A Year in England

For the past several years Steve and I have been planning to do “A Year in England”. We love England for many reasons – the beautiful countryside, the abundance of good walking and hiking trails, the charming villages, the people, the tea – and we want to do a longer stay.

We spent five months in England in the late 1980s (fall and winter) but did not return until 2000 when we spent a month in the Cotswolds during a glorious May. After that trip we returned to our Italy obsession, so did not start yearly trips to the Cotswolds until 2004. Since then we have spent at least a month in England each year, skipping only summer 2007 when the floods in the Cotswolds caused the water to be shut off in the cottage we had booked, so we canceled the England part of the trip. In early 2008 we spent two months in a cottage in Nailsworth and were lucky to be there for a mild and sunny winter. Last summer we had the best trip ever to England, during a hot and sunny May/June, where we spent six weeks in three different cottages in the North Cotswolds.

If you add it all up, we have already done “A Year in England”, in bits and pieces. But bits and pieces is a vacation and a year is living there. In May we return to the cottage in Nailsworth that we rented that 2008 winter to spend five months – May through September. It may not be “A Year in England” – more of a long summer in England – but it is a start at living there.

View towards Minchinhampton Commons
View towards Minchinhampton Commons

Santa Fe to Boulder to Nailsworth

We recently moved from Santa Fe, where we spent the last 20 years, to Boulder Colorado. We are in a house and town that we love. We will have been here less than six months when we leave for England. While I would like to spend the summer in Colorado, we have been waiting for two years for the Nailsworth house to become available, so need to act now before it gets rented out long term.

It is not easy to find fully furnished and equipped long-term rentals in the Cotswolds. I have been watching the rental listings for the past two years and not many are available. We could consider an unfurnished rental, but even if we went for the full year, I think it would be too much work to buy a household worth of furniture and get rid of it after.

We are lucky with this house rental because we know the house, the neighborhood, the neighbors and the owner – so we know what we are getting. Plus we don’t have to fly over to see the house before booking it. That is probably what has stopped us from renting a house – the logistics of doing it. Each time we did a trip to England we planned to look for a long-term rental, but gave up after a day or two, not wanting to spend our vacation time looking at houses. If we had found one, we would have had to rent it, fly home, spend a month packing and organizing, rent out our house, then fly to England – too overwhelming and we kept putting it off.

Cottage in Nailsworth
Cottage in Nailsworth

I think we were also wanting to settle our US living situation before taking on “A Year in England”. We loved Santa Fe, but knew we were ready for a change and had been looking for a new home for several years. Last fall we were deciding between going to England for a year or moving to Boulder. We moved to Boulder.

Finding a Long Term Rental

Vacation rentals (holiday cottages) are popular in the Cotswolds, so if someone has a furnished house, they turn it into a vacation rental, not a long term rental. There are some furnished long term rentals available, but not many. Most rentals are unfurnished with a one year commitment. One option that we thought of was to find a rental in the fall when some people rent out their vacation rental cottages long term over the winter, but then you are looking for another rental for the summer.

How We Are Making it Work

Work: Steve and I are both self employed. I run travel websites: Slow Europe and Cotswolder. Steve produces software for schools and works on Slow Europe with me. We plan to work part time (on the rainy days) while in England. We are lucky that the work we do allows us to do long trips, but this was a decision that we made more than 20 years ago – to find work that we can do from home or while traveling, and that we can do full time or part time. Over twenty years of great living and travel experiences, but no pension 🙂

We will take our notebook computers. Steve set up a PogoPlug on our home network and has attached large disks where we can keep our backup files and anything we think we might need for working. We can access this online.

Our House: Usually when we travel to Europe, even for a two month trip, we have a house sitter look after the house and our cat Buddy. We had a great house sitter in Santa Fe and various friends who liked Santa Fe and our house and Buddy and would house sit for free. It always worked out for us.

Five months is too long to leave the cat behind and too long to pay someone to look after him or to coordinate paid and unpaid house sitters, so we decided to take the cat with us (more about that in another post). We thought about offering our house to friends for the cost of utilities, but after figuring out the costs for this trip thought we would look into getting some income from the house.

I posted on SabbaticalHomes.com and sent an email to everyone in our Homeowner’s Association (about 50 houses in our neighborhood). I immediately got a reply from a couple that we know (T & P) who were renting a few houses away and had to leave but had not found anything they liked. I also got some replies from SabbaticalHomes.com. We agreed to rent the house furnished to T & P. The income from renting the house will cover some of the expenses for the trip and I won’t have to worry that the house is sitting empty.

The only downside to renting the house is spending the time getting it ready. We are doing all those projects we put off when we moved in, so the house will be “complete”. We have a huge closet in our guest room and I am putting all our personal things there – filing cabinets, boxes of travel books, my boxes of “stuff” and wool. We will move all our clothes and office things into that closet too. Then T & P will have a furnished house with empty closets (except that one) and drawers. We will leave our car in the garage.

Money: We set up UK bank account several years ago because it makes it easier for us when traveling in England. Before a trip we wire transfer money to the UK account, then use our UK debit cards or checks for expenses in the UK.

