A record of wildlife in my garden and various trips to the Warwickshire countryside and occasionally further afield.
"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."
From "Auguries of Innocence"
by William Blake
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
On the Trail of Tolkien: Sarehole Mill
On Sunday I gave Emily a lift to Moseley in Birmingham and, as I had an hour to spare before picking her up, I decided to pop along to Sarehole Mill which was only five minutes away.
Two of my all time favourite books are "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" by John Ronald Reuel (JRR) Tolkien. Tolkien spent part of his childhood in this area of Birmingham and lived at 5 Gracewell Cottages (now 264 Wake Green Road), Sarehole, between 1896 - 1900, when he was aged four to eight. His house was only around 300 yards from the mill.
Sarehole was then a small rural hamlet on the edge of Birmingham surrounded by farmland and countryside and it is believed that the Mill and the local area provided Tolkien with inspiration for his books. The Shire may even have been based on Sarehole.
The mill is situated by Shire Country Park and, as this information board in the car park shows, there are several walks in the area.
It has been suggested that the Great Mill that Bilbo runs past in "The Hobbit" was based on Sarehole Mill.
Tolkien and his brother often visited the Mill and played in the courtyard (see photo above) and they were often chased away by the Miller who they nicknamed the "White Ogre". It is said that Tolkien based bad-tempered Ted Sandyman (the Miller in "Lord of the Rings") on the Sarehole Mill Miller.
The Mill pond to the left and Mill to the right.
The Mill Pool, which normally has moorhens, mallard and grey herons and the occasional visit from a kingfisher, has been drained to allow for maintenance work to the sluice gates and dredging of the heavily silted pool.
You can follow a path around part of the tree-lined pool
Scattered all over the ground in one little clearing was a sprinkling of "Elf Dust"! If you enlarge the photo you might just be able to make this out.
This tree looks as though it has come straight out of a Tolkien tale.
Sarehole Mill which stands on the River Cole is one of only two surviving water mills in Birmingham (more than 750 were once found on river banks in the City). There has been a working mill at Sarehole for at least 460 years and this particular mill was built in 1765. Although it was built as a corn grinding mill it has also been used for rolling sheet metal, grinding blades and wire rolling. Matthew Boulton one of the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution leased it for a while.
During the 1960's Tolkien gave money to a public appeal to restore Sarehole Mill which had become derelict. It is now a museum run by Birmingham City Council.
I had a quick look round the inside of the Mill.
Since I last visited (we took the children when they were little as David was - and still is! - entranced by "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings") a permanent exhibition "Sign-posts to Middle Earth" has been set up which explores the area around the Mill and how it inspired Tolkien.
One interesting point mentioned in the Exhibition and the Tolkien Trail leaflet relates to the name Sam Gamgee who in "Lord of the Rings" is Frodo's friend. A Birmingham surgeon Dr Joseph Sampson Gamgee (1828 - 86) invented cotton wool. In Birmingham cotton wool was called "gamgee" - a word that the young Tolkien would have heard. Sam marries a Rose Cotton at the close of "Lord of the Rings" linking gamgee and cotton!
There are a couple of other places nearby connected to Tolkien - Moseley Bog and the Two Towers - which I will try to visit later in the year.
Welcome to my blog. I have been interested in natural history from an early age and we have tried to create a garden attractive to wildlife. I also enjoy reading, photography, collecting fossils, visiting historic buildings and gardens and supporting Aston Villa. Please feel free to leave a comment and, if you would like to email me, my email address is ciraggedrobinsATgmail.com - remember to replace AT with @. Thank you for visiting.