West Midlands

A visit to the English West Midlands is a visit to the birthplace of Shakespeare, Elgar, ELO and Cadbury’s chocolate.  Confusingly, the West Midlands of England includes a county called the West Midlands, as well as those of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.  The east of the region is dominated by Birmingham, Britain’s second city and home to Europe’s largest public library; the west of the region, bordering Wales, is more rural.  Though famous as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution at Ironbridge, this is now a world heritage site with a network of worthwhile museums.  There are charming villages tucked into rolling hills around Hereford, where you can follow a ‘black & white’ trail past half-timbered buildings.  As well as Stratford upon Avon, old medieval towns like Warwick and Ludlow, both with famous castles, as well as Ledbury and Shrewsbury, should all be on the tourist itinerary.

National Memorial Arboretum revisited

Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum

The National Memorial Arboretum is a year-round centre of remembrance and needs to be revisited.  Not only should a first visit be mandatory, but also it is one of those places that gives more each time you go.  It changes with the seasons of course, but also as trees mature and new memorials are added.  […]

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The Stone Circle at Mitchell’s Fold

Mitchells Fold Stone Circle, image

Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle is one of those places you think you should have arrived at much sooner than you do. “We must have passed it.  Maybe I should turn round”.  Surely, supernatural forces were at work, discombobulating me as I (unsuccessfully) navigated the car along narrow border lanes between England and Wales.  In fact,

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Inside Worcester Cathedral

Worcester Cathedral

The views of Worcester Cathedral, elegantly perched on the east bank of the River Severn, are surely among the best of any cathedral in Britain.  Inside, Worcester is also one Britain’s most fascinating cathedrals.  This compensates for it being a little hemmed in and its east end being crudely violated by a busy road, Deansway. 

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Is this Britain’s finest Baroque church?

Great Witley Church, Baroque ceilings

It may come as a surprise that what might be the finest Baroque church in Britain will be found, not in some great city, but in rural Worcestershire. This is Great Witley Church.  It dates from 1735, when it replaced an earlier medieval parish church that had stood nearby. The new church was built by

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Viroconium, Roman City


The small Shropshire village of Wroxeter is the only surviving settlement of what was once the fourth largest Roman city in Britain: Viroconium, or Uriconium, more fully expressed as Viroconium Cornoviorum.  The Very Keen Reader will want to know what the three largest Roman cities in Britain were and these seem to have been Londinium

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The vanished world of Witley Court

Witley Court from the south

The wind and rain blow arrogantly through the empty shell of Witley Court. There are puddles in the earth-floored entrance hall, where the Prince of Wales had been among many rich and powerful Victorian house guests. The hand-woven Persian silk carpet and exquisite statuary have long gone; there is no trace of the brass-railed balcony

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Baddesley Clinton – medieval manor, murder, mayhem and mellowness

Baddesley Clinton, moated manor house, Warwickshire, National Trust

The house at Baddesley Clinton is a neat example of medieval-Victorian style.  Fortunately, successive owners were never what you might call filthy rich.  Had they been, doubtless another Jacobean or Georgian pile would have been constructed (really, don’t we have quite enough of those already?) and a delightful moated manor house would have been lost,

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Stokesay Castle

Stokesay Castle, Shropshire - the Stuart gatehouse and south tower.

Lovely little Stokesay Castle isn’t really a castle at all; certainly, no self-respecting potential besieger would take it as a serious hindrance.  Described by English Heritage as “the finest and best-preserved fortified medieval manor house in England”, Stokesay actually looks like someone has taken a grand old barn and added interesting bits to it, one

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Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire (rear view)

A complete working historic estate of 900 acres in rural Staffordshire, Shugborough has everything an aristocratic country pile should have – imposing Georgian mansion, parkland, formal gardens, a walled garden, farm (including labourers’ houses, watermill, workshops and rare breeds), river walks, monuments, servants’ quarters, stables, a brewery…enough to please most day trippers, and even keep

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Blists Hill

Blists Hill Victorian town, Shropshire Canal

Blists Hill is great fun, an open air museum near Ironbridge, Shropshire. Travel back in time…not far, just a little over a century or so. Once you’ve worked through the modern visitor centre and negotiated your way past kids playfully chucking ice creams around outside the café, you’ll find yourself transported back to 1900 –

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Ladies of the Vale

Lichfield Cathedral, Staffordshire

There are few things more agreeable than pootling around and about a medieval cathedral.  I found Lichfield’s reflected in the Minster Pool, a small reservoir which has been used by the city since the 11th century.  You’d think it couldn’t get any better, wouldn’t you?  Then you wander up the Cathedral Close, past Erasmus Darwin’s

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