Mail: Most of our mail goes to a UPS Store mail box and we will have them forward it to us each week. We did this when we spent two months in England and it worked well. All our house utilities are on autopay and I can do other banking things online.

In the late 1980s we spent two years traveling in the US and one year in Europe. No internet, no cell phones, no Skype, no online paying of credit cards. Our accountant received and paid our credit card bills. We were “homeless” back then, so did not have to arrange anything for a house, but it was a very different travel experience from what we do now. Now it is all pretty easy.

What are You Going to Do for Five Months?

Five months to explore every corner of the Cotswolds! Five months to do every single hike in the Cotswolds (Walking in the Cotswolds)!

The main focus of our trip, as it is with most of our England trips, will be walking/hiking. We love the walking trails in England. Some days we do a two hour stroll, other days a longer five hour walk – nothing too strenuous and we usually stop in a village for tea or have a picnic on a hillside.

We plan to do day trips to areas near the Cotswolds and a few overnights into London (one and a half hours by train from Stroud). We are planning a few one-week trips to France and Italy. We can fly EasyJet from Bristol Airport or take the train from Stroud.

Hiking near Winchcombe
Hiking near Winchcombe

The Details

The United Kingdom allows travelers to spend up to six months in the country with no visa (Home Office – UK Border Agency). Steve and I are both US citizens and Irish citizens (my father is Irish, so I am a citizen – Steve became a citizen after marrying me), so we are able live and work legally in the UK. For this trip, because it is under six months, we will travel as US visitors.

Our costs over and above normal living and travel expenses will be $3,000/month, but our rental income will cover almost half of that.

  • To rent a two bedroom plus office, two bathroom, furnished house – £1,000/month (approx $1600/month plus utilities)
  • To lease a new VW Golf from a local agency – £160/week (approx $256/week – $1100/month). We may look into buying a used car, especially if we decide to stay longer.

On Our Way Very Soon

There were a lot of things to do for getting the cat ready to travel (more in another post), but they are done. Buddy will fly one day ahead of us because the wait at pet customs can be long and I do not think I could deal with that in my jet-lagged arrival state. A pet agent will pick him up and take him to a kennel near the airport. Then he will have a day to recover before being tossed into a car and driven to the cottage in Nailsworth.

We fly the next day. I arranged for a car service to meet us at the airport, get us and our luggage, go to the kennel and get Buddy, then drive us to the Nailsworth cottage. The owner of the cottage offered to get some groceries for us so we can arrive and collapse. I ordered some cat supplies (litter box, scratching post, etc.) to be shipped to the cottage before we arrive, so Buddy will have his stuff. The car we have leased will be delivered to the house the day after we arrive.

We won’t be traveling light, but we don’t need to since we are staying in one place the whole time. We can bring three bags each on British Airways (Premium Economy upgraded to Club World with miles). We won’t over pack, but we will need all our hiking stuff, plus clothes for warm, cold and wet, plus some of my Cotswolds travel books and maps, plus things for working. And Buddy’s cat toys. Okay, maybe I am over packing.

I plan to do more posts about getting organized for this trip and to post regularly while we are there. Let’s hope we have thought of everything!

Published by

Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

14 thoughts on “A Year in England”

  1. I’m finding this very interesting as we are just heading off to Spain for three months, with many of the same concerns as you (notably finding somewhere with an Internet connection so that we can work). £1,000/month: ouch! We’ll be paying less than half that (admittedly in small and basic accommodation, but with fabulous views and mountain walks from the doorstep). Did you consider doing home-exchange? We did but ended up not really having the time to organise it. It’s certainly an option I’d consider in future.

    We currently don’t have a cat so don’t have that to worry about, and our home from home is just a 5-hour drive away. I’ll be interested to follow your adventures in my former homeland (I used to live in the Cotswolds).

  2. Hi Veronica! This house has internet access, which was why we rented it two years ago. It is not easy to find holiday cottages in England with internet access – they assume everyone wants to “get away from it all” or has their cell phone for data. I think Spain is cheaper than England – this cottage is well priced for its size.

    I did not consider home exchange because we knew we were leaving Santa Fe, so could not plan too far ahead. In the future, now that we are settled in Boulder, I would give it a try, but from the little that I looked, it seemed that most Brits want to trade for Florida, NYC or California.

    I would like to do a longer stay trip in France sometime soon. Are you going to blog about your Spain trip?

  3. Pheww Pauline, what a logistical challenge you have tackled! I thought our scenario was tough enough: selling our home, downsizing – therefore shedding lots of stuff via charity and town dump, plus furniture without giving it away – and finding a new home. We have found the new home but there will be a gap (currently of unknown length, but short, we hope of course!) before taking possession.

    Couldn’t face an unfurnished property and two house moves, plus having to sign a lease for longer than we will need, the shortest here as you know being six months as a rule. So we will be in a series of holiday lets, since by the time we got a completion date on our sale, most of them could no longer offer a chunk of unbroken time. A week close to husband’s office, followed by three to begin with an hour and a half’s drive away! Our neck of the woods isn’t exactly tourist territory so there’s a shortage, other than in Cambridge city centre which is unaffordable!

