Warwickshire

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Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton in the far north of the county. The shape of the administrative area Warwickshire differs considerably from that of the historic county. Commonly used abbreviations for the county are Warks or Warwicks.

Warwickshire is perhaps best known for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon. The county has also produced other literary figures such as George Eliot (from near Nuneaton), Rupert Brooke (from Rugby), and Michael Drayton from Hartshill. It is also known for Warwick Castle and Kenilworth Castle.

Warwickshire is bounded to the northwest by the West Midlands metropolitan county and Staffordshire, by Leicestershire to the northeast, Northamptonshire to the east, Worcestershire to the west, Oxfordshire to the south and Gloucestershire to the southwest. An average-sized English county covering an area of almost 2,000 sq.km, it runs some 96 km / 60 miles north to south.

The majority of Warwickshire's population live in the north and centre of the county. The market towns of northern and eastern Warwickshire were industrialised in the 19th century, and include Atherstone, Bedworth, Nuneaton, and Rugby. Major industries included coal mining, textiles, engineering, and cement production, but heavy industry is in decline, being replaced by distribution centres, light to medium industry, and services. Of the northern and eastern towns, only Nuneaton and Rugby (as the birthplace of Rugby football) are well-known outside of Warwickshire. The prosperous towns of central and western Warwickshire include Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon, Kenilworth, Alcester, and Warwick harbour light to medium industries, services and tourism as major employment sectors.

The south of the county is largely rural and sparsely populated, and includes a small area of the Cotswolds. The only town in the south of Warwickshire is Shipston-on-Stour. The highest point in the county, at 261 m (856 ft), is Ebrington Hill on the border with northernmost Gloucestershire.

The north of the county, bordering Staffordshire and Leicestershire, is mildly undulating countryside and the northernmost village, No Man's Heath, is only 55 km / 34 miles south of the Peak District National Park's southernmost point.

There are no cities in Warwickshire since both Coventry and Birmingham were incorporated into the West Midlands county in 1974 and are now metropolitan authorities in themselves. The largest towns in Warwickshire as of 2004 are: Nuneaton (pop. 77,500), Rugby (62,700), Leamington Spa (45,300), and Bedworth (32,500). Stratford, Warwick, and Kenilworth all house 20,000-25,000 inhabitants, while the smaller towns of Atherstone, Alcester, Coleshill, Southam, Bulkington, Polesworth, Kingsbury, Henley-in-Arden, Studley, Shipston. Wellesbourne and Whitnash have populations between 5,000 and 12,000.

Historically much of western Warwickshire, including the area now forming part of Birmingham and the West Midlands, was covered by the ancient Forest of Arden (although most of this was cut down to provide fuel for industrialisation in the 17th to 19th centuries). For this reason, the names of a number of places in the northwestern part of Warwickshire end with the phrase "-in-Arden", such as Henley-in-Arden, Hampton-in-Arden and Tanworth-in-Arden (which was home to the late singer-songwriter Nick Drake).

Canals in Warwickshire, include:

- The Grand Union Canal, which runs through Leamington and Warwick and onwards to Birmingham.

The restored Saltisford Canal Arm, is close to the centre of Warwick, and is now a short branch of the Grand Union Canal. The arm is the remains of the original terminus of the Warwick and Birmingham Canal and dates back to 1799. The Saltisford Canal Trust have restored most of the surviving canal, which is now the mooring for colourful narrowboats and a waterside park open to the public. Over 800 visiting narrowboats come by water to Warwick each year and moor on the arm.Saltisford Canal Trust

- The Oxford Canal, which runs from near Coventry and then eastwards around Rugby, and then through the rural south of the county towards Oxford.

- The Coventry Canal which runs through the north of the county from Coventry through Bedworth, Nuneaton, Atherstone, and Polesworth, and then onwards to Tamworth.

- The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal which runs from the Grand Union west of Warwick to Stratford.

- The Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal passes briefly through Warwickshire from a junction with the Coventry Canal at Bedworth.

The River Avon is navigable from just north of Stratford. It has been proposed for decades to extend the navigation to Warwick and Leamington, creating a new cruising ring and linking up with the Upper Avon Navigation. This would create many benefits to residents, boaters and wildlife but due to a vocal campaign by a few local residents has yet to come to fruition.

Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/

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