180-mile West Midlands Walking Trail plan revealed

West Midlands walking trail public footpath
Mayor Andy Street, centre, met with local groups and stakeholders at Elmdon Park in Solihull to discuss progress of the West Midlands Walking Trail. They included, left to right, Cllr Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Council; Jackie Homan, WMCA’s head of environment; Emma Johnson, Natural England; and Claire Williams and Tahir Parvaz, Canal and River Trust. At rear are James MacColl and Nick Hillier, The Ramblers. Photo: West Midlands Combined Authority.

Plans for the first West Midlands Walking Trail to connect local people and visitors with nature sites and cultural attractions have been unveiled.

Drawn up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the trail will follow a 180-mile route around the rural edges of the region with several shorter urban loops connecting waterways, natural sites and heritage sites within Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull and the Black Country.

As well as providing local people with easier access to the countryside, more than 200 heritage sites and other tourism-related businesses could benefit.

This includes Lichfield Cathedral to the north, Kenilworth Castle to the east, Lickey Hills Country Park to the south and Black Country Geopark sites to the west.

The WMCA will work with the Ramblers, Canal and River Trust, Natural England, and the region’s local authorities, stakeholders and members of the public to finalise the draft route and explore funding opportunities.

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “We have so much beautiful countryside and many wonderful places to visit right across the region – but are lacking a nationally recognised walking trail that connects them all together. For many months we have been working with local and national organisations to put that right, and it’s fantastic news that we now have outline plans for the very first West Midlands Walking Trail.

“Not only will this open up more opportunities for local people to spend more time in nature and enjoy the benefits that brings to their health and wellbeing, having our very own walking trail similar to the likes of the Cotswold Way, Pennine Way and the Thames Path has the potential to provide a significant boost to the region’s tourism industry.”

Establishing the walking trail was included in the West Midlands Natural Environment Plan to help deliver one of the plan’s key priorities to give residents right across the region access to nature within a 15-minute walk of where they live.

Cllr John Cotton, WMCA portfolio lead for environment and energy, and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The Natural Environment Plan is the blueprint for how we want to protect, enhance and celebrate areas of beauty and heritage in the region, and increase access to green space for residents. A West Midlands Walking Trail is a key element of that and it’s great to see that now taking shape.”