The West Midlands metropolitan area is a county in the West Midlands region.
Cities and towns
The West Midlands administrative county has been in existence since 1974, and is made up of seven metropolitan boroughs.
- City of Birmingham
- City of Coventry
- Dudley metropolitan borough, including Stourbridge
- Sandwell metropolitan borough including West Bromwich
- Solihull metropolitan borough and the village of Meriden
- Walsall metropolitan borough
- City of Wolverhampton
The West Midlands county (902 km2) is primarily urban. Nonetheless, there is countryside, the 'Meriden Gap', between Coventry and the rest, and Sutton Park is the largest urban park in Europe. The West Midlands county should not be confused with the wider West Midland region, at whose heart it sits.
The county borders and is surrounded by the three counties from which it was created in 1974 (clockwise from the West): Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. Since that creation, its boundary changes have been minor.
The whole of the West Midlands have a lengthy industrial history. Birmingham was known as the "city of 1000 trades" and considered to be the first industrialised town in the world, and the conurbation of today is made up of many smaller towns and villages which contributed to the Industrial Revolution. Birmingham was pivotal in the production of arms in both WWI and WWII. Much of the area to the North and West of Birmingham city centre is known as the Black Country due to its association with coal and industry. Many of these were known for particular trades and the association continues to this day: for example, in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, or with the glass industry in Stourbridge. The area is also notable for its vast network of canals: today over 100 miles of canal is navigable within the West Midlands, and at its peak in the early nineteenth century this was around 160 miles - it is popular in the area to state that the area has more miles of canal than Venice. As such, it is a popular destination for narrowboat holidays.
The local accent is the butt of many jokes in the UK. To most visitors, the "Brummie" accent can be heard all over the region - the local will be able to distinguish between a Birmingham accent and a Black Country one, and there are variations in the latter between various parts of the region.
Birmingham International Airport is the region's only major airport though Manchester, Liverpool and East Midlands airports are all less than 2 hrs from West Midlands. Liverpool airport has a direct train to Birmingham New Street station, from the other two travelling by rail requires changes on the way, but there are direct coach connections.
When arriving at one of the London airports, one needs to travel via London and change there to get to the West Midlands. One exception is the London Luton Airport, which has hourly direct trains to Leicester and Nottingham that do not pass through London, from both of which you can then take a train to West Midlands. It takes about 2.5 hours to get from Luton Airport to West Midlands this way.
Many of the UK's major roads converge on Birmingham. From the West Midlands: the M5 runs south west to Bristol and beyond; the M6 runs north via Manchester to Scotland; the southern part of the M6 heads into the East Midlands and connects with the M1 to provide access to London, which is also connected directly to Birmingham by the M40.
Birmingham New Street sends out trains to all parts of the country and many major intercity lines pass through the region. London, Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham and Manchester are each approximately 90 mins by train from New Street. Shrewsbury provides access to far-flung parts of South and Mid Wales via the "Heart of Wales Line" which runs south west to Llanelli near Swansea and the scenic "Cambrian Line" which runs west to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. Holyhead's ferry port ensures that the north of Wales is well connected with the whole West Midlands.
The county has an extensive public transport system run by Network West Midlands, and it is possible to buy daily or weekly travel passes to cover travel in the county via bus, train and tram (the Metro runs from Birmingham Snow Hill station to Wolverhampton.
As with the rest of the UK, in any emergency call 999 or 112 (from a land-line if you can) and ask for Ambulance, Fire or Police when connected.