It was with great trepidation that I finally decided on a brief return to England and its South-west.
After last year’s six-hour detainment ordeal at Heathrow Airport, would I be stopped and aggressively questioned, detained again, possibly worse?
It’s a game of let’s wait and see, which also depends on the border control officer that processes my entry on the day – just need to land in the UK and take it from there…
It feels as if I’m being drawn back to the UK again. So, with the RyanAir flight and a hire car booked, on our way again.
The three-hour flight from Lamezia (Italy) to Stansted (England), went smoothly and arrived on time…always a bonus with a low cost airline or any airline these days, for that matter.
Border Force (Immigration) – granted entry?
Arriving at Stansted, my partner went down the EU-passport lanes, whilst I made my way down to the non-EU lanes, with the other 200-plus passengers – many of which are Asians today.
This time, I have an exit ticket out of the UK and hope this would count for something. Although there is nothing in writing anywhere that this is a compulsory requirement for entering the UK, this was one of the officer’s issues with me during last year’s detainment at Heathrow.
My turn finally came at the Border Force counter…
With great apprehension after last year’s detainment, I approached the female officer with a bright smile and friendly demeanour; and answered the several standard questions politely, when asked. We were getting along…
Happy with my responses and behaviour, my passport was stamped and off I went, with great relief. No hassles. No detainment. My passport stamped with a 6-month Tourist Visa.
Incredulous, I put this down to the fact that I have a new and stampless passport, which only contains my Italian Residency Visa. Unlike my old passport, this one is clean, which does not contain anything to alert the officer to dig further and deeper into database notes. This is what occurred when I was detained last year, as the previous officer at Portsmouth, unbeknownst to me, stamped my passport with a special stamp, which was a notification flag to any following officer. This flag stays with me for ten years.
My partner was already waiting and watching intently, opposite the Border Force counter with our luggage. I walked through with the most inexplicable thorough relief. Last year’s ordeal left a bad taste in my mouth and I was extremely reluctant to return to this country. I am free to go.
After a little confusion picking up the Thrifty hire car, as the depot isn’t in the airport ground but a shuttle bus away, we started the long drive from Stansted to Street, Somerset – about four hours South-west. Need a hire car until Reg passes his MOT, then need insurance and tax, before driving the motorhome.
Catching up with my partner’s family is pretty cool and always great to catch up with friends in the UK. With a couple of house-sits, visiting friends and family, stewarding at Glastonbury Festival, it will be a packed four and a half weeks.
The sad decision
Sadly, we decided that Reg (motor home) is to be sold as the apartment in Italy does not include parking. More so, transferring registration from the UK to Italy is too costly and the bureaucracy, unfathomable.
Another issue is that it isn’t economically viable to store Reg in the UK for yet another year. Not only is this additional cost, but any vehicle deteriorates sitting in a wet field during perpetual rain for twelve months.
So far, the weather has been miserable: wet, cold, and windy – what ever happened to England’s summer this year?
It seems that every time I arrive in Street, I’ve just missed a glorious week or two of sunshine before weeks of rain set in…my luck.
Typically, the village of Street in Somerset is the base whilst in the UK, which means I experience much puppy love from Ollie the beautiful and gentle Golden Retriever.
Although previously known as Lantokay after a Celtic saint, the name of Street, is ‘derived from the Latin strata’, which means a paved road; and from a 12th-century causeway built to transport stone from this village to rebuild Glastonbury Abbey after a fire. Much of Street’s history is dominated by Glastonbury Abbey.
By the mid 17th-century, the Clarks, a Quaker family moved in and established its manufacturing business. And although the manufacturing business closed its doors in the early 1990s, Clarks Village is still Street’s shopping precinct.
Street is renown as the largest ‘village’ in Europe and is only a about eight miles away from the ‘smallest’ city in Europe: Wells.
About three miles from Street, sits a quaint and pretty small village that goes by the name of Walton, in which the first house sit is scheduled. We are house-sitting a lovely traditional 18th-century stone English cottage, two lovely dogs, and some aged chickens.
