The West Midlands counties are:
Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Salop (Shropshire), Hereford and Worcester, and the area of West Midlands. The region contains a heavy concentration of large industrial cities, including Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Derby, Walsall, Burton upon Trent, Dudley, Wolverhampton, and Stoke-on-Trent.
The West Midlands is considered the UK's manufacturing heartland. However, the largest part of the region's land space is rural with attractive countryside, valleys, rugged hills, peat bogs and moors. It has its share of market towns and picturesque villages. Market farming and fruit farming are widespread.
In the heart of the West Midlands is the second most populated city in England, Birmingham, a major centre of industry and the arts. Birmingham has so many different industries to deserve the nickname of 'the city of 1001 trades'. Trade has been an important part of its life for 800 years. Birmingham generates more wealth than other major British cities, and manufacturing in the city accounts for 25% of British exports. Half of all jewellery sold in the UK is made in Birmingham.
Nearly 30% of the people in the city are from different cultures and races. In Birmingham live many various ethnic groups, not always harmoniously. There are tensions among different ethnic communities, leading to fighting, shooting, riots and violent clashes between Asian and black communities, with 230 guns crimes reported only last year and past cases of horrific mob murders like a taxi driver petrol bombed and burned alive in his car.
Birmingham is said to have more canals than Venice, although one should remember that quality is important here, rather than quantity. The canal network in the city centre has been turned into a heritage area; many bars and restaurants have been converted from original canal warehouses, making it an attractive walk. A major such canal development is Brindley Place (pictured). By walking along the canals you see Birmingham from a completely different angle. They give a pleasant escape from the bustle and noise of the streets and still contain glimpses of the area's industrial heritage. During the summer the canal walks are made more pleasant by flowers and shrubs. The canal area is close to the office centre and the shopping malls for which Birmingham is famous, and in some points they can be seen from it. Boats, barges and narrow boats abound: people even take their holidays on them. Birmingham and the Black Country developed, partly at least, because of the canals. When walking or boating you'll realize why the history of the canals is an important part of the development of the city and its industries.
Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, is the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and you can see his house still standing there, as well the cottage of his wife, Anne Hathaway. Stratford is also the town of the theatrical Royal Shakespeare Company.
Coventry, Hereford, Warwick and Worcester are historic cities with some interesting architecture and attractive buildings.
Coventry is famous for its aircraft, which caused it to be heavily bombed in the Seccond World War. It was the birthplace of the bicycle, and has a large car industry.
Stoke-on-Trent is the centre of the ceramics industry. It lies in the region known as the Potteries, in northern Staffordshire, Britain's main producer of china and earthenware. Wedgwood and Minton are the two famous family names connected with the area's china industry. Wedgwood, Spode and Royal Doulton all have factories here.