Peter Jackson’s blockbusting adaptations of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth fantasias have increased interest in the author tenfold, and the city where Tolkien spent much of his childhood – one that inspired the vivid imagery found within both ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ – has sensibly capitalised on the association. One of the key places that helped formulate Tolkien’s stories when he was a child was the Sarehole Mill, a watermill dating back to the 16th century. Located near the Moseley Bog, which he and his brother used to explore, the mill now stands as both a tribute to a former way of life and also a working watermill that produces flour, which visitors can also buy.
The venue naturally makes much of the Tolkien connection (and acts as one of the stops on the official Tolkien Trail that the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has put together), but there’s also plenty of information about the past working life of the building – from the original mid-19th century bread oven to the waterwheel, steam engine and millpool. It’s a fairly short tour, but there’s a charming tea shop and the mill is also slap bang next to the Shire Country Park – a huge chunk of beautiful greenery in the middle of the Birmingham suburbs.