There is a unique opportunity to spend a weekend exploring the literary landscape of the young J.R.R.Tolkien, who spent his formative years, went to school and met his future wife in Birmingham.
From Friday 9th to Sunday 11th November there’s an invitation to take the Tolkien Trail around the spaces and places that fuelled the imagination of the young boy who was to become internationally acclaimed as one of the most successful writers of the twentieth century.
This brand new weekend builds on the success of the annual celebration of Tolkien’s life and works held every May at Sarehole Mill, Birmingham, the model for Sandyman’s Mill at Hobbiton. The enthusiasts behind the event, members of the Birmingham Tolkien Group, have now constructed an itinerary of walks and talks, visits and tours designed to enlighten and appeal to Tolkien fans everywhere.
Following in Tolkien’s footsteps and close to his former lodgings in Edgbaston, accommodation is at the three star Plough and Harrow Hotel where Tolkien and his new wife Edith stayed before he went off to fight in France during the First World War.
Tolkien, like his creation, the Hobbits, "lived for my early years in the Shire in a pre-mechanical age" - much of it still recognisable - in and around the then rural hamlet of Sarehole and now preserved within "The Shire Country Park" in suburban south Birmingham. In 1996 he reflected, "I could draw you a map of every inch of it. I loved it with an intense love…I took the idea of the hobbits from the village people and children."
The house, where he lived so happily for four years, from 1896 with his widowed mother Mabel and younger brother Hilary, is still there. Just opposite you can visit Sarehole Mill, a dominating presence in Tolkien’s childhood and now a local museum with a working water wheel. Like the Tolkien brothers you can cross the ford, ramble through The Shire along the willow-lined River Cole and venture into Moseley Bog, the inspiration for the Old Forest, now a local nature reserve complete with bronze-age burnt mounds and a magical atmosphere.
In 1900 the family moved first to Moseley and then to Kings Heath to be closer to the tram route for him to attend King Edward’s School then in Birmingham city centre. In 1902 Mabel Tolkien decided to move again to be near the Oratory Church in Edgbaston where Tolkien lived in various lodgings until he went up to Oxford in 1911. Two local landmarks, the Victorian Waterworks Tower and Perrott’s Folly, remind readers of the "Two Towers" in the second volume of "The Lord of the Rings."
Total costs for the weekend are £150 p.p. sharing or £190 single and include a welcome reception attended by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, an "Unexpected Party" on Saturday evening, all meals and transport and the services of expert guides throughout. Numbers are limited but bookings made before the end of September will be placed in a draw to win the room used by Professor and Mrs Tolkien during their stay.
Further information email GilraenBham@aol.com and www.shireproductions.co.uk