Tag Archives: The Rock of Gibraltar pub

The Long Journey Home – Part 9

The Long Journey Home – Part 9

Friday 8 June 2018

A Walk to Tearooms

The Long Journey Home – Part 9 saw us with the second day we had ‘stayed still’ since setting off from Whilton. It was an overcast day so perfect for cleaning and walking. We cleaned and carried out a few odd jobs. Things get dusty very quickly when out on the cut. It’s a by product of having the doors open both ends and flying backwards and forwards through the boat, relaying messages (58 feet is a long way to shout over the roar of a BMC 1.5 diesel engine). It’s a lot safer than traversing the footprint wide gunnels down either side of the boat. The roof currently isn’t an option as the solar panels are full width across the top of the boat.

A Walk to Tearooms

We decided to walk to Thrupp from Enslow as it also had a marina but more importantly; a Tearoom 🙂 Just after setting off I called Whilton Marina to try and address the continuing use of water by the engine. It was drinking us out of house and home! Even at rest! They called back and agreed to send out two engineers to try and resolve the issue, once and for all. They would bring parts that might be needed with them. It sounded hopeful.

It was a beautiful walk of 2.5 miles, over a bridge where the river Cherwell joins the canal and you actually drive along the river for a distance, before leaving it to rejoin the Oxford canal. There are two locks and a disused railway line that no longer spans the canal. You then enter Thrupp. There is a canoe club and the marina has quite a few canal-side moorings. It was full, obviously very popular.


Annie’s Tearoom was a lovely traditional English tearoom. We unfortunately had to rush our toasted teacake and tea & coffee as we were conscious of the route march we would have, back to Mirrless, to meet the engineers from Whilton Marina.

Back at Mirrless, the day was a bit brighter and warmer so we cleaned some more and waited. Eventually Barry called, he was at The Rock of Gibraltar with Dan and they were making their way to us. Barry had worked on Mirrless and was the one who finally got her ready for us to move aboard on the Friday. If anyone could resolve our problems, Barry could.

Sign of a Leak

Two guys with a wheelbarrow loaded with equipment trekked down the towpath and after I’d given them the history of Mirrless’ overheating, they started to work on her, looking for the offending leak. Every pipe, link, join, outlet, even the gearbox was checked but everything was bone dry – no sign of a leak. So, they set to installing a header tank. This was basically a white plastic container to hold more water (or to be fair, coolant). It would theoretically remove any chance of an airlock (especially with the calorifier, which was higher than the Bowman tank – all good technical stuff). With this installed, filled with coolant and the engine tested, all was looking good. Only time would tell.

Barry had fished the Cherwell river which was next to the canal, the other side of the towpath. He knew the Oxford canal, the Thames river and the Kennet & Avon canal and gave us some invaluable tips for our future journey. He was also very knowledgeable about the London canals which would be useful for future trips. After the engine had been left to run for a significant amount of time without incident, Barry and Dan left, stopping only to look into the Cherwell at the point he had pulled out three large Chubb (“They were this big!”).

Thanks guys!

The Rock

We returned once more to The Rock of Gibraltar to avail ourselves of their WiFi and phone charge. We also had a pint of Brackspear bitter and Thatcher’s Haze cider. It would have been rude not to. We also had a small meal, then sat in the garden, to enjoy another Summer’s evening.

We walked back to Mirrless; across the old stone road bridge (now superceded by a large metal road bridge) along the towpath on the other side, back towards the Winding Hole.

A Quiet Spot

This area had been a quiet spot with very little traffic; on the canal or the towpath. After the meeting of boats at every turn, it seemed the 9 mile stretch into Oxford was less frequented. At least at this weekend.

We put down the blinds, turned on the lights (Mirrless is very well lit) and made a few notes about the day for the blog.

Tomorrow we would receive our first visitors to Mirrless.

Here ends The Long Journey Home – Part 9

The Long Journey Home - Part 8
The Long Journey Home - Part 7
The Long Journey Home - Part 6
The Long Journey Home - Part 5
The Long Journey Home - Part 4
The Long Journey Home - Part 3
The Long Journey Home - Part 2
The Long Journey Home - Part 1

The Long Journey Home – Part 8

The Long Journey Home – Part 8

Thursday 7 June 2018

Full Steam to Enslow

Leaving Lower Heyford Wharf
Leaving Lower Heyford Wharf

The Long Journey Home – Part 8 sees us leaving our Lower Heyford Wharf mooring. We pulled Mirrless up to the water point which was situated just under Heyford Wharf Bridge 206, on the starboard side. You do feel like you’re in the film Waterworld, stopping to get water wherever you can, filling the tank, filling bottles for making tea, having a reserve for emergencies. You become very conscious of the resources you use out on the cut. Which is a good thing. The water pipes are locked and are opened via a ‘British Waterways Board’ (BWB) key. Whilton Marina kindly gave us ours (you’d normally have to pay £5). All the water points are marked by a blue tap in the Nicholson Guide books. No Mad Max-style dash and fight for services yet though 🙂

After just 1 hour’s travel – Aargh! Overheating. steam everywhere, it looked really serious.

A Pullover

Long Journey Home - Part 8 - View from the Window image
View from the Window

We pulled over immediately. I saw steam was escaping from the union clips on piping that joined a section and then headed down, under the engine. We had to wait until it all cooled down before I attempted tightening the aforementioned clips. We waited an hour and after filling the now familiar Bowman reservoir cooling tank we went on, our hearts sunken, heading for Enslow.

I ran at 900 rpm constantly for a while, then at 1,100 rpm on the now straighter sections of the canal that were appearing. We ran for nearly 3 hours, with no more overheating. Could it be that my engineering skills in the engine bay were paying off?

