009 we have been pretty much fully booked and in that time just about everybody has come with a dog, the most we have had in at one time was 8.  In that time the majority of damage has been caused by humans (often the smaller variety!) and even then only amounts to a few broken cups and glasses.  We have found that dog owners are nearly always a clean and tidy bunch, they have to live with their dogs in their own houses so they do know how to clean up after them.  We have also found that the larger the number of dogs the more likely the owner is to be involved in dog training, behaviour, psychology etc and understand and train their dogs.

And another suprise - prick up your ears if you are a holiday home owner wondering why your bookings aren't good - in the 55 bookings we had last year in the Piggery (most of whom had dogs) 45 of them had 4 dogs or less and 26 of those had 2 or less. The figures for the Forge are broadly similar. So they could have gone to many of the other places allowing "2 well behaved dogs"  and the holiday homes allowing "2 well behaved dogs" could have streched themselves a little and allowed 4 and got some more business which in this economic climate is hard won.  

But I think the reason so many of the 2 dog families came here is because we really welcome dogs.  They are not tolerated, they are encouraged.  We don't charge for them because we understand they are family members and no holiday home owner would dream of charging for an Aunt or a daughter would they? We have met some lovely people who have become friends and some lovely dogs too and we have been rewarded by a repeat business figure of well over 50%. 
So as far as I am concerned the message to other holiday home owners is embrace dogs with open arms, don't charge for them, make your holiday home welcoming and easy for dog owners and you won't regret it!  (and we will all have more choice of where to go with more than "two well behaved dogs!)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Places to eat ....as recommended by Forge guests

Just been sorting out the leaflets in the folders in the Old Forge before the next lot of guests arrive (SO many fabulous places to visit and we haven't been to most of them!)  I found a handwritten note that one guest had kindly left about the pubs they had been to: