A VISIT TO HOBBITON

Hobbiton has become an international tourist attraction that has grown from the filming of  ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ trilogies.

The colourful fantasy settlement is actually located on a farm in New Zealand’s North Island. Hobbit fans from around the world flock there to walk through the magical world where Tolkien’s beloved characters lived.

hobbiton54Bag End

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

CREATING MIDDLE EARTH

J.R.R Tolkien imagined Middle Earth as a continent that was once part of earth many eons ago, not another planet. He designed his hobbit stories to take place over three ages. His ‘Middle Earth’ is a very complex world, no wonder it took him 10 years to complete! ‘Rhun’ is a large area in eastern Middle Earth. ‘Harad’ is located in the south. There are kingdoms in ‘Middle Earth’ too. ‘Gondor’ is the stronghold for men of the west. ‘Mordor’ is located in the north west. With a nod to reality, Tolkien did however, base ‘The Shire’ on rural England.

Tolkien located his Hobbiton around gentle grass covered hills with neat little fields where flowers and vegetables flourished. ‘The Water’ added to the beauty of the pleasant little hobbit village. ‘Bag End’ was the home where Bilbo and Frodo Baggins lived a comfortable life. ‘The Party Tree’ grew on the top of the hill. The mill nestled at the end of a little humped stone bridge. This was Hobbiton as Tolkien imagined it.

Tolkien's art work for Hobbiton-across-the-waterHobbiton as imagined by J.R.R. Tolkein

DISCOVERING THE RIGHT LOCATION

The Alexander family were quietly farming sheep and beef on their property in the gentle green hills of the Waikato when Peter Jackson flew over it scouting locations for his Lord of the Rings trilogy. With its rolling hillocks and established trees, he decided it was the perfect ‘Shire’.

In 1999, a crew of set builders descended on the farm and began constructing Hobbiton with mainly plywood and styrofoam