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Sunday, 15 March, 1998, 18:44 GMT
Middle Earth for Middle England?
Sarehole Mill
Sarehole Mill: inspiration for Lord of The Rings
A theme park based on the works of the English writer, J R R Tolkien, is being planned near the city of Birmingham.

The proposers of the scheme hope to build it around an 18th century water mill that is reputed to have provided inspiration for one of Tolkien's most popular and enduring works, The Lord of the Rings.

Birmingham City Council is planning to establish a company to develop the park around Sarehole Mill, where Tolkien spent part of his childhood. It hopes to attract lottery funding and business sponsorship for the project.

One of the key promoters of the scheme is keen Tolkien reader and Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green, Stephen McCabe. The Heart of England Tourist Authority also supports the plan.

The 550-member Tolkien Society said it would support the idea if it promoted his works without trivialising them, but Tolkien's biographer, Humphrey Carpenter, says he would have been appalled.

Mr Carpenter said: "The whole heritage thing would have appalled him. He wanted his characters to be left in the imagination."

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