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A region made up of around ten counties with fascinating history, beautiful countryside, and metropolitan cities

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The Heart of England is a region made up of around ten counties in the West Midlands. Unlike many of the UK's most popular tourist areas, it contains no coastline, which gives it a distinct lack of overcrowded, stereotypical resorts. What it has instead is fascinating history, beautiful countryside, and metropolitan cities. What it has is the real England.
As it's not an official, defined region, the borders are rather fuzzy - but it's generally agreed to begin with Nottinghamshire, in the north-east, and Cheshire, in the north-west. The former is home to the huge city of Nottingham, which is well-known for its infamous outlaw, Robin Hood, who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. Debates still rage about whether he's a historical figure, or a fictional one, but nevertheless, visitors to Nottinghamshire can still visit his native Sherwood Forest, and see his supposed home, a huge, hollow tree called the Major Oak.
Cheshire, in the Heart of England's other corner, is a much more rural place. To the west of its unspoilt countryside lies the Roman city of Chester, which boasts all sorts of interesting historical structures and remains, from defensive walls, to what was once the biggest amphitheatre in the UK. More rural scenery can be found in Derbyshire's Peak District, which was Britain's first ever National Park. In addition to being the Midlands' premier destination for hiking, it is also popular among rock climbers, hang gliders, and kayakers. Just next door is Staffordshire, where the countryside is interrupted by the UK's biggest and best theme park, Alton Towers. It is built around an old stately home, and features enough rides and attractions to rival anywhere else in the world.
Moving south, the Heart of England contains many of the country's best loved places, such as the small town of Stratford-upon-Avon. This settlement of old Tudor houses and pretty streets was the birthplace of William Shakespeare, arguably the most famous Englishman to ever have lived. The playwright's old family home is open to the public, and his work is performed all through the year by the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company, at many different venues.
The Heart of England's southern edge is around Oxfordshire, home to the world-famous Oxford University. The town is filled with beautiful historic buildings, leading to it being known as the city of dreaming spires. Just to the west of here are the Cotswolds, a breathtakingly pretty region of gentle hills, bubbling streams, and quaint, honey-coloured cottages.
In the centre of the Midlands lies its biggest city, the transport and shopping hub of Birmingham. It may not be as pretty as the surrounding area, but it can rival anywhere in the country in terms of amenities. The city is particularly known for its modern shopping centre, the Bull Ring, which features several extremely unusual architectural details! Birmingham is at the centre of the Midlands' vast canal network, which was developed during the industrial revolution. Today, many of these waterways still remain. In fact, there are said to be more miles of canals here than in Venice! They many not be used for their original purpose, but the city is making best use of them, by building a series of attractive waterside developments. The waterways spread out from the city throughout the rest of the region, incorporating locks, tunnels and aqueducts, providing endless opportunities for calm walks, or slow cruises.
In the past, this network really was the heart of England, connecting up its regions with arteries of water. It may not be as important today, but it certainly provides a great way to explore one of the country's most attractive and interesting areas.

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