Birmingham may feel at its centre like a concrete jungle – but it is flanked by picturesque towns and chocolate-box villages. We round up some of the villages within easy access of the city that are well worth a visit.
Sitting pretty just a few miles south of Wolverhampton is Wombourne, a village with medieval roots. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, it used to be an agricultural village, but traces of its more recent industrial past are evident. On a summer’s day, a walk down the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal is a must, taking in the Bratch, a cluster of canal buildings.
Famous for its connection with renowned folk musician Nick Drake, Tanworth-in-Arden is a village with a rich history. It may only have a population of about 3,000, but intrepid explorers flock here in search of country pubs, walking trails and festivals, while Packwood House, a 16th-century manor house with gardens, is also worth a visit.
With a population of just 125, Wishaw is a far cry from the bustle of Birmingham. Many visitors come here to visit the quintessential country pub the Cock Inn, while the Belfry Hotel & Resort is also popular with locals and celebrities who come for the world-class golf facilities. Kingsbury Water Park – with 15 lakes in 600 acres (240ha) of land – is less than a 10-minute drive away.
In the centre of the country, just a few miles north of Stratford-upon-Avon, is Henley-in-Arden, a medieval town steeped in tradition. You may have accidentally stumbled upon this town en route to Stratford or Birmingham, but you’ll have been pleasantly surprised by the selection of quaint pubs, boutiques and its celebrated Henley ice cream. Henley-in-Arden’s mile-long (1.6km) high street is a conservation area, with more than 150 buildings listed as being of special architectural or historical interest.
Lying in northeast Worcestershire, Alvechurch, just to the east of the bustling town of Bromsgrove, is easily accessible from Birmingham. One of the more overlooked areas of the West Midlands, it has pubs, canals perfect for summer walks and Alvechurch marina, which pulls in narrowboat owners. There are plenty of cosy cottages dating back 200 years and more in the heart of the village.
With a modest population of about 2,600, Clent is another of the region’s smallest towns. No visit here would be complete without a trip to the National Trust’s Clent Hills, perfect for family walks and panoramic views of Birmingham, while its bright carpets of bluebells and its pinnacle, the Four Stones, is a sight to behold. Don’t miss out on a trip to the Fountain either; it’s a wonderful country pub with a welcoming atmosphere.
This place needs little introduction, but it’s one of the most historic of the lot. Proudly the birthplace of the world’s finest bard, William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon has rows of well-kept Tudor-framed houses, a pub dating back to the 14th century, the Royal Shakespeare Company, for a spot of theatre and the River Avon for romantic boat rides. We dare you to get bored here.
Water, wildlife and walking fans in the West Midlands should definitely put Earlswood on their lists. Situated just south of Solihull, it is known for Earlswood Lakes – a trio of 22-acre (9ha) reservoirs. Visitors can take in the stunning scenery, try a spot of fishing and maybe spot a rare woodpecker. When you’re done with the outdoors, there are country pubs for the adults and a craft centre to keep the kids busy.
Last but not least, Kinver is a large Staffordshire village that boasts a wealth of history. Situated just a few minutes’ drive from Stourbridge, it is one of those chocolate-box villages that are almost too pretty to be true. Its most popular visitor attraction is Kinver Edge – a 300-acre (120ha) National Trust-owned site. In addition to the fantastic views from its summit, Kinver Edge’s tall woodland ridge boasts some amazing homes that were carved into the sandstone rock, which were inhabited until the 1950s.