Walking in the West Midlands region.
The West Midlands, at the heart of England, is a region of contrasts: from
verdant pastoral countryside to rugged and remote hills via the rich
industrial heritage of the Black Country, Britain’s second largest
conurbation. Though generously endowed with great landscapes and heritage,
it has few obvious tourist honeypots, making it an ideal region to discover
The southern counties -- Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire --
are mainly rolling lowland landscapes, with areas of superb agricultural
land famed for orchards and hopfields, punctuated by attractive rural
settlements, including Herefordshire’s distinctive ‘black and white’
villages, and historic cathedral cities.
In the southwest the Brecon Beacons rear up over the Welsh border and the
gentle upper reaches of the river Wye reach the dramatic gorge at Symonds
Yat. In the south, the ridge of the Malvern Hills contrasts dramatically
with the surrounding countryside, while in the southeast the Cotswolds touch
the edge of the region.
Birmingham and the Black Country has worked hard to shed its concrete jungle
reputation. Birmingham city centre is now one of the most walker-friendly
urban areas in Britain, easily explored by canal towpaths and pedestrian
routes. Sutton Park is the biggest urban park in Britain, and a chain of
green spaces, now part of the new Forest of Mercia, dips deep into Walsall.
Just to the north is the woodland and heath of Cannock Chase, Britain’s
smallest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
There are hillier landscapes in the west and north. The Shropshire Hills,
with their celebrated beauty spots of the Long Mynd and Wenlock Edge and
genuinely remote uplands, seem like a piece of Wales spilling into England.
In the northeast, the limestone and gritstone landscapes of the Peak
District National Park reach into Staffordshire, with dramatic river valleys
along the Dove and the Manifold. Just outside the national park, the steep
and wooded Churnet Valley offers some fine walking.
There is much excellent waterside walking: the canal network that once
transported the region’s industrial wealth now provides miles of easy,
tranquil towpath walking along waterways like the Grand Union Canal and the
Oxford Canal. Riverside routes also follow two of Britain’s great rivers,
the Severn and the Wye. Large wooded areas include the Wyre Forest
straddling Worcestershire and Shropshire and Herefordshire’s Mortimer
Forest, and new woodlands are being created in eastern Staffordshire as part
of the National Forest project.
The region has a good rail network centred on Birmingham, a major national
rail hub with direct services to most other major British towns and cities
operated by Virgin Trains. Most regional and local services are operated by
Central Trains. Dayranger tickets give you unlimited travel on most trains
across a large area surrounding Birmingham off-peak at a bargain price.
Long distance coaches also serve major towns: contact National Express.
Special arrangements apply in Birmingham and the Black Country where Centro
oversees local rail, bus and metro services.
Elsewhere in the region buses are provided by a variety of operators. For
more information on services contact national enquiry lines or see the
county pages. Sunday Rider tickets allow rail passengers to travel on most
buses throughout Herefordshire, Worcestershire and the Brecon Beacons
National Park on Sundays and bank holidays for a bargain add-on fare and can
be bought on the bus.
Private railways include the Severn Valley Railway from Bridgnorth to
Kidderminster (connecting with National Rail), which serves the Severn
Valley Country Park, the Wyre Forest and the Severn Way. Guides to shorter
walks are available from staffed stations.
Warwickshire and Coventry truly are at the heart of the country, and feature
some of the most attractive towns and villages in England set amongst
Situated in the centre of England, both are within easy reach of the rest of
the country. A number of main motorways pass through the region, and the
nearby airports of Coventry and Birmingham mean that the rest of the world
is never far away.
Coventry Airport can be contacted on 02476 308600. Flights travel to, and
therefore in, from Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cologne/Bonn, Faro,
Ibiza, Jersey, Mahon, Málaga, Palma, Paris Orly, Pisa, Shannon, and
Valencia. To book flights please see Coventry Airport's website at
Travelling by canal boat via canals and waterways is one of the most
relaxing ways to reach your destination, and both Coventry and Warwickshire
feature many miles of picturesque canals.
The Oxford Canal is a 78 mile long narrow canal in central England linking
Oxford with Coventry, via Banbury and Rugby. It connects to the Grand Union
Canal at Napton-on-the-Hill, and to the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury
Junction just outside Coventry. The Oxford Canal passes mainly through the
Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire countryside, and is often
considered to be one of the most scenic canals in Britain. The Oxford canal
forms part of the Warwickshire ring.
The canal begins at Hawkesbury junction (also known as Sutton Stop'), where
it connects with the Coventry Canal, four miles from the centre of Coventry
towards Bedworth. From here it runs on a level without any locks south east
through the Warwickshire countryside for 15 miles to Rugby. Much of this
section of the canal was straightened out in the 1830s, and remains of the
original winding route can still be seen in places.
The canal winds through the northern part of Rugby passing through the 250
metre long Newbold Tunnel, to a set of three locks at Hillmorton just east
of Rugby. In the churchyard in Newbold-on-Avon, remains can be seen of the
original tunnel dating from the 1770s.
South of Rugby, the canal passes through rural scenery and doubles back on
itself for several miles until it heads southwards again passing briefly
into Northamptonshire towards Braunston. At Braunston, the Oxford connects
with the Grand Union Canal and heads west. It shares a five-mile stretch
with the Grand Union until they diverge at Napton junction where the Oxford
turns south towards Oxford and the Grand Union turns north-west towards
After winding round Napton hill, the canal ascends the Napton flight of nine
locks to a summit level. After passing an old wharf and a pub at Fenny
Compton, the canal enters a long cutting which, until it was opened out in
the nineteenth century, was a tunnel. This section is still referred to as
'tunnel straight'. The canal then reaches the Claydon flight of locks and
descends into the valley of the River Cherwell at Cropredy. It follows the
river valley from here to Oxford via Banbury, descending through a dozen or
so interspersed locks.
The section south of Napton junction was never straightened and the summit
level is one of the most twisting sections of canal in England. It winds for
11 miles between two points which are under five miles apart; this is the
The Coventry Canal is a narrow Canal in England which travels for 38 miles
(65 km) between Coventry and Fradley Junction, just north of Lichfield,
where it joins the Trent and Mersey Canal. It also runs through the towns of
Bedworth, Nuneaton, Atherstone, Polesworth and Tamworth. It is navigable for
boats up to 21.9m (72ft) length, 2.1m (7ft) beam and 1.9m (6ft 6) headroom.
The Coventry Canal forms part of the Warwickshire ring.
The canal begins at a basin in the centre of Coventry and runs north. Just
north between Coventry and Bedworth, it forms a junction with the Oxford
Canal at Hawkesbury Junction, also known as "Sutton Stop". There is a public
house here, The Greyhound, renowned for its real ales, and for the quality
of the pies served in the restaurant. There is also a superbly preserved
iron bridge over the canal, and some fascinating buildings from the working
days of the canal.
A few miles further north just outside Bedworth it connects to the
Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal, then runs north-west for a number of miles through
Nuneaton, Atherstone, and Polesworth. At Tamworth it splits into the
Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. The Coventry canal finishes at Fradley Junction
where it joins the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Useful Links to information on Coventry and organisations within Coventry.
Map of Coventry City Centre
Weather forecast for Coventry
Local buses serving Coventry