ABOUT OUR CHARITY FUNDRAISER
Here at ERC you know we like to support charities in various ways and I think this one could be a biggie with your help. 31 years ago I met a wonderful man – a big, smiley, crazy, funny Belgian called Jean (Jean-bebe! to his friends). At the very same time I met another wonderful man and he went on to be my husband but funny, smiley, larger than life Jean was always in our lives. He was a very great friend and we had so many fabulous adventures together. He was best man at our wedding and my husband was best man at his. Eventually, we all grew up a bit and we lived in different countries and he had kids and worked away and we didn’t see so much of him but we had regular phone calls and when we did meet up, it was like we had never been apart. The fun began again!
And then a phone call came, one day, out of the blue to say he had died. Our larger than life friend wasn’t with us any more. In a daze we went with friends to his funeral in Belgium and, odd though it seems, we hadn’t actually been able to find out how he had died. We assumed an accident, a catastrophic health problem but nothing, absolutely nothing, could prepare us for the truth. We found out, through an English speaking friend of his, at his graveside, that he had hung himself. It was inconceivable. Our big, funny, laughing, life loving, generous friend? Impossible to imagine the dark place he had been in to do that. We all wished so hard that he had rung us, turned to us for help but he obviously didn’t feel he could. We feel his loss to this day. At my ERC HQ desk I have a picture of him in front of me. He’s never far. My father too committed suicide when I was 12 – a long time ago – so suicide has been a key theme in my life from early on.
I told this story to a friend recently and it all came flooding back...but so too did the idea for a charity fundraising plan through ERC. So, we are going to be raising money for MIND and The Samaritans here in the UK. But as what we do is all about dogs we want to use that fundraising push for a couple of rescue/dog charities and we asked our guests, past, present and future, our Twitter followers and our Facebook community to nominte their favourite dog charities and ended up with Hounds First and East Midlands Dog Rescue.
East Ruston Cottages really was rather a happy accident! There was no business plan, no burning desire to start a dog friendly holiday business,
So we set out to make something that WE were always looking for when we wanted to go on holiday - a really nice, comfortable, easy place, genuinely welcoming to dogs. A home from home with no charges for dogs and no limits on numbers, a properly secure outside space but nice inside and so the Old Piggery was converted and started taking bookings in April 2008.
We got bookings through agencies at first but as they seemed to want not just an arm and a leg in commission but a few bits of soul as well
And it went quite well and the word spread and we got some great bookings and some more bookings! We hoped for 50% occupancy within 3 years but our first year was nearly 100% full and it's carried on like that to this day - the Piggery remains one of the most popular properties on the website. We've grown organically, with people asking us to add them - nearly all friends or people we know which definitely helps keep things friendly.
So that's the story so far. I am having a LOT of fun running East Ruston Cottages despite many of them not being in East Ruston! But it's where it all started with my husband Dermot and we think it's the very best area in Norfolk.
I love what I do and am passionate about offering properly dog friendly accommodation (rather than dog tolerant) that pleases owners as well as their dogs.
Last, but absolutely NOT least, are the people who help make this possible. I absolutely couldn't run ERC without the great admin and accounts support of my very good, efficient and trusted long term friend, Caroline 'Caz' Walker, who works part time, self employed, from her home about half an hour away. We often use social events to hand over paperwork and can often be found in the kitchen at parties....... discussing spreadsheets!
Darren at Broadland Computers in Stalham is the lynchpin of the website - designing, modifying and generally keeping it in good health and putting up with my constant requests to change this and that with humour and professionalism. He allows me pretty much free rein over the site contents so any glaring errors are usually my fault!
Then there's Stephen Mole of Stephen Mole Photography who takes many of the photos of the properties and Penel of Penel Malby Photography who did them in the early days and still takes fabulous images when she is up here to that she lets me use. Then there is Truly Local co-operative shop in Stalham who supply many of the welcome pack items and Jan at Nero's Kitchen - all local and supplying their goodies to the welcome packs too.