Tolkien's lost paradise

“It was a kind of lost paradise… there was an old mill that really did grind corn with two millers, a sandpit, a wonderful dell with flowers…”

It is well known that J.R.R. Tolkien, author of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’, spent his youth in Birmingham, and for four years at the end of the 19th century he lived with his mother and brother on Wake Green Road, a short walk from Moseley Bog & Joy’s Wood Local Nature Reserve.

The scene at Sarehole in Tolkien’s time was depicted by local historian John Morris Jones: "The rural peace is broken only by birdsong, the cackle of hens, the occasional bellow from a discontented cow, or the sound of a shotgun. There are game-birds, rabbits and hares in plenty. The Cole is clear and well-stocked with fish, as are the millponds. Poachers still operate on dark nights, ignoring notices they cannot read. The air is fresh, for the westerly wind blows away the smoke from the reeking town four miles away in the next county."

The spirit of Tolkien and of the area that he loved is celebrated annually at Middle-Earth Weekend, an event which draws visitors from all parts of the UK and beyond with drama presentations, walks, traditional craft demonstrations, and stalls selling everything from handicrafts to plants to haute cuisine. The Wildlife Trust also has a regular programme of cultural, artistic and educational events in the reserve.

    Moseley Bog & Joy’s Wood continues to inspire people today and is used by local drama, music and re-enactment groups. The poet and Wildlife Trust ambassador Benjamin Zephaniah, who grew up locally, uses the reserve and voices our Moseley Bog pod-cast.
    It's believed that Moseley Bog is one of the inspirations for the forests of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. As a child Tolkien liked to draw, with trees being one of his favourite subjects: 'He would draw a tree, then would climb the tree and talk to it' (David R. Collins, J.R.R. Tolkien).
    The Wildlife Trust has a regular programme of cultural, artistic and educational events taking place at Moseley Bog & Joy’s Wood. Get in touch to find out more.
    The burnt mounds in Moseley Bog are thought to be evidence of cultural events which took place 3,000 years ago! The mounds are the leftovers from sweat lodges which were like a modern day sauna, where water was doused over hot stones to create steam. Sweat lodges have been used as a means of cleansing, as spiritual centres, as meeting places and for healing.
    The village of Hobbiton with its mill and river, which features in both ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’, is recognisable as Sarehole, a short walk east from the reserve.