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....!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Our favourite photographers - Part 1

We are very lucky to know three very creative photographers and we love all their images so thought it about time to share them here.

Penel Malby has taken most of the photos on the website as she comes here twice a year on holiday with her 6 dogs so could combine business with pleasure!  Her speciality is, unsurprisingly, dog photography and she does a similarly lovely job with the images of children. 

I started to add some of her images and then realised there are SOOOO many that I really like that this post would end up as a gigantic selection of her images...which is what her website is for!  So I urge you to visit it (www.penelopemalbyphotography.co.uk) and see for yourselves some of the lovely work she does, especially as she is branching into wildlife now too.....which reminds me..... just one more...!

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Bookings for 2012 - being dog friendly counts!

Really VERY pleased with 2012 bookings.  The Piggery was booked up ages ago, there's only one tiny, wafer thin December week left if anyone wants it?  Read the guestbook to understand what it is makes people come back time after time.  Clue: it's VERY dog friendly but also a nice place for their humans!

Fiona at the Garden Room is also very chuffed with how bookings are going since she joined us.  Booked all through the summer, most of the spring and has had some very healthy winter bookings too.  There is no dog proof garden there but the location is beautiful, the Garden Room is delightful, there are some lovely walks from the door and it suits a great many people with their dogs.

The Old Forge has been slow to start this year but it has a good following of regulars who started the bookings off and now they are building well.  It's been improving year on year since we took it over 6 years ago.  Bookings for the Old Forge are historically made a little later than the Piggery so I'm not worried - we have a good year building.  Summer bookings are looking good and it also does very well in winter - the wood burning stove makes it very cosy on a cold night.  There are no dog restrictions and it sleeps up to 10 so is often full of several sets of friends or large family groups.

It is Red Roofs I am most pleased with.  The owner, Jane, took the property away from the English Country Cottages group as they just weren't working at getting her bookings and, like so many agencies, were taking a whopping 20%+ commission (and being very slack at paying the booking money).  We worked in tandem last year as she had to run to the end of her contract but at the beginning of 2012 it was just little old East Ruston Cottages going it alone.  She (and her accountant!!) were a little nervous about this year and whether I could get them the bookings they needed. They were nervous?? I was terrified!  The might of a national agency v just me and my home grown marketing efforts?  Like David and Goliath all over again!  But we have our secret weapon.... being genuinely dog friendly!  And because we are, people want to come and holiday with their dogs and know that they don't have to worry about them.  It also helps hugely that Red Roofs is a lovely property in an amazing position overlooking Hickling Broad with a fabulous large grass dog proof back garden.

So there we are other holiday property owners - get dog friendly! You know it makes sense!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Progress.....slow but steady

The straw bale barn is on it's way still - no sign of any straw bales yet (dreading the day when they are as yours truly will be helping to cart all 500 from the big barn!) but a man with a lorry full of brick rubble turned up today and dumped a load ready for the floor.

Thank goodness the field has dried out!

Then another 2 loads of thatching reed arrived.
One load had to be taken off the trailer in high winds - such fun! Not.


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Friday, February 17, 2012

Chocolate brownie recipe - by popular demand!

As often as not the cottage guests have these waiting for them when they arrive....As often as not they get a mention in the guestbook too!  I am regularly being asked for the recipe and it is on the old part of the blog on the website but it is worth repeating on here too.  

They are SO easy.....
Oven on to about 180-190oC (350 - 375oF, Gas 5 - 6) and line a shallow baking tin - 20cm x 30cm is a good size.  I find the reusable silicon linings are ideal.

Melt 200g of dark cooking chocolate with 175g unsalted butter.  I do this in a microwave, starting with the chocolate for about 3 minutes and adding the butter for the last minute as it takes less time to melt.  DO keep a close eye and stir regularly.  You can also do it in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Whilst this is melting, in a bowl measure out:
300g sugar, preferably caster but it doesn't seem to matter if it is granulated
100g plain flour
75g chocolate powder or cocoa which gives a better flavour
1tspn baking powder (don't worry if you miss this out - they will still be just as yummy!)

Beat 4 eggs together and mix all ingredients together well and pour into the tray.  
Cook for about 20 mins.  Take out and leave to cool completely before cutting.   Sometimes I leave them to cool in the oven for a bit. Up to you really.
You could eat them warm with cream or icecream, maybe some raspberries.  When cold they keep for a surprisingly long time.....in theory!

They can also be made in a coeliac friendly version - use a gluten free flour, leave out the baking powder and make sure you use cocoa rather than drinking chocolate.  You really wouldn't know the difference!
So far I have experimented by adding brandied cherries, marshmallows, fudge, chocolate chips, nuts.  All delicious.  How could they not be?


Monday, February 13, 2012

On why we don't have a tv.

There are very few things in life that are a dead cert.  Death and taxes are the two that immediately spring to mind.  But I can add another - the reaction of people when we mention we don't have a tele.  1.  You don't have a tele? (said with varying degrees of incredulity) and 2.  Well, we don't watch a lot of tele (said with varying degrees of conviction and somewhat defensively!)

We haven't had a tele for about 6 years now and haven't missed it once.  Obviously all the holiday cottages have teles, with freeview and DVD players and all that stuff.  Wouldn't think to do otherwise (although we did toy, briefly, with idea of making the Piggery tv free!)  We don't have a daily paper either but we don't miss out on the news as we have the radio on all day.  In the evening the internet really is our entertainment.  Obviously we can watch tv programmes on iPlayer and similar but we rarely do unless it's something very highly recommended.  We use the time that would perhaps be spent in front of the box to research stuff, email people, update the website and blog, do stuff on the cottages Facebook page, post on forums, Tweet (@eastrustoncottages) a bit, more research, shop and play the occasional game of online Scrabble!  We have busy, full days even more so now that the barn build has started so need the evenings to catch up with other stuff that can't be done outside in the dark.  So no time for the goggle box.  Why not try it?  You might like the freedom it gives you to do more interesting things!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Straw bale barn build

This the start of our straw bale barn building in the field. Tess can be spotted in the middle checking the build standard!  Not a straw bale in sight...yet.  These are the footings, brick course to be laid next then the straw bales start.  We collected 500 small bales from the fields behind us in the summer (on some of the hottest days if I remember rightly and sweatily!)  and they are stored in the big barn.  They will be secured with some hazel rods supplied by a friend in the village.

When this building is finished the next little job (hahaha!!) is to move all of our firewood and everything else from the big barn into this straw bale barn so work can start on the roof of the big barn which will eventually be another dog friendly house.  Seems a long way off at the moment......  Anyone fancy a working weekend or two?!