Basically, Walton has one main road going right through the village and this is to be home for a few days.
The home started its life as two farm workers’ cottages and then rebuilt over time. An original ancient stone well at the front entrance of the property still stands, as a testament to time.
Great to get more puppy fix for a few days, go for long walks amongst the lush green fields, and always welcome these opportunities.
With origins dating back to Anglo Saxon times, the town of Taunton boasts 1,000 years of military and religious history, and is also where we return the hire car.
Sadly, I never seem to get much time to explore this town as usually, running to catch a bus back to Street. Although the Taunton Castle, which is now a hotel is quite beautiful and worth a stop for photos.
After too much fun and frivolity at last year’s incredible Glastonbury Festival, decided to put our names down again this year for Stewarding, which is another reason for returning to the UK.
As there’s too much to write and too many photos about this year’s festival, check out my post for some fun: Glastonbury Festival 2017 – here comes the sun!
After the Walton house sit, it’s back to Street to do loads of work on Reg and ready him for advertising, and hopefully to sell, quickly.
Meanwhile, another break saw us driving down the south coast to Poole in county Dorset. Always great to catch up with good friends and our travel partners in crime that we met in South America back in 2011.
Adjacent to Bournemouth, Poole boasts a large natural harbour, which of course attracts many tourists and is popular as one of the largest sailing centres in England, hosting sailing regatta’s and world championship dinghy sailing.
Dating back to the 12th century when Poole was an important trading port for wool, Poole’s human settlement goes back before the Iron Age.
With only a few days here it is wonderful catching up on travel and motorhome stories, long walks around Poole and Bournemouth beaches, good food, and great friendships.
A pleasant walk along Poole’s High Street sees you arriving at beautiful building: The Stable (pizzeria). Duck right here and follow down this lovely Old High Street, still graced by gorgeous aged buildings for a taste of traditional English architecture.
Traipsing along the Old High street will see you bumping into the King’s Head, which is ‘believed to be the oldest operating pub in Poole’ and dates back to 1678. Stop in for a pint or two and just relax for a while.
An excellent time was had by all at the Glastonbury Festival and not long now before I fly back to Italy…but first, another brief house sit for a few nights.
On to the seaside town of Weymouth in Dorset to look after two Pugs and a Jack Russell this time – all of which are adorable of course.
In true English form, the weather is proving “trying” or “changeable” as best described on many BBC Weather reports. And “trying’ it is with continual scattered rain, heavy dark clouds, and slithers of sunshine trying to peek through.
Nonetheless, you have to make the most of it and had a lovely few days walking the pooches, and enjoying the serenity away on our Carer’s Respite.
With only a fleeting moment in Weymouth, there isn’t much time for sight-seeing and had much nicer weather travelling through this region in 2016 in Reg. Check out, England’s Southwest: Thomas Hardy’s beautiful Dorset.
Leaving the UK for Italy
After just over 4 weeks in the UK, it is back to Cosenza for me with RyanAir.
Decided to stay awake until 00:30hrs so we can start the four-hour drive from Somerset to Standsted International Airport and what a palaver it turned out to be with road works and diversions at many turns; even just before reaching the airport. You would think that driving in the very early hours of the morning would be a simple procedure.
Finally arriving, with a little time to spare and not too much of a check-in line-up.
Back in Italy
Arrived at Lamezia Termine late as left Stansted late, and just missed my bus at Lamezia – the travelling Domino effect.
The 12:40hrs bus never arrived at Lamezia either – not surprising.
So after two and a half-hour wait with several angry passengers, the IAS Impresa Autolinee Secura bus did arrive. A new and very comfy bus and not the usual scruffy graffitied bus that turns up for the return trip back to Cosenza. Slightly more expensive at a mere €5, but for air-conditioning and without stops until Cosenza, I’m not complaining. Made the journey back in under 50 minutes compared to the usual hour or more – excellent.
It’s definitely great to be back!