Winter Stoppage Programme with the Canal & River Trust
Each winter, the Canal and River Trust undertakes crucial repairs and restoration of UK canals and rivers. This work can be fascinating to watch as sometimes the canals or locks are drained whist repairs are carried out and you can get a unique insight into the workings of a canal.
These winter works usually take place between November and March, when there is minimal traffic on the waterways. With 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales to keep on top of, it’s a busy time for the C&RT team!
Want to visit?
Every year the Canal & River Trust hold a number of open days and invite the public to come and see what they’re up to. Open days at the lock-making workshops, which produce around 180-200 lock gates to be fitted during our winter works are always popular.
Other past open days have seen thousands of people (in single file) descending into a lock, guided heritage walks and boat trips to see work in progress. The open days are a great way to get a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the network, which in some cases only comes around a few times each century.
Winter work didn’t always happen during the coldest time of the year. Until relatively recently (up to 40 years ago) there was one clearly defined stoppage season during the one week following Whitsun. This was still at a time when the main users of the waterways were working boats, delivering coat, wood fuel and other goods.
The pits would close and the boats would tie up for a week and with the long daylight hours and a reasonable chance of fine weather the annual maintenance work would be completed during that week (probably with plenty of overtime!).
This was also then a good time for the annual ‘spring clean’. The boatwomen would take the opportunity of the a week’s break to empty out the contents of her boat onto the towpath and to a complete clean of the interior of the boat and do all the washing, secure in the knowledge that she had a good week free of coal dust!.
Today however the trade boats are much reduced and it is the pleasure boats and hire companies like Black Prince who provide the main income stream for the waterways. Holidays during May extremely popular as it’s a lovely time to enjoy spring on the canals and rivers.
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