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The bog was once a secondary reservoir to feed the millpond of Sarehole Mill. Although now drained, the embankment on its eastern side remains. The Coldbath Brook flows from Coldbath Pool through a culvert, through the Bog as an open stream, and is then culverted to the millpond. The western half of the current nature reserve had been used by Birmingham City Council as a landfill site from the 1930s to the 1960s, when it was levelled off and converted into a playing field for the nearby Moseley Grammar School. Always damp and unsuitable, from the 1980s it has been allowed to revert to natural woodland. The eastern half of the site was not affected by the landfill.
The whole site was declared a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) by Birmingham City Council on 17 July 1991. Much of the area comprising Moseley Bog had been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1980. However, following its LNR declaration and re-evaluation by English Nature the site was denotified as an SSSI on 21 July 1992, but remains a locally designated Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).
In 2000 it was formally renamed Moseley Bog and Joy's Wood Local Nature Reserve, in recognition of the work of urban conservation campaigner Joy Fifer to protect the site. Fifer led the successful "Save Our Bog" campaign in 1980 which saved the site from development and helped kick start the Urban Wildlife movement. It was this campaign that popularised the name "Moseley Bog" for the site, which had hitherto been known as The Dell. The area now known as Joy's Wood is the former landfill part.
The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country now leases Moseley Bog from Birmingham City Council. In August 2006 a public consultation on proposals to conserve the site, enhance access and encourage a wider audience was launched. In March 2010, a lottery grant of £376,500 was awarded for improvements and restoration and on 26 June 2011, a formal reopening was conducted by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Anita Ward.
J. R. R. Tolkien lived nearby, as a child, and acknowledged the site as inspiration for the ancient forests in his books The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Nearby Sarehole Mill and the surrounding area on the River Cole is said to have been inspiration for Tolkien's writings.
In 1966, in an interview for The Guardian, Tolkien said:
"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. I always knew it would go — and it did."
- "Moseley Bog". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England.
- "Map of Moseley Bog". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England.
- "Moseley Bog Local Nature Reserve". Birmingham City Council.
- "Birmingham bog which inspired Tolkien to be restored". BBC News (BBC). 30 March 2010.
- "In Memory of a Free Festival". Lizzy Piffany.
- "Elendili - Elf-friends". Three Rings for the Elven Kings.