Well Handled

We arrived at Enslow, just before the marina, just after the winding hole. My approach was slow and steady but a narrowboat coming the other way had me reversing. With reversing comes no steering and it left me nearly taking out a liveaboard boater, at the little community there. I got grounded once again, whilst facing an on-coming boat but reverse thrust and much manoeuvring, pulled us out of it. The boater whose home faced destruction at the 19 tons of Mirrless said

“You handled that well!”.

This was praise indeed!

We moored across from Shambles, The Noddy Boat, Mrs Miggins and other narrowboats to the sound of bleating lambs on the opposite bank, beyond the river Cherwell which runs alongside the canal here.

Long Journey Home - Part 8 - Enslow image

Just down the towpath and over the bridge to the left we found The Rock of Gibraltar. No, we hadn’t gone wildly off course, it was the local pub which server great beer & cider and food. We got to know this pub quite well.

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 8.

The Long Journey Home - Part 7
The Long Journey Home - Part 6
The Long Journey Home - Part 5
The Long Journey Home - Part 4
The Long Journey Home - Part 3
The Long Journey Home - Part 2
The Long Journey Home - Part 1

The Long Journey Home – Part 1

The Long Journey Home – Part 1

Thursday 31 May 2018

Baptism of Fire

It was always going to be a trek, so in The long journey home – Part 1 we set off. We left Whilton Marina at 12:40 with two members of the Whilton Marina sales team on board to help us manoeuvre backwards off the pontoon and turn in the marina, to exit under the marina bridge onto the Grand Union Canal. We chickened out on attempting this ourselves in honour of the other resident’s boats – we wanted to leave them intact.

Lock 13

Long Journey Home - Part 1 - Lock 13 - our first lock image
The First One!

We turned left under the marina bridge (well, the Whilton Marina sales team member did) straight up to Lock 13 of the Buckby Lock Flight (Whilton Lock). A mere 100 yards. I jumped off with one of the team to watch how the locks were operated (mu was already there), whilst the other member brought Mirrless into the lock.

“So, how do you operate a lock then? You don’t open the gate paddles first, do you?”.

“I don’t know. I haven’t actually operated a lock before”.


The boat was in the lock with another narrowboat (this conserves water in a double width lock). Their hand was doing all the work.

“We need the Windlass” (thats the lock handle you use to open the lock – no Windlass, no lock access).

“It’s on the boat!” Which was now sitting at the bottom of a deep lock, waiting to be filled.

Too Many Cooks

By now, we had now been joined by another Whilton Marina sales team member; Adrian so, the sight of 5 people on a boat, stood around while one person operated the lock must have looked bad. It was all taken in good jest once the lock buddy understood we were novices, we were being shown how to helm the boat, this was our maiden voyage, and we were 2 minutes in and out first lock, ever!

Once through, the Whilton Marina sales team left but not before taking a photo of us, off on our journey.

At this point, I had got back on the boat and was actually driving the boat. This was good as this would be my role for the foreseeable future. Mu seemed to have got the hang of the locks straight off. If only the same applied to my helming the craft…

We went up 6 locks with the couple in the other narrowboat and both learned a lot in a short time. This is where they left us and mu operated the 7th lock on her own. We carried on, past Norton Junction and on to the Braunston Tunnel.

The Bowels of the Canal

Pulling into the side (meaning the bushes and shallows) to prepare for the tunnel of doom (sorry Ben), another boat drove straight past and in. I was being overly cautious in case a boat was already coming through. It turns out that this pinhole of a tunnel was wide enough for two narrowboats to pass. The tunnel was wide enough for two narrowboats to pass? I turned on the headlight (it literally is a car headlight) and followed the boat that had slipped in.

Into the dark, dripping bowels of the canal system. It was a long bowel section. Neither was it straight. It looked like it had been resected several times (from the little you could see of it in the dark). It must have been at least 45 minutes to travel through the 2042 yard long tunnel and it wasn’t without incident. The dark, the dripping water, the cool aspect were fine, it was the clanging off the brickwork sides and bouncing off a boat half way through that came at speed.

“So sorry”.

“It’s OK, it’s a contact sport”

Eventually the green light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t hallucination, it was actually the way out. Made it!

Out, in the glorious sunshine we pushed on a little further to moor up, just outside the tunnel, at Top Lock No. 6. for a well-earned cup of tea.

Long Journey Home - Part 1 - View of the Day 1 image
Out of the Window

Refreshed, we decided to push on further and pass through another 6 locks; the last four mu had to fill and operate alone so by the end, she and I were exhausted.

The Boathouse

We moored up in Braunston, outside The Boathouse Marston’s pub, across the canal. We enjoyed well-earned pints, sitting outside looking across at Mirrless but then the rain started, so we decided to adjourn inside and listened to Northern Soul in an empty pub, with no-one but the cleaners.

The rain came to nothing but lightening and thunder behind the clouds carried on for a while, drifted into the far distance and then fizzled out. We put up the funnel on the chimney and covered it with a metal waste paper bin, making it look like a very strange wizard (we’d lost it’s natty little tin cap in one of several incidents with bushes.

The great thing was, the Wifi from The Boathouse extended across the canal to Mirrless 🙂

Long Journey Home - Part 1 - Mirrless outside The Boathouse image
Mirrless at Braunston

Thanks to all at Whilton Marina; Fred, Harvey, Adrian, John and Nigel to name a few, for their excellent support.

Thanks to The Rock of Gibraltar pub for the Wifi for the upload.

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 1.

rp – peace and narrowboats