The Area around Ruston Reaches
In terms of area East Ruston is one of the largest parishes in Norfolk but has a population of only around 500, some 350 less than it was one and a half centuries ago.
There are no shops left in the village. However the pub, The Butcher's Arms is thriving, a free house serving a selection of local ales as well as respected brews from further afield. It offers reasonably priced food in two restaurant areas and is very popular with locals, however, you need to note that it does NOT TAKE either credit or debit cards!
You can tell from the photograph of the flamboyant owners, Alan Gray and Graham Robeson, that a visit to East Ruston's Old Vicarage Gardens will be worthwhile. Set on high ground about a mile and a half east of the village centre, the house was bought by the pair in 1973. They started by cultivating two acres of three foot high tufted grass that then grew round the house. The gardens now extend to more than 30 wonderful acres.
The village church, found near the Old Vicarage boasts an impressive 15th Century chancel screen with its lively lions and unspoilt contemporary paintings of the evangelists and others, so shouldn't be missed while you are in the area.
The Parish has an extensive common which those who enjoy wildlife will find of interest. Much of it is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (PDF, 5.9KB). It is also the subject of a case study by the Environment Agency entitled, Restoring East Ruston Common, Norfolk and Suffolk (PDF, 259KB).
The Weaver's Way, a long distance footpath, passes through East Ruston a hundred yards south of Ruston Reaches. Most of the route between North Walsham and Stalham runs on the old railway line, so providing very easy walking and is certainly the most direct route into Stalham as can be seen from a Map of the Section (PDF, 374KB). Both cycling and horse riding is allowed as far as Stalham and for a worthwhile distance towards North Walsham.
Those with an interest in history will find it worth reading an Analysis of the 1851 Census returns (PDF, 73KB) for East Ruston and a description of the Poor's Allotment in East Ruston (PDF, 664KB). Copies of the Enclosure Maps, which defined the Poor's Allotment, along with Tithe and First Edition Ordnance Survey maps are available at the County Council's excellent MapExplorer site. This allows you to to view any combination of these maps superimposed over each other together with 1946 and 1988 aerial surveys of the parish (and many others across the County).
Stalham, only four miles from the nearest sandy beach, is "The Northern Gateway to the Broads". So says a sign outside Tesco . The same sign points out the the High Street is home to almost 100 businesses...
A small market is held on Tuesdays in a car park almost opposite the Post Office and a Farmer's market on alternate Saturdays in the Town Hall (seen below). While there is a useful Tesco store that opens stays open till 22:00 on Monday to Saturday, in other ways the town retains the old ways of retailing. It preserves the tradition of "early closing" on Wednesdays and a hardware store that will still sell you the exact number of screws you want, not just a packet of ten!
Not mentioned on the sign are the significant number of independent traders. You'll find the winner of the Norfolk Food & Drink Awards for ‘Best Independent Food & Drink Retailer’ in 2012. Truly Local claims "we make sure you know exactly where your food comes from because we only source produce from within a 35 mile radius of our shop" and Prince Charles as a customer! And, as you might expect in a town catering for the holiday trade, a host of places to eat in or buy a take-away.
Also on the High Street, in the corner of the St Mary's church yard, is the Old Firehouse Museum. This tiny building with a distinctive red door is the second oldest firehouse in the country. It holds many old photographs and artefacts and an original 1902 horse drawn fire engine. Entrance is free, but you will need to check when it will be open, especially if visiting outside the summer months.
On the outskirts of the town is the boatyard of one of the largest holiday hire fleets on the Broads. There are also smaller yards around Stalham Staithe that cater for day hire - as well and the fascinating Museum of the Broads.