This tour high-lights some of the sites (and sights) of the area that is covered by the proposed Tolkien Park. The pictures and text date from 1998. The sequence runs more-or-less north to south.
At the northern end of the Tolkien Park site, only 20 minutes walk from the centre of Birmingham is the Golden Hillock Sports Centre. The Park here is a large triangle of land, bordered on the north by Small Heath Highway, a main route through Birmingham. It is an urban desert: an area low in bio diversity, a grassland with car parks, an artificial ski-slope and other sports facilities.
The setting is a mix of industrial buildings and terraced housing: the one architectural high point is a beautiful brick mosque.
South of the Golden Hillock Sports ground, the Park follows the River Cole. The land here used to be occupied by a large brickworks. The site has been landscaped, and there is a way-marked Tarmac path. It is possible that this area could be used for income-generating craft workshops. The Park narrows to the width of the river and path: at Formans road, the path leaves the river, and passes between two end-terrace houses.
The other side of Formans Road bridge, the Parkland widens. The path runs through a scrubby, but well-kept area. This area could be used for one of a number of strands of site interrelation, here focusing on the ecology of the park.
On the opposite bank, there is an historic allotments site. While some are no-longer used, the majority continue to provide local people with an opportunity for fresh food.
Going south, the surrounding houses become larger. The setting is now entirely residential. Further south still, detached and semi-detached houses occur among the terraces. The river is crossed by an picturesque ford, where children paddle on hot days.
The Park widens into a broad flood meadow, where part of the river-water is diverted to become the mill-race for Sarehole Mill. The village where Tolkien, his mother and brother moved has become engulfed by 20th century housing, but the Tolkien's house in Wake Green Road still faces directly onto the meadows above Sarehole Mill. A little further up Wake Green Road is the sandpit where the young Tolkien's climbed trees. Sarehole Mill is a preserved historic building, which contains some of the collections of Birmingham City Museum. There are objects relating to the rural history of the area, especially grain production. The displays are currently being renewed, and thee new panels include references to Tolkien's residence in the areas. Facilities include a ticket booth (where the visitor can purchase a guide and postcards, and a classroom). It seems most fitting that Local History and Tolkien are interpreted here.
There is a small car-park at Sarehole Mill. In it there is a building which contains toilet facilities and an office for the Park Ranger. Behind the block are toilet facilities, which are subject to vandalism, as they are unsupervised. In the car-park there are signs of substance abuse. The car-park is quite elevated, and is a possible site for new building within the park - perhaps for a Tolkien Centre.
South of the Mill, is a busy road. It is well served by local buses, and Hall Green Station is five minutes walk to the East. The land, currently used as playing fields, is not particularly suitable for building, but could be used for a coach-park and car-parking for people with disabilities, if not needed as sports facilities. On the road are recycling bins, which are an amenity which could become a feature within a 'Green Issues' interpretation stream.
South of the playing fields, the park narrows once more to the width of path and river. It broadens out at Trittiford Mill Park. This is an urban park in the Victorian tradition, with formal flower beds and a boating pond. The surrounding houses are large detached and semi-detached houses: a suburban setting.