    Luckily we have no pet to consider though we look forward to acquiring one when we’re finally settled.

    I wish you the happiest of times in the Cotswolds and I hope the family cat will be publishing his take on the holiday here in due course.

  4. Sounds awesome and the cottage looks lovely. Even though I have only been home for a short time, it makes me want to start planning another trip! The hiking sounds great and I can’t wait until Art has more of the time off and we get to head to England. It is on the list!

    Packing and over packing is always a great source of stress when travelling and add a cat, wow. We always took Si north and that was hard enough. We pack and then unpack half of what was put in the suitcase and usually there is still too much! Of course, you can always buy most “forgotten” things in England, but important, necessary and favorite things you can’t to leave behind.

    Looking forward to reading more!

  5. Hi Pauline, thank you so much for sharing the background and process you have been going through, on deciding and preparing for your upcoming 5 month stay (and future longer stay) in England. I found it very interesting and informative. The town where you will be staying looks really pretty. I have such difficulty packing for a three week trip, I can’t imagine the tough decisions to make in preparation for a 5 month stay.

    Have a wonderful trip. I look forward to reading along.

  6. So excited for you! That cottage was very comfortable and I loved the villages in that area. I hope to come for another Jane Austen experience! 🙂

  7. I have recently discovered your website and blog and was very surprised (and delighted, of course) to find my blog ‘Life in the English Cotswolds’ ( http://www.lifeinthecotswolds.blogspot.com ) deserving of mention. Very many thanks for this.

    As you know, the Cotswolds are one of the most beautiful places to visit on Earth (and even better, if lucky like me, to live in). Thousands of visitors from all over come each year and yet, apart from the odd ‘honeypot’ place we never seem overcrowded with people. We love visitors! So, to all your readers, do come and explore this area and make sure, when out in the countryside to say ‘hello’ to us locals – we do really enjoy meeting you.

    Johnson

    PS I cannot say that I know the US very well but who wants to leave Santa Fe once they arrive? I travelled slow around New Mexico some years ago – I wish I’d known about this site then!

  8. Hi Pauline, loved reading your article and even though I am a Brit and a seasoned traveller back and forth from Santa Fe to the UK, I found your article very enlightening. We desperately want to rent out our house so that Barry can join me next time I return to the UK (taking care of my Dad), so your link will be useful. Dreading the fixing and cleaning and sorting though!

    I can understand why you love the UK for it’s pathways… have you walked around the coastline yet? There has been a great programme on the BBC called the Coast. Check it out online and when you get there. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/8611028.stm Wish I had the time to do this.

    Thanks for all your useful information. Maybe when we return to the UK we can come down and meet you if my Dad stays well enough.

    Lynne

  9. Hi Pauline:

    I am thinking of spending a year in England after I retire, but am a bit worried about the cost. Do you have any suggestions as how to make this a less expensive enterprise?

    Thanks,
    Laureen

    1. Daily life is expensive here but there are easy ways to economize. Pubs and restaurants are expensive, so we rarely go out for meals. Instead we cook at home, or get sandwiches for an easy picnic. Gas is very expensive, but we drive a smaller car which gets good mileage and don’t do long driving trips (there is much to see close by). The 20% VAT on most goods adds to the cost, so we are intent on completely wearing out the clothes we brought with us. I have taken to skipping haircuts and Steve’s barber is cheaper than his one in the US.

      But, the real expense of spending a year here is the big items. It is not easy to find a furnished house to rent for a year. And if you live in the countryside you have to buy a car.

      Three years ago we started this process by doing a two month stay – which was easier to organize here and back at home. We rented a vacation rental in the off season and negotiated a lower monthly cost. I found a good price for a car rental from Enterprise and got AutoEurope to meet it. We did not have to rent out our house back home but we did have to organize house-sitting for our cat.

      This trip started out to be a five month stay, in the same vacation rental house. The first three months were like a vacation, but now it has turned into living here – working, dentist visits, traveling from here.

      If you can find a place to rent for a year, that is your main problem solved. You can buy a used car and sell it when you leave. You can rent out your home for the year you are away.

      Where are you thinking of going in England? That will make a difference too.

  10. Dear Pauline, reading your blog was so enjoyable. I discovered it by mistake and I’m glad I did. I live in Southern California, but my heart lives in England. I fell in love with the Cotswolds on my visits there. I would like to rent a cottage for a month, but there are so many websites to choose from and it becomes very confusing. We have always stayed at B&B’s. If you have any recommendations for us on how to go about finding a charming cottage, I would appreciate it so much. I am going to continue to read your blog. Thanks, Veronica

    1. Hello Veronica, I run a website about the Cotswolds – http://www.cotswolder.com. I have a list of local vacation rental agencies for the Cotswolds on this page: Vacation rentals in the Cotswolds. There are many vacation rentals (called holiday cottages) in this area. On one trip we rented a cottage near Burford for 2 weeks, then another one near Stow for 2 weeks. That was a good way to see different parts of the Cotswolds. Another time we spent 2 months here in a cottage, but off season when the rates were less. If you book something for a month ask if they will consider a discount for the longer stay. This is a great area – you will love it.

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