"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.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Geometrids are Starting to Appear!

I had a break from moth trapping last night but Brian woke me at the crack of dawn this morning to insist I go and look at an exciting moth on the toilet wall.

Its a Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria) and a beautiful moth - I think even people who don't like moths very much would admire this! Its another new species for the year.

I did run the moth trap on Thursday and Friday night though - I am still not getting that many moths but at least a few different species are turning up including the dreaded pugs.

On Thursday I caught this pug - my best guess is Common Pug (Eupithecia vulgata) although it could possibly be a Grey Pug?? The only pugs I can identify with any certainty are Foxglove and Lime-speck. Identification (for me anyway) is made harder by the fact that they are very active (even after a few hours chilling in the fridge - this does not harm the moths by the way) and refuse to keep still!! as can be seen from the blurred photos!

Also in the trap was a Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) - also new for this year.

I think this is a Light Brown Apple Moth - I wish the the new micro moth "bible" would hurry up and arrive. The cottony wool type stuff in the bottom of the pot is actually a spider's web - this pot was left in the garage without a lid.

But fear not, the moth came to no harm as the spider had long disappeared and here it is about to escape from the slate where I was trying to get it to pose for a photo. Micros are like pugs very lively. In fact, in my experience, the harder the moth is to identify the less likely it is to keep still! The moth has since been re-potted and released by the way.

I think this is another Common Swift (Hepialus lupulinus)

Summary of Moths Trapped Thursday 24th May

Minimum Temperature 12.8 degrees centigrade

15w Actinic Skinner Trap

Common Pug?? x 1 (would be NFY)
Shuttle-shaped Dart x 1
Heart and Dart x 1 NFY
Tachystola acroxantha x 3
Light Brown Apple Moth x 1
Common Swift x 1

Several other micros managed to escape the potting process - I am not at my best first thing in the morning!

Friday 25th May - GMS Week 13

Minimum Temperature 10.8 degrees centigrade

15w Actinic Skinner Trap

I was pleased to find one of these Scalloped Hazels in the trap - new for this year

And yet another pug - again I think Common or Grey probably the former.

It flew straight off the piece of slate and in amongst the Yorkie and Doctor Who Dalek mugs.

Summary of Moths Trapped Friday 25th May

Heart and Dart x 1
Shuttle-shaped Dart x 1
Scalloped Hazel x 1
Common Pug?? x 1

plus a handful of unidentified micros which managed to escape my pots and the waiting nearby Robin who has realised the moth trap is a potential food source.

Moth Species for 2012 = 18
(not counting the pugs!)

Any help with the pug id and corrections if my id's are wrong are, as ever, very welcome.

Blue Tit Nestling Update

The two young nestlings are doing fine - they now look like cute baby birds! I reckon there is about a week to go to fledging.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Wildflowers in a Country Churchyard

Earlier this week I stopped off at St Michael's Church which is located close to Baddesley Clinton moated manor house. I had read that the churchyard was a haven for wildflowers.

From the National Trust car park the route to the church follows a shady path bounded by trees on one side and fields on the other.

Blubells, Buttercups and Germander Speedwell lined the path.

I found these Garden Snails on the edge of the path - I think they might be mating?

The lambs are growing up quickly and one of them was bleating at the top of its voice for its mother - all to no avail as she wasn't responding.

I strolled over to the gateway to try and get closer and look - I've been spotted!

Two of the lambs came to say "hello"!

This lamb seemed to be saying "No food here - I'm off!"

A lovely place to sit and rest and enjoy the view and listen to birdsong.

Nearly there...

The earliest record of a church on this site is dated 1305 but there may have been a church on the site 200 - 300 years earlier. Lord of the Manor, Nicholas Brome, built the church tower as penance for killing the parish priest who he found in his parlour "chockinge his wife under ye chinne". He is buried just outside the south church door so that people would tread on him as they entered the church.

The churchyard was full of wildflowers - Cow Parsley, Greater Stitchwort, Dandelions, Buttercups, Bluebells, Red Campion, Cowslips, Speedwell, Crosswort, Plaintain, Sorrel, Lady's Smock and Garlic Mustard.

Greater Stitchwort

Cow Parsley


Crosswort - the smell of honey around the flowers was overpowering

Apparently, Crosswort is a plant known as a calcicole - an indicator of lime-rich soil, it is adapted to grow only on chalk or limestone.

The churchyard had a mixture of short and long grass and areas where wildflowers were left to flourish.

Germander Speedwell was everywhere

Garlic Mustard

Lady's Smock was in flower - I did look for Orange Tip butterfly eggs without success.

Lady's Smock is also known as cuckoo flower. Although an exceedingly delicate and pretty flower, country folklore suggests that the plant is best avoided as it has fairy connections. If it was accidentally included in a May Day Garland the whole wreath was often remade!


I couldn't resist including yet more Red Campion flowers. I think I ought to change the name of my blog!

Dandelion "Clock" - why do these always remind me of childhood and a time when you half expected to see fairies at the bottom of the garden?!

I was going to have a look inside the church but the only door I tried was locked. (I later asked at Baddesley Clinton Visitor Centre and apparently the entry door is the one in the middle of the church - seen on the photo below. It was covered in mesh - what I took to be a security measure to keep people out was in fact a "bird" door to stop birds entering - doh!! Well at least I now know how to get in when I go again")

Return path

and look who came to say "hello" again!

Although this is not meant to be a "Following in the Footsteps of a Edwardian Lady" post, Baddesley Clinton is one of the areas she often mentions visiting. Much of the filming for the TV series on Edith Holden (many years ago and sadly, I don't think its available on dvd) was done at Baddesley.

Hopefully my flower id's are correct but please let me know if any are wrong.


"Discovering the Folklore of Plants", A Shire Classic, by Margaret Baker

"The Encyclopedia of British Wildflowers" by J. Akeroyd

"Marjorie Blamey's Wildflowers by Colour", Dorling Kindersley