Visit one of Birmingham’s last surviving working watermills, where you can spot waterfowl and learn about the inspirations for the books of J.R.R. Tolkien.
At Sarehole Mill you can experience a working watermill, spot birdlife and walk in the childhood footsteps of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien. Sarehole is one of only two watermills that still operate in Birmingham. J.R.R Tolkien lived nearby during his childhood, and used the mill and surrounding area as the inspiration for The Shire, a setting in his books. The tranquil surroundings offer opportunities for fishing and wildlife watching.
The current structure dates back to 1768, although a mill has stood on the site since 1542. Step inside the mill to see its centuries-old machinery. Learn how the waterwheel, gears and grinding stones produce flour, and watch a bread-baking demonstration. The bakery’s oven can store up to 60 loaves of bread at one time.
Check out the mill pool, which attracts a variety of wildlife. Sit by the water’s edge and spot water birds, including ducks, herons and kingfishers.
The mill’s Signposts to Middle-Earth exhibition explores the inspirations of Tolkien over three floors. On the ground floor, see a short film and exhibits chronicling the writer’s life. The second floor hosts illustrations by Tolkien and a storyboard history of the mill. The third floor depicts the entrance to a Hobbit’s house.
Download a Tolkien Trail map from Sarehole Mill’s official website and explore the surrounding area on foot. Visit important places in Tolkien’s life, including his former residences and Moseley Bog, now a nature reserve. In May, fans of Tolkien flock to Sarehole Mill for a Tolkien-inspired weekend festival called Middle Earth Weekend.
Located in Hall Green, Sarehole Mill is a 15-minute drive south from Birmingham’s city center. Parking is free. Public buses stop close to the main entrance. Hall Green is the nearest train station, a 10-minute walk to the mill.
The mill is open from Tuesday to Saturday during the summer months. Check the mill’s official website for exact times and dates. Admission to the mill is free on the first Sunday of every month.