West Midlands (inc. Birmingham)
The West Midlands is an artificial metropolitan county located in western central England that came into existence in 1974, formed from parts of Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The county incorporates seven towns, the three large cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton along with Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall.
The West Midlands, a landlocked county, is one of the most heavily urbanised in the UK with a combined population of around 2.27 million, the most populous conurbation in the UK outside London. However, the county is not entirely urban and includes a 15 mile stretch of green belt known as the ‘Meriden Gap', which retains a strongly rural character. There are 23 sites of Special Scientific Interest in the county one of which is Sutton Park. Numerous rivers flow through the county including the Tame and the Stour.
Although a modern county, the West Midlands incorporates a number of long established settlements. Coventry was an important wool and cloth manufacturer in the Middle Ages, while Birmingham and Wolverhampton have industrial traditions dating back to the 16th century. The area grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, principally due to the local deposits of coal and iron ore providing a ready source of raw materials. Coventry, slow to develop through this period, had become an important bicycle and car manufacturer by the early 20th century.
The West Midlands offers a wide and varied selection of places of interest, including historic houses, abbeys, cathedrals and castles, museums, country parks and steam trains. It also boasts a number of renowned universities and many established sporting facilities.