College head's overland trek from Rome

THE volcanic ash that caused travel chaos across Europe left a number of local people stranded abroad, with some forced to take drastic measures to get home.

THE volcanic ash that caused travel chaos across Europe left a number of local people stranded abroad, with some forced to take drastic measures to get home.

East Norfolk Sixth Form College principal Laurie Poulson displayed the Dunkirk spirit by embarking on a three-day train journey taking in the Alps and Bavaria before catching the ferry from the Hook of Holland and arriving in Great Yarmouth two days later than expected.

Mr Poulson had spent six days in Rome with wife Jenny and was due to fly back to Norwich airport, via Amsterdam, on Thursday last week.

However, the couple discovered they could not fly to Amsterdam, which had been closed by the ash from an Icelandic volcano. So they decided to take another route - Milan to Paris, starting off with a flight from Rome to Milan.

However as the Parisian airports were also closed, they had to sleep overnight at the airport and catch a train to Amsterdam the following day.

After an epic 12-hour journey via the Swiss Alps and Bavaria, the couple finally arrived at the Hook of Holland on Saturday afternoon and managed to get a ticket for a fully booked Stena Line ferry to Harwich after another passenger cancelled 10 minutes before it was due to leave.

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The final part of their marathon was the train journey between Harwich and Yarmouth.

However, Mr Poulson was not convinced by the idea that the Europe-wide airport shutdown, which erupted last Thursday, had provided stranded holidaymakers with the chance to travel home overland and enjoy sights they would not have seen inside an aircraft.

He added: “You worry all the way and you can't enjoy it. I was worried about whether we would be able to catch our connecting trains in Amsterdam and then get on the ferry.”

His other main concern was his wife's wellbeing. He said: “Sleeping on an airport floor would not have bothered me so much if I had been travelling alone, but my wife did not find it a pleasant experience.”

For a Belton family, the travel chaos was not such an awful ordeal.

Dan Knight, 40, his wife Niamh, 41 and their three children Connor Mullaly-Knight, 13, Isobel, 11 and Jude, eight, the flight cancellations provided them with an extended stay at a six-bedroom villa with swimming pool at Torremolinos on Spain's

Costa Del Sol.

The family jetted from Stansted to Malaga on April 12 to spend a week with Mr Knight's sister Rebecca, but could not get back to their River Way home because British airspace was closed last Thursday morning.

On Tuesday, Mr Knight, who runs Clover Childcare Services in Happisburgh, tried to book on alternative flights from Malaga, but was told no flights would be available before April 29.

Another option was to get the boat from Santander, but he said thousands of stranded tourists were trying to do the same.

So the family decided instead to stay put, although they could not afford to be in Spain for much longer as Mr Knight's children needed to get back to lessons at Lynn Grove High and Moorlands Primary schools.

His business partner was running the childcare firm in his absence.

Mr Knight told the Mercury from Torremolinos: “We are not your typical problem story, running out of money, no food and no way of getting back home. If we were staying in self- catering accommodation we would have to pay up front for the extra time we had to stay there.

He added: “We are making the most of the sunshine. Connor's been fishing at the beach today and for the rest of the week we will be either by the pool or on trips to the local sea life centre.”

The flight ban was imposed by the government because of fears the ash threatened the safety of aircraft by damaging the engines, but was lifted on Tuesday following a meeting between airline industry experts and the government.