Days out in the West Midlands
As the heart of England, the West Midlands has a lot going on. The cities of Wolverhampton, Birmingham, and Coventry, blend seamlessly with market towns in the region including Walsall, Dudley, Sutton Coldfield, and Stourbridge. Together they offer visitors a huge choice of places to visit with no shortage of attractions, landmarks, and great family days out.
As the UK’s second city, you’d expect Birmingham to be well-paced for attractions of all kinds, and it doesn’t disappoint. The world-class Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a city centre favourite. Packed with classic art, including the largest Pre-Raphaelite collection in the world, and hidden treasures, it’s not to be missed.
The iconic Bullring and Grand Central offers everyone an exceptional dining and shopping experience in the centre of town, but the vibrant Brindleyplace and the canal quarter is packed with bars, restaurants, and attractions, including the National Sea Life Centre – you can also explore the city’s famed canal network on foot or bike. Don’t miss a trip to Cadbury World in Bourneville for a chocolate fix and a half.
Wolverhampton isn’t short of history and culture, either. The Wolverhampton Art Gallery houses great works of fine art alongside a fantastic British and American Pop art collection. Moseley Old Hall is a wonderful Elizabethan farmhouse, famous for hiding King Charles II in a priest hole in 1651, with a surrounding orchard and elegant ‘knot’ garden to enjoy.
The Transport Museum in Coventry is home to one of the largest collections of British road transport, plus the world’s fastest two cars, Thrust SSC and Thrust 2. The Midland Air Museum near Coventry Airport gives you a close-up look at over 45 different aircraft, as well as interactive displays and exhibitions. In the city centre, Coventry Cathedral features the ruins of the ‘old’ cathedral as well as the ‘new’, 20th century cathedral, and you can still climb the old tower for panoramic views across the city.
By spreading your wings to some of the smaller towns beyond the cities, you’ll find just as much to enjoy, including a look into the area’s leather trade at Walsall Leather Museum, the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, or the challenges and activities of the Bear Grylls Adventure activity centre at the National Exhibition Centre near Solihull.
Don’t forget the wider West Midlands area beyond the county borders when it comes to the great outdoors. There’s a choice of different Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty nearby, including the Shropshire Hills, Malvern Hills, and Cannock Chase, as well as parts of the Wye Valley and the Cotswolds. There’s plenty to discover on foot, on bike, or on horseback.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens & Glasshouses
Birmingham Botanical Gardens & Glasshouses was founded in the 19th century and has continued to develop through the 20th century. The site covers about 4 hectares, and includes Tropical, Subtropical, Mediterranean and Arid glasshouses, a winter garden and a rock garden, a pinetum, a Japanese garden, and a herb garden. There is also a woodland walk, a fern garden and a lawn aviary. Azaleas and rhododendrons are a feature. Historic gardens typical of the Roman, Medieval and Tudor periods have been planted.
Memorial Park, Willenhall
Willenhall Memorial Park features a new water play area, a bandstand, children's play area and pavilion. The site has mature woodland and is adjacent to Fibbersley Nature Reserve.
Topography, geology, and climate
Though a predominantly urban county that forgoes much of the open countryside enjoyed by some of its neighbours, the West Midlands still benefits from a patchwork of different land qualities, soilscapes, and levels of fertility.
The west has a mix of slightly acid and base-rich clay and loam soils, with sandy soils in the far west around Stourbridge. Soils in the central areas, predominantly around Birmingham, are slightly acid, base-rich loamy and clayey soils with patches of slow-draining loam and clay, together with loam with naturally high groundwater. In the east, particularly around Coventry, there’s an equal mix of base-rich, slow-draining, and acidic clay and loam.
The weather and climate of the West Midlands, although temperate, can feel colder in the winter with moderate winds. Winter temperatures can average at around 2ºC (35ºF), though summer temperatures can settle at around 20ºC (68ºF). And annual rainfall in the West Midlands averages at around 720mm (28”).
West Midlands’ parks and gardens
With its many country parks and nature reserves, there’s also a good selection of gardens to enjoy across the West Midlands. There is a great mix of inner-city spaces and relaxing formal gardens, there’s enough to give something for everyone, from family days out to inspiration for gardeners and horticulturalists.
- West Midlands – West
Wightwick Manor and Gardens, just west of Wolverhampton, is an Arts and Crafts house with 17 acres of surrounding gardens. With plenty of specimen trees framing the garden, you’ll find a stunning rose garden and lawns, alongside magnificent rhododendron displays, herbaceous borders and beds.
Bantock House, near Wolverhampton city centre, is an Edwardian home set inside 43 acres of parkland together with delightful formal gardens. Highlights include the sunken Dutch garden, a spectacular rose garden showing different varieties that all bring scent and colour to the surroundings, formal gardens, and a woodland garden with a nature trail leading to the wider Bantock Park.
The Walsall Arboretum, in the heart of urban Walsall, offers a perfect retreat from town life. Covering 170 acres, this open space includes the small pool together with the larger Hatherton Lake, with a range of over 10,000 species of ornamental shrubs and trees to enjoy inside formal gardens with seasonal plantings.
- West Midlands – Central and East
Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens is one of the city’s most popular attractions. Its four Victorian glasshouses are home to a wide variety of unusual tropical, subtropical, Mediterranean, and arid plants while sweeping, landscaped lawns cover 16-acres of open space, home to a pinetum, wide herbaceous borders, butterfly-friendly borders, rock garden and pool, and wonderful rhododendron walk – and more besides.
Winterbourne House and Garden is a beautifully historic Edwardian house near Edgbaston and its Grade II listed botanic villa garden is a joy to visit. Providing colour and interest throughout the year, just a few highlights include the walled garden, a rhododendron walk leading to a stream lawn complete with streamside borders and magnificent magnolias, and a herb circle. There’s also a children’s garden and activity trails.
For a tranquil garden in the heart of Coventry city centre, Lady Herbert’s Garden certainly fits the bill. A series of almshouses are surrounded by 1.5 acres of landscaped public gardens built around the old city walls. Featuring rockeries, manicured lawns, beds and borders bursting with colour, and mature trees and shrubs, it makes for a pleasantly surprising and idyllic place to visit.
Located in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, the Ryton Organic Gardens is a 22 acre site that includes space for Garden Organic HQ and their charitable and educational activities, with a 10-acre space for their collection of landscaped public gardens. As the name suggests, these gardens champion the best in organic and bee-friendly gardening, companion plantings, and biodiversity, and demonstrate it in their fine displays of beds, borders, veg, and fruit gardens.