Tolkien’s Footsteps

John Ronald Reuel ( J R R) Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892. His father died there while the rest of the family were visiting the UK. They remained here, living with his mother’s parents near Birmingham. He was home schooled until he entered Birmingham School and was by all accounts a bright boy who after graduation and war service in WWI joined Leeds University as a Reader in 1920.

He lived and worked in Leeds till 1925. Towards the end of his time here he lived in Far Headingley, in the north of the city. It’s not too far from where we live now. He loved walking and he walked into the University along the Meanwood Valley. This is our daily walk and includes a park and a beautiful oak wood. Leeds City appraisal and management plan states that these trees were most probably planted at the start of the 19th century – over 200 years ago.  Originally planted to provide timber for the tannery along the beck, they are now substantial and provide a haven for birds, animals and people. We would certainly have struggled considerably more during the lockdown without this fabulous facility close by. 

Oak woods in the Meanwood Valley in Leeds
Meanwood Valley oak woodland, a few weeks ago.

So as we walk through the oak woods each day, it’s heartening to imagine that Ronald, as he was known, would have walked past the same trees and possibly considered what might happen if they started walking themselves – Ents? 


  1. Love it – it’s so cool to think about author’s inspiration. The house I grew up in was once owned by the author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond (a popular book here as was set in the town during the 1600’s, and our town loved its colonial and Revolutionary history). There was an ink stain on the floor in my bedroom and I always wondered what the author was working on when it was made!

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  2. I love Tolkien’s fantasy / fiction works, especially Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as well as the books of his good friend C.S. Lewis (who he converted to Christianity). Lovely forest and beautiful countryside up there — if only trees could talk!


  3. Sorry, but the bulk of the trees of The Ridge woodland were simply not there in JRR Tolkien’s time in Leeds. The area was a park, but not woodland, though there is little or no question that woodland of Meanwood Valley at The Hollies and Meanwood Grove and up to Addle were an inspiration to JRR Tolkien while he lived all of his time in Leeds along the real ridge, up and down Headingley Lane.


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