Re: "extremely hard or impossible” to recover
But you can still go back to Nominet - one of the few internet organisations with a usually helpful support desk. If the registrant name/organisation has not been changed then you can, as long as you can verify yourself.
Remember if they try to change registrant - its probably going to fail on verification. We often have issue with perfectly legitimate ones. if anything their controls are too tight. Which is good here.
This is probably the one great advantage of .uk - there is a lifeboat of local organisation rather more dedicated to serving the legitimate internet community than shareholders. Though this dedication is fading a little as subservience to government and the whims of expansionist CEOs take precedence.
Bottom line give 'em a call. They will want to help,