West Midlands is a county of its own, home to the three major areas (Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry) but surprisingly also home to vast swathes of rural countryside (you’re only a few miles from the blue remembered hills of sparsely-populated Shropshire). The city of Birmingham, Alabama in the USA was indeed named after our own city, due to the original settlers being from England.
Birmingham is one of our busiest cities and home to officially England’s favourite meal which has overtaken the roast dinner – the Balti Curry! It has its own jewellery district (unlike London’s Hatton Garden this tends to be small artisans who work with recycled metals) and also houses Europe’s biggest library. Nearby ‘Wulfrunians’ are believe to be the friendliest people on earth!
Coventry has a controversial political history. There remains debate on whether Churchill did not alert people in the city of Hitler’s plan to bomb it (to stop the Enigma Code being cracked). The episode has become known as the ‘Coventry Conspiracy’. Almost 600 people died that night (with up to 1000 injured and likely many pets, wildlife and barnyard friends also perishing). Although figures are likely more.
Back in the city, one place you may wish to avoid is Spaghetti Junction. This notorious interchange on the M6 motorway in Birmingham was built to deal with increasing traffic back in the early 1970s. Criticism of its confusion and ugliness has led to many preferring that councils would instead invest in walkable communities and good public transport, rather than maintain the status quo of what Paul Kingsnorth wrote: ‘Today, the real England feels like 50 million people driving around a motorway forever’.