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LDPs Regional Summary

West Midlands/Southern Welsh Borders

Walking Routes & Trail-miles: 88 main routes / 7885 miles - 39 waymarked / 4066 miles

Areas: Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, West Midlands

Principal AONBs: Malvern Hills, The Cotswolds (part), Wye Valley (part)

European Long Distance Paths (E-Routes): E2 (Eastern Variant: Dover - Middleton in Teesdale).

National Walking Trails (England): part of each of: Offa's Dyke Path, Cotswold Way, Thames Path

Resident population: 3.75 million

Don't Miss! trail sections - many are challenging/remote (marked with *): 

Gloucestershire Way/Wysis Way Highlights.  Mitcheldean to Bream, across Forest of Dean in mixed woods, sculpture trail/visitor centre option half-way* (16kms, 1200ft, navigation in forests!)
Wye Valley Walk Highlights 2. Walford/Kerne Bridge to Symonds Yat (East) Rock, waterside walking, gorge views (13kms, or extend west on river) 
Cotswold Way Highlight 1. Leckhampton Hill to Cooper's Hill/A46, high along wooded Cotswold scarps (14km, 1500ft, passes Crickley Hill Country Park with visitor centre) 
Cotswold Way Highlight 2.  Painswick to Stonehouse/A46, more wooded Cotswold scarps, (14km, 1400ft up/1600ft down)
Wysis Way Highlights. Mitcheldean to Symonds Yat (East), across Forest of Dean in mixed woods* (16kms, 1400ft, navigation in forests!)
North Worcestershire Path Highlights. Clent Hills to Lickey Hills Country Parks, peaks near Birmingham (13kms, 1500ft up, 1300ft down, three visitor centres via Windmill Hill CP)
Worcestershire Way Highlights. Near Martley (just off route) across Suckley Hills/Ankerdine Hill/Malverns to Great Malvern (22km, 2500 ft ascent); extra Malverns tops options (North Hill or Worcestershire Beacon).
Mortimer Trail Highlights. Ludlow to Asymestry (21km, 2400ft ascent), three hills: Mary Knoll, High Vinnals, Yatton Hill.

Regional Trails Summary - West Midlands/Southern Welsh Borders

A region with varied terrain: from productive, gentle, rolling farmland to steep ridges and fine riverside walking. It also has distinctive villages and cathedral cities of distinction. While it has no true coastline, the River Severn flows south, bisecting it through Gloucestershire and Worcestershire to reach its wide, funnel-shaped estuary with the world's second largest tidal range. Here there are sandbanks, wide mudflats and marshes, home to waterfowl. To the west of the Severn the higher Dean Plateau, with the extensive mixed woodlands of the Forest of Dean, is cut by the dramatic limestone gorge of the River Wye. To reach here the Wye has traversed the fertile lowlands of Herefordshire from its source in the Welsh mountains beyond, crossing Offa's Dyke Path National Trail that traces some of the Welsh border. To the east of the Severn, now in Gloucestershire, the wooded Cotswold Hills scarp rises sharply. These limestone hills extend north east to the Warwickshire border, making the line for the Cotswold Way National Trail. East of the Cotswolds the infant Thames rises, to start the Thames Path National Trail. The Wysis Way links Offa's Dyke Path to the Thames Path, crossing the three distinctive areas of the Forest of Dean, Severn Vale and Cotswolds. The northern extent of this region is in the densely populated West Midlands, where the terrain is gentler. This is now an industrial heartland with its roots in the coal seams and mineral wealth that once underlay it and its prosperity - when its smoking chimneys earned it its name, the 'Black Country'.

Many walking routes trace the region's rivers. The Severn Way follows this principal river while the Wye, the other major river flowing into the Severn estuary, is traced by the Wye Valley Walk. The Wye to the Thames route links these two rivers. The Ross Round is an undulating circuit around Ross including the Wye. The walkable Monnow forms part of Herefordshire's border, and the Dore in turn flows down the fertile Golden Valley, traversed by the Herefordshire Trail, to join the Monnow. The Avon crosses Warwickshire through Stratford-upon-Avon, marked by Shakespeare's Avon Way. The Leadon Valley Walks, that cover this Severn tributary, is known as a 'secret river' as it avoids any significant settlements, and a shorter linked walk, the Daffodil Way - Dymock is popular in spring. The hilly Mortimer Trail crosses the Teme, Lugg and Arrow on its way from Ludlow (in Shropshire) to Kington. The Riversides Way, in the Welsh Marches, joins the valleys and hills of the Teme and Lugg, while the Teme Valley Walk follows this rural river.

Canal walking fans are also well supplied. The Navigation Way, Oxford Canal Walk, Worcester and Birmingham Canal Walk and Cotswold Canal Walk, all offer miles of easy towpath. The long Grand Union Canal Walk has its northern terminus in Birmingham. The Elan Valley Way broadly follows an aqueduct supplying water to Birmingham.

Viewed from the east, the ridge of the Malvern Hills rises dramatically from the surrounding Worcestershire lowlands - its roots are a resistant granitic intrusion, the oldest such rocks in Britain, running south to north. Several smaller ranges continue this trend northwards, including the Suckley and Abberley Hills and, below Birmingham, the Clent Hills. This ridge line is taken by the Worcestershire Way. The Geopark Way highlights geology and landscape by linking geological sites in the Abberley and Malvern Hills Global Geopark, and in the Wyre Forest coalfield. Bredon Hill is an outlier west of the Cotswolds and its Saxon ridgeway is visited by several routes: the Wychavon Way, linking the Severn and Costwolds, St Kenelm's Way and the Bredon Climber.

City and town routes are not forgotten, with Birmingham a walker-friendly city. There are good trails leading from these centres and other routes nearby, all with good transport links. For long routes the Birmingham Greenway provides an urban traverse linking green spaces. The Beacon Way is a green route from Sandwell at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation with lakes, nature reserves, woods, and the banks of canals, while the linking waymarked Forest of Mercia Timberland Trail lies in this Community Forest north of Walsall. The North Worcestershire Path links four country parks on the southern edge of the Birmingham conurbation. The Arden Way is route with an historic theme in the Forest of Arden. Several routes encircle other cities, such as 'A Coventry Way' (that mimics Wainwright's naming!), the Nuneaton Rotary Walk, Bromsgrove Circular Walk and Cheltenham Circular Footpath, while the Glevum Way is a Ramblers' Jubilee route around Gloucester. The Herefordshire Trail visits all eight of the county's market towns. The aptly named 'The WaLK' links Warwick, Leamington Spa and Kenilworth. The Seven Shires Way counties tour visits Warwickshire and Gloucestershire at its westerly limits.

Monarchy is remembered with the start of the very long Monarch's Way, first taken by Charles II. Literary figures are led by the Bard from Stratford, with Shakespeare's Way following in his footsteps to London. The Three Choirs Way links the festival cities of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester with a musical theme. The Black and White Villages Trail features this unusual Herefordshire architectural style. The Donnington Way has a distinctly hoppy flavour, based on the Cotswold brewery of Donnington in Stow-on-the-Wold and its 15 pubs. The D'Arcy Dalton Way starts in Warwickshire, a CPRE route, it is named after the late Col. W. P. d'Arcy Dalton who worked for over half a century to preserve rights of way in Oxfordshire and it is mainly in that county. The Centenary Way (Warwickshire) marks that county's anniversary year. The Cotswold Diamond Way is another Ramblers' Jubilee walk visiting many small villages using quiet footpaths.

Religious themes include the St Kenelm's Way and Trail, that join the two places linked with the legend of St Kenelm, grandson of King Offa, going from the Clent Hills south-west of Birmingham, the scene of his death, to his Cotswolds burial place at Winchcombe.

There are many enthusiasts routes on offer, for those seeking a greater challenge. Two developers account for most of these. Eric Perks many charity challenges here include the Abberley Amble, Carpet Bagger's 50, Chaddesley Chase, Crooked Spire  Walk, Kinver Clamber, Mini Alps, Robert's Romp and the Wyre Forest Alpine Walk. David Irons provides the Black Pear Marathon, Bredon Climber, Malvern Link, North Worcestershire Hills Marathon, Severn Valley Marathon and Wychavon Marathon. In addition, John Merrill provides the Malvern Hill Challenge Walk.