Four months into making the decision to pursue this route I have taken my first step towards doctoral research. I had to collate qualification certificates from ancient degrees - which was an interesting experience. And talk to OU Tutors about an academic reference. It feels as scary as putting in an EMA, except that here the result is either pass or fail.
If I can stick to this plan then the full round of applications starts in January 2014.
As much work as possible until September 2014 would be a good idea.