'We've welcomed thousands of dogs' - Q&A with Sue Allen

Sue Allen, who owns East Ruston Cottages.

Sue Allen, who owns East Ruston Cottages. - Credit: Supplied by Sue Allen

We're featuring people who live or work in north Norfolk in a series of Q&As. This week we speak to Sue Allen, 57, from Eccles-on-Sea.

How would you best describe your job or role in the community? 
I own a small, truly dog welcoming holiday cottage agency called East Ruston Cottages, that focuses on the area I live in and love to visit. 

All of the properties are in places I know well.  That way I can encourage our guests to visit our local beaches and recommend pubs, cafes and shops when they are here so they spend their money locally. 

We support a whole range of local small businesses – cafes, farm shops, butchers - both by recommending them and offering our repeat guests vouchers to spend there.    

How long have you lived in Eccles? 
I have lived in the area for over 34 years – first in Yarmouth, then East Ruston and now right by the sea in Eccles.  I keep my horse, Pogo, in Happisburgh - he sometimes features on our Facebook page on a ‘tour’ past some of the cottages

When I lived in East Ruston I started East Ruston Cottages with just two properties. Now, 14 years later we have over 35 properties and have welcomed thousands of dogs to the area over the years.

What would you do if you were mayor  for a day?
As I live on the Bush Estate where the roads are dreadful and not maintained by the council I would get them all repaired.   

And then have a big street party for all the people who live on the estate. 

It’s a great community – people help each other out all the time, from checking on elderly neighbours to having road repair sessions where we all bring our barrows, spades and rakes to fill the potholes.

What is your favourite landmark in north Norfolk? 
Happisburgh Lighthouse.  It's so distinctive and still working away, doing the job it was built for since 1791. I love standing on the dunes outside my house of an evening and watching it flashing away on the coast. 

And you can climb up it on open days – amazing views.

Happisburgh lighthouse set against the night sky

Happisburgh lighthouse set against the night sky - Credit: Shaun Reynolds

What is your favourite pub? 
I think it has to be the Recruiting Sergeant in Horstead/Coltishall.  The food is fabulous and the atmosphere is very comfortable. It's really good after a paddle boarding session on the River Bure nearby. 

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We are lucky to have so many dog welcoming pubs in Norfolk. I think it comes as a real surprise to our guests.

The Recruiting Sergeant pub at Horstead. Picture: Stuart Anderson

The Recruiting Sergeant pub at Horstead. - Credit: Stuart Anderson

Which shops do you rely on? 
Fair Maiden fish shop in Happisburgh is the best fish shop around and we buy from there almost weekly. 

Kirsty always has the best, freshest fish. I like to use Meales at Wayford Bridge for veg and other farm shop foods and Tavern Tasty butchers just outside North Walsham. 

Claire and her team have some amazing meat and all sorts of other Norfolk goodies.

What is your favourite place to eat out in north Norfolk? 
For a local café it has to be Smallsticks at Cart Gap – fresh food, great coffee, super friendly staff and lovely little beach huts set up for eating with your dogs.  Our holiday guests love it too.

The Doggie Diner in Cromer is another.  
For a restaurant, the Bure River Cottage seafood restaurant in Horning is a real favourite.

What is a perfect day in north Norfolk for you?
A long walk on Stiffkey Marshes with the dogs. 

There is something about that place that has a feel of its own. Magical and muddy. Those big skies, the distinctive bird sounds, the sense of space and the salty smell. Then head back home via Cromer for some fish and chips on the pier.  Not much of a posh bird am I?  Muddy dogs and chips and I am happy!

A bridge at Stiffkey Marshes takes you the beach .

A view across the Stiffkey Marshes. - Credit: Martin Sizeland

Which places in north Norfolk would you recommend to visitors?
Cromer – for the lovely big beach, the great pier, the cliff top dog walk to Overstrand and the fish and chips of course!  I don’t tell anyone about Stiffkey as that’s just for me.

Holt – for a choice of good food in dog friendly places to eat and good walking around the country park.  There are so many more – I am always telling our guests about places to go if they want recommendations for a day out with the dogs.

Who is your north Norfolk hero?
Can I have two?  The Nimmo Twins.  Their humour about Norfolk is just spot on and makes me weep with laughter when I see them.

Norfolk comedy duo Owen Evans, left, and Karl Minns are the Nimmo Twins.

Norfolk comedy duo Owen Evans, left, and Karl Minns are the Nimmo Twins. - Credit: Dave Guttridge The Photographic

What do you most love about north Norfolk?
Skies and footpaths, the big skies with dramatic clouds and sunsets. 

The huge range of easy places to walk the dogs too – so many paths both coastal and inland.  We are really lucky to have such a lot of open countryside. 

When I have been to other parts of the country with my dogs, it can be tricky to walk with lots of stone walls and stiles, sheep and hills.  So many of our guests love how easy the dog walking is here with old railways tracks converted to walking paths – like the Weavers Way that runs through a lot of the East Ruston Cottages area.