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'Lord of the Rings'mill could go hydro-electric.

Byline: JASBIR AUTHI

The mill said to have been an inspiration for JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is being turned into a hydroelectric plant.

It is hoped that the scheme could revitalise the 200-year-old Sarehole Mill, in Hall Green - and provide local homes with electricity.

Birmingham city council officials say that currently the mill's pool is badly silted up - with remedial work estimated to cost pounds 200,000.

But now with pounds 50,000 provided by Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery Development Trust, one of the wheels at the mill will undergo work which will see it used to generate electricity.

At the moment, two thirds of the pond behind the mill, which keeps the north wheel spinning, is silted up and the wheel could stop turning within two years unless urgent action is taken to de-silt it.

The millpond, where Tolkien spent his childhoods, was once a metre deep and stretched 50 metres from the mill to Wake Green Road.

The source of the water for the pond originates from a spring hidden underneath the junction of Billesley Lane and Greenhill Road.

Today, the deepest part of the millpond is only six inches, which means ducks cannot paddle and fish have been easily poached in the summer.

Councillor Martin Mullaney, cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, said that before the de-silting process could start, work to replace three broken sluice gates, is expected to be completed by the end of March.

Once the millpond is de-silted, the north wheel, which is on public view, should spin faster, with the site's wildlife greatly benefiting. The south wheel is hidden from public view and has not operated since before 1969.

Coun Mullaney said: "We can make a lot more of this site. This project will breathe new life into this much-loved tourist attraction. Sarehole Mill could be providing local houses with hydroelectric power.

"The proposal is to replace three sluice gates. Replacing one of the sluice gates will allow the mill to lower the millpond level in the event of heavy rainstorms. The mill has been flooded several times in recent years, due to the present gate being stuck shut and not repairable.

"Replacing the second sluice gate will allow us to close water off to the current working wheel, known as the north water wheel, and finally replacing the third sluice gate will prevent a complete collapse of the gate and subsequent drainage of the millpond.

"It will also allow us to start to moving towards getting the south wheel operational.

"Our long-term aspiration is to connect this wheel to a motor and generate hydroelectric power for nearby houses. "Once we have these sluice gates fixed, it will allow us to de-silt the millpond. We had been warned by a millwright that de-silting the pond first without changing the sluice gates would result in one of the sluice gates collapsing under the higher water pressure from the millpond."

Sarehole Mill is one of the last two watermills within Birmingham, the other being New Hall Mill in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield.

More than 70 watermills once occupied the riverbanks around the city and there has been one at Sarehole for at least 460 years.

Sarehole was first built as a corngrinding mill but has also been used for rolling sheet metal, grinding blades and wire rolling and it was once rented to Matthew Boulton before he moved to Handsworth to build his famous Soho Manufactory.

Sarehole Mill is part of the Tolkien Trail which also includes Moseley Bog, The Oratory, St Anne's Church, Perrots Folly and a private residence on Wake Green Road.

The north wheel, mill gears and grinding stones on the first floor at Sarehole Mill and can be seen working on demonstration days and the bakehouse with the original bread oven from the 1840s is also

CAPTION(S):

Sarehole Mill, in Hall Green, was around the corner from JRR Tolkien's (pictured below) childhood home
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 12, 2012
Words:657
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