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OpenLearn Live: 17th November 2016

Updated Thursday 17th November 2016

The woodland that inspired Tolkien. Learning and research from around the world, across the day.

OpenLearn Live is the Peter Piper of online learning, picking out a peck of interesting items of learning and research from around the site and around the web. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, post-truth, app updates might be pointless and mass death of reindeer

On this day last year, we thought about Mindfulness, considered the Paris Attacks and remembered the Monday Demonstrations which helped bring down the Berlin Wall

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live


A week in Birmingham: Moseley Bog & Joys' Wood

This week, we're starting each morning with a story from Birmingham. Yesterday, we visited Pebble Mill. Today, we're heading out to a more rural part of the city, Moseley Bog and Joys' Wood.

Moseley Wood in the snow Creative commons image Icon Rachel Simmonite under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Moseley Wood in the snow

There's evidence of human activity dating back 3,000 years at the site, in the form of two burnt mounds. Nobody's sure what these mounds were used for, but it's possible they were part of an early sauna, or maybe a communal kitchen. The mounds at Birmingham are positioned such that - current thinking goes - they may have been deliberately set away from where people lived, and used for some sort of special events.

The bog itself had been lost in the 16th Century, as a holding pool was dug on the site. This water source was used to ensure a constant supply to turn the wheel at Sarehole Mill. In an early piece of restoration, though, the bog returned as motive power edged out water power in the 19th Century, and the pond drained.

The return of the bog, and the difficulty of doing anything with such waterlogged land, spared the woods as Birmingham sprawled out and developed all around the area. Nature moved in, and in 1980 the bog was given the status of a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

If the bog was protected from the development of Birmingham, Joy's Wood owes its existence to that development. The land had been bought in 1935 by the city council, and used as a landfill site. As the slums of Brum were pulled down, the site filled rapidly and by the 1960s had been 'capped'. At first, football pitches were put there, but with so much hardcore lurking around the surface, they were pitches for only the bravest sportspeople. Plans to stick housing on the site instead led to a public campaign to save the area, and, after success, the former playing fields were planted with native trees and shrubs.

The efforts of the campaigners were rewarded - wildlife soon moved in, and now woodpeckers, finches and jays have made the wood their own.

The site has a literary connection, too, as the young JRR Tolkien lived nearby and had played amongst the ancient trees as a child. These inspired the Old Forest in his books about Hobbits.

Inspired by nature? Explore British habitats

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