I may be writing this with a slight hangover, from the comfort of my hobbit hole (bed). Last night was spent wine tasting at Sarehole Mill, at a special ‘Lord of the Wines’ event, hosted by the Wine Events Company.
30 guests were welcomed into a ‘Prancing Pony’ pop-up, where wines were paired with Tolkien readings, folk music and a final sing-along. Naturally, all of the wines came from Middle Earth. Well, New Zealand.
It was a beautiful evening, which celebrated the connection between Birmingham and Tolkien. Tolkien, who grew up in a house opposite Sarehole Mill, recognised the inspiration this site gave to his books ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’.
I snuck inside Sarehole’s historic watermill before the event started, tracing the steps of Tolkien.
Lord of the Wines
We were each welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine, and fitting folk music in the cobbled courtyard of Sarehole Mill. Surrounded by a screen of trees, it felt like we had been closed off from the outside world, and transported to Middle Earth.
The evening included 3 themed readings, each with a paired wine, including some zesty, sharp Sauvignon Blancs and a smooth Syrah.
A VERY wizardly Wayne Dixon (Museum manager at Sarehole Mill) made an appearance to read an excerpt from The Lord of the Rings, from his special second edition copy.
After we’d drunk enough wine, the evening closed with a final ‘Prancing Pony’ themed sing-a-long, led by the landlord (Tony Elvin, Manager of the Wine Events Co)!
Sarehole Mill & Tolkien
The small village of Sarehole was one of the starting points for Tolkien’s fictional Shire in both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. This is where he had grown up, between the ages of 4 and 8, just across the road from Sarehole Mill.
“It was a kind of lost paradise. There was an old mill that really did grind corn with two millers, a great big pond with swans on it, a sandpit, a wonderful dell with flowers, a few old-fashioned village houses and, further away, a stream with another mill” – J. R. R. Tolkien.
Tolkien recognised that the mill and its rural surroundings inspired his writings of Middle-earth.
Today, the great mill pond is still there, ringed with willows, and covered with green algae. Behind the back gardens is a deep wooded dell called Moseley Bog, densely grown, wild and solitary. It’s very close in atmosphere to the Old Forest in Lord of the Rings.
“I was happy running about in that country. I took the idea of the hobbits from the village people and children. They rather despised me because my mother liked me to be pretty. I went about with long hair and a Little Lord Fauntleroy costume. The hobbits are just what I should like to have been but never was” – J. R. R. Tolkien.
As the sun set over Sarehole Mill, I could see the enchantment which inspired Tolkien to create Middle Earth.
Sarehole Mill events
Sarehole Mill, which is a Birmingham Museum Trust site, has an excellent programme of events. These include Tolkien-themed tours and talks. ‘There and back again’, which takes place every few months., is a talk and guided tour which offers an introduction to Tolkien, the area of Sarehole and its influence on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
You can also find family fun, community days and craft fairs at Sarehole Mill. Or book the venue for a special event, such as last night’s wine tasting.
See the upcoming Sarehole Mill events programme here.
The Wine Events Company
The Wine Events Company specialise in providing fun tasting events and collaborations with some amazing partners, such as Sarehole Mill and Birmingham Museums Trust.
Events fall into one of three categories: tastings, film and wine nights, and high-end dining experiences.
I was particularly impressed by manager, Tony Elvin, who hosted the event. He made it fun, engaging and interesting. He came in costume, ALMOST managed to keep up his hobbit accent for the whole night AND got us all singing by the end of the evening!
Thanks for a great night in The Shire!