Thursday, 11 June 2015

Hall Green (The Shire, Hobbiton Mill and Old Forest?)

The references to places in JRR Tolkien’s books The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings reflect that we’ve been to Sarehole Mill (the Mill at Hobbiton in his books) and Moseley Bog (possibly the Old Forest), situated in the old area of Sarehole (possibly The Shire), now part of Hall Green, Birmingham.

Stepping stones over the River Cole
Just a short walk down the road from where we’re looking after Sooty while Abigail is on holiday we walked off Sarehole Road and down a track between houses to the River Cole and a little green world of trees , wild flowers and grasses and a row of stepping stones leading across the river, feeling a world away from the busy city suburb with hardly a house in view. A little track through the woods led us to the ford on Green Road, only about 150mm deep at the moment so easy for cars to get through, then on through fields to the old Mill.

The ford on Green Road
Sarehole Mill
Although it’s quite suburban round here now you really can get a feel for what it was like in Tolkiens day and it’s well worth a visit. The mill dates from the eighteenth century, although there has been a mill on the site since the sixteenth, and was used by the famous industrialist Matthew Bolton in the eighteenth century for scientific experimentation, but its main use was for grinding grain, for which it did until 1919. 

The Mill from across the millpool
After it closed it became derelict and was scheduled for demolition until, in 1969 the local community, including JRR Tolkien successfully restored it, handing it over to Birmingham City Council as a working mill. We visited and saw grain being ground into flour between two millstones driven through huge wooden gears from the wooden water mill, still being turned by water power.

Machinery at work
264 Wake Green Road
In the 4 years Tolkien lived in the area he stayed at Gracewell Cottages on Wake Green Road, situated at the back of the mill, near to Moseley Bog and he apparently played in the mill and bog and it was these experiences that apparently gave him the inspiration for his famous books, now made into films. 

Wake Green Road 2015....
His house in Gracewell Cottages is now number 264 Wake Green Road and is a private house, but I imagine we did the same as hundreds of other people and walked down there to take a photo of an apparently ordinary traditional house on a fairly busy city road. We walked down the road a bit to take a photo of the road from the same spot of a photo from the year 1905 showing it as a country lane (much to Jackie’s excitement – not!), the houses are still recognisable if now more modernised.

...And how it looked in 1905
Moseley Bog
Moseley Bog is a nature reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is made up of both wet and dry woodland together with patches of fen vegetation which has developed on the site of an old millpond. It’s a splendid place and access across the wetland is on railway sleepers and a wooden walkway that weaves through the woodland, making it a great little walk.

More Moseley Bog
We carried on along Wake Green Road to continue our walk along the River Cole, passing some old ‘prefabs’. Just after the Second World War 500,000 prefabricated houses were erected all over the bomb damaged county as temporary houses, until permanent brick built houses could be built. Their design life was 10 years, but many of them lasted into the 1970’s and beyond and I remember a whole estate near to where I lived as a child that were demolished in about 1965. 
The prefabs on Wake Green Road
These ones in Wake Green Road are some of the last and I believe they are now listed buildings and cannot now be demolished as they are examples of a past housing style. We did note the asbestos roofs, probably best left untouched and they now look very cold and dated, not the best accommodation! There’s about a dozen of them in a row and at least half of them looked unoccupied – prefab accommodation anyone?

Sooty cat taking a drink from the running tap
We walked as far as Trittiford Mill Park on the edge of Yardley Wood, near where I once lived, looked for a café, couldn’t find one so returned along the river through the woods, past the school outing and returned ‘home’ after enjoying an ice cream on a nice sunny and warm afternoon. Can’t believe the weather forecast for the weekend is cold, windy and heavy rain, it’s so warm and pleasant today!

Look at this old map from 1900. Sarehole Mill is in the centre, there is nothing but green fields all around

Now look at this one from 1930. Sarehole Mill is still in the centre, but now its surrounded by suburbia. The house we are staying in is on a road at the top of the map just right of centre

1 comment:

  1. V interesting. We walk this route regularly, though never go into the Mill. Rowdy particularly liked Moseley Bog Nd all the muddy bits along the way xx