This winter's programme of stoppages for maintenance work on the canals is now available from British Waterways' Waterscape website from where you can download the entire programme either as a spreadsheet or as a series of maps. Personally, I find the map format the more useful, although its always worth a look at the spreadsheet as well as it gives more detail.
Stoppages can disrupt boating plans at any time between November and March each year, but this year's programme is particularly kind to boaters on the southern Shropshire Union.
Apart from a pre-Christmas stoppage at Hack Green almost the whole of the Shroppie is open all winter. There are also very few stoppages on neighbouring waterways such as the Staffs & Worcester or the BCN, leaving the way open to virtually unrestricted use of the local network.
Why do I get so excited about this? Well, for one, this will be the first winter when I have almost unlimited free time for boating. Secondly, I can't help remember that when we bought Starcross we (knowingly) bought her two days after the canal at Lowsonford, which was where she was then moored, closed for the entire winter! The following winter found the locks south of the mooring closed up to Christmas and the northern locks closed from January to March. and the lack of accessible winding holes meant that we could only make one round trip on each section, after which the boat was pointing the "wrong" way to go anywhere. It was a significant factor in our search for another mooring that brought us to Norbury Junction and one which all boat owners would do well to consider before deciding where to moor.
Of course, if the rumoured cuts to BW's budget are borne out by the Spending Review they won't have much money to do any maintenance work next winter and although that might be seen as a good thing at the time it can only mean that lack of maintenance will bring on many sudden, unexpected and extremely inconvenient closures later.