You can probably guess from the size of the exercise area that Norstead Hall Kennels has enough capacity for a lot of animals, and you'd be right: its 82 kennels are registered for up to 120 dogs and 60 cats, making it the largest kennels in North Norfolk. It was obvious from when they took over that Nikki and Phillipa would have a lot to do to bring Norstead up to date in terms of meeting modern regulations, so a chat was had with the District Council, who were very helpful. Environmental Services were also closely worked with, and now Health & Safety and staff procedures are all in place. Nikki and Phillipa's aim has been to retain the history of Norstead but to bring it up to date in terms of technology, to give customers and their pets the best of both worlds.
The new building that houses the reception and shop has been designed to be complementary to the house, using local materials and a sympathetic design for the exterior, and with nods to the past in the interior. For instance, the reception desk is reminiscent of the 1930s, with its shape and its marble-look finish, while the wall lights are also 1930s-style. However, perched on the reception desk is a flat screen monitor that can at a glance show the relevant details for every customer, a far cry from the outdated and slow card filing sytem that it replaces. The new computer system allows the receptionist to see each pet's details, from when it last stayed and how long for, to any medication that it needs. Booking trends can also be easily monitored. To the rear of the new building the staff now have their own kitchen area where they can sit and enjoy a chat as they eat and drink. Then there are the kennels, of course! Currently there are seven blocks, although there are plans for some new, smaller ones, to make them easier to manage. Work has been carried out on all the kennel blocks to bring them up to current regulations, with all the wood in the structure being replaced with steel, polycarbonate and aluminium, making the animals' accommodation easier to clean and disinfect. Disinfection was previously a bit of a problem, but with the installation of special disinfection points dotted around the site, with an RSPCA-recommended anti-Parvovirus solution already made up, it is no longer a problem.
Cleaning could also be a bit of a chore at times because of the water pressure - or lack of it! In an effort to redress this the previous owner had had four large water tanks installed in the roof of the house, but the modern solution has been to have a large accumulator tank installed outside, with a direct water feed and a pressurising motor. Now, high-pressure water complimented with a new high-pressure steam cleaner is used on the site making the staff's job easier and obviating the need to carry buckets of water from the house to the kennels. Staff numbers fluctuate between 8 and 12, depending on how full the kennels are, and their day begins at 6.30am. No matter what the weather the dogs get to go out and excersise, they are not reliant on walks. Each kennel is cleaned out and has fresh newspaper put down while the dog exercises. Every dog get to exercise regularly throughout the day.
Two sizes of kennels are available, one for single occupancy and a larger
size suitable for two or more dogs, and all the kennels are heated to maintain
an ambient temperature of 10°C. With so many guests at once it is essential
to know their individual requirements, so each kennel has relevant notes
on the outside in addition to full history on our specialist kennel database, showing any medication needed, etc., while in the catering standard
feed room one wall is covered in boards with each dog's dietary requirements
detailed. The Cattery is being updated too, using aluminium and polycarbonate,
and is being modelled on the cattery at F.A.I.T.H. Animal Rescue in Hickling,
with whom Norstead works closely. Other local animal experts are also
closely co-operated with, among them vets at North Walsham, Holt, Wroxham, Sheringham and
Hamsters, rabbits, etc. can enjoy a holiday too, as the old cattery is being used as a 'family pet' housing centre.