About four miles away from Birmingham, is an old mill which is 250 years old. It is one of the two surviving water mills still in working condition. The mill derives its importance as a tourist spot because of its association with J.R.Tolkien the writer, who spent four happy years of his youth in this area in the late 1890s. Tolkien and his brother roamed the parkland and forest area around the mill. A walk through the trees and tangled undergrowth brings to life the Hobbits and the animals, plants and insects mentionedin Tolkien’s books. The boys were often chased away by the miller’s son. The miller in the ‘Lord of The Rings’ very much resembles this man.
A huge pond behind the mill is from where it derives its energy for the operation of the mill. The pond is green with algae and plant life, but is still a haven for ducks, herons, moorhens and even an occasional kingfisher.
In 1960, Tolkien made a generous contribution to the restoration of the mill as a museum. Though the mill is open throughout the year, between November and March every Friday, a guided tour explains the different parts of the mill and its complicated working.
In the annexe there is a permanent exhibition titled “The Signposts of Middle Earth,” with various photographs of the life and times of Tolkien. A short movie transports one into the land of the Hobbits. The village of Sarehole was the model for ‘Shire,’home of the Belbo Baggins in the Hobbit.
Adjacent to the mill is an old bakery where bread was baked in those days. A volunteer demonstrates how it was done.
Sarehole Mill is on the Cole Bank Road, west of the Hall Green Station, Birmingham 13 OBD.
By Eva Bell