|Broadway Tower, Broadway, Worcestershire. ©AP|
I love Britain's West Midlands in the heart of England, especially patchwork fields, walking trails, history, castles, villages, gardens, all things Shakespeare and the glorious countryside. My heart skips a beat whenever I see the sinuous outline of the Malvern Hills (the Sleeping Dragon) and to walk on them is magical.
But in researching and developing my travel App, Birmingham & West Midlands, I've also channelled some family roots that are firmly planted in the heart of the industrial Midlands.
These include Quarry Bank, Brierley Hill and Dudley in the industrial Black Country where you'll find the fascinating Black Country Living Museum – think Peaky Blinders and much more. Also Coventry, a recent City of Culture.
Food? Yes, I'm a fan of the countryside's fresh produce, farm shops, great pubs, lively cafes plus the brilliant multicultural cuisine of Birmingham. Artisan distilleries, craft breweries and vineyards are outstanding in this region. I love Morgan cars, too!
Foodie Ludlow in Shropshire is a great place to visit, especially on market days, while the entire Welsh border country is dreamy and atmospheric – perfect for country drives and exploring.
My App dives into industrial heritage, leads you to vintage transport collections so symbolic of the Midlands, as well as many specialist museums, energised with interactive displays and dynamic exhibitions. Some such as the Almonry (below) are significant buildings and treasure troves in themselves, recording fascinating local history including the destruction of Evesham's great abbey.
In England I am based close to Evesham, the North Cotswold village of Broadway and just a stone's throw from Stratford-upon-Avon. I love the black and white architecture and thatched cottages of the Midlands as well as the honey-coloured stone houses of the Cotswolds.
|The Almonry, Evesham.©AP|
I'm also a short drive from Coventry, now emphasising its heritage with landmarks including the Telegraph newspaper building repurposed as hotels and accommodation, as well as heritage walks, the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum and the Coventry Music Museum. Coventry Cathedral has a very special place in my heart – my father was born in Coventry and loved the old cathedral, so sadly destroyed.
Meanwhile, Birmingham has been busy regenerating its city centre with impressive buildings such as The Cube, home to Hotel Indigo Birmingham and Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse, Bar & Grill (think modern comfort food and champagne). Dishoom Birmingham promises Irani/Bombay fusion, all welcome. Bakeries and cafes reflect the mix of influences and there's fine dining, too. Vegans and vegetarians, so often neglected in the past, can travel and eat well.
|The Library of Birmingham.©Visit Birmingham|
|The Garrick pub, Stratford-upon-Avon.©AP|
I might be the only one to think this, but I'm quite taken with the echoes I see in the Library of Birmingham's decorative exterior patterns and those of The Garrick pub in Stratford-upon-Avon, thought to be the oldest in town. Shakespeare himself may well have imbibed at the Garrick as it is very close to th recently re-vamped New Place where he lived in his later years until he died. Of course Stratford-upon-Avon is a key Midlands' attraction, with much ado about Shakespeare and the beautiful houses associated with him and his family including Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Shakespeare's Birthplace.
|Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Shottery, Stratford-upon-Avon.©AP|
Major Rivers in the Midlands include the Trent, Tame, Avon, Severn and Wye (forming the English/ Welsh border for much of its length) and the area is linked by a network of canals built to carry freight at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Canal boat holidays are a rewarding way to travel through the countryside and right into the heart of towns and cities including Birmingham, Stourport-on-Severn, Stoke-on-Trent, Stratford-upon-Avon, Upton-upon-Severn.
|The Hatton Flight of locks, Warwickshire.©AP|
|Canal boat on the River Avon.©AP|
|Bourton House Garden. ©AP|