What it's like
Often referred to as ‘The Heart Of England Country’, the West Midlands is not really regarded as a walking destination. And yet there is beauty to be found here with adventure and plenty of fresh air and open space if you go looking for it.
The highest point (in the borough of Sandwell) is in a fairly rural part of the area and doesn’t top the 1,000ft mark and yet its distinctive radio mast is visible from many parts of the area.
The West Midlands has plenty to offer someone interested in the outdoors and once you look beyond the buildings and you will be amazed at what you find. Even the city centre of Birmingham is home to circular walks that provide much interest! The Tourist Information can provide you with a pack of seven leaflets entitled ‘Gateway To The Heart Of Birmingham’ that give walks and much background information; proof if any were needed that the area is working hard to shed its reputation of being a concrete jungle. Indeed, the main city centre of Birmingham is easily explored via canal towpaths and pedestrian routes making it one of the most ‘walker friendly’ urban areas of Britain. It was near the city that the author J.R.R. Tolkien grew up and what he experienced here inspired him to create the people and places of Middle Earth in his wonderful ‘Lord Of The Rings’ trilogy. For the walker there are also numerous parks and a wonderful canal network. To the South the area is flatter but to the West and the North you will find hillier terrain. The waterside walking is excellent and there are simply miles of easy towpath walking along atmospheric routes.
The Fazeley Canal is popular as is The Grand Union Canal and the Oxford canal as well as many riverside routes. Our two greatest rivers, the Severn and the Wye, flow through the region and there are forests a plenty in the outlying areas including the Wyre Forest of Worcestershire, the Mortimer Forest of Herefordshire and The National Forest project which is seeing many new woodlands being created in Staffordshire.
And speaking of surrounding areas, the West Midlands is a greatfor exploring the delightful hilly regions that abound nearby. Most are a very short car journey away and provide excellent walking. In less than an hour there is Staffordshire’s Cannock Chase, Worcestershire’s unique Malvern Hills, The Cotswolds, the rolling countryside of West Oxfordshire, Shakespeare’s country around Stratford On Avon, the hills of South Shropshire as well as the Clent and Lickey hills.
To get the most from the walking potential of this area requires open mindedness and a spirit of exploration.
But the next time someone tells you that there is nothing to do in the West Midlands, you’ll be able to look them in the eye and put them right, won’t you!
- The West Midland Way Walk right around Birmingham on this 162 mile circular route that cleverly links footpaths and bridleways. Walk it in full or use it to explore various parts of the region and create your own circulars from it.
- Cannock Chase North of the city but very close in South Staffordshire. Numerous routes but try walking up the Sherbrook Valley and surrounding areas.
- The Clent Hills Climb to the highest point at Walton Hill for wonderful views. Start from the village of Clent.
- Bewdley Wonderful town on the banks of the Severn. The river is the main attraction and decent routes follow it in both directions and returns can be worked out returning over the lovely surrounding countryside.
Must see and do
- Visit Stratford On Avon Home of all things Shakespeare and a mecca for his followers but also a lovely location in its own right. Plenty of walking opportunities and a lovely river. Stratford Tourist Information on 0870 1607930
- Go to Cadbury World of Chocolate Nothing to do with walking (well, we do eat it out on the hills!) but worth a visit for all things chocolate and simply to gorge yourself. www.cadburyworld.co.uk
- Sutton Park Britain’s largest urban park and just 6 miles north of Birmingham city centre. Open heaths, marshes, woodlands and lakes plus the remains of a Roman road. Sutton Park Visitor Centre 0121 355 6370
- Go to Sandwell valley A 2000 acre green oasis straddling the M5 motorway. There is an old abbey and lake, woodland, a working farm and lots of open space. www.sandwellvalley.com
Destination County : West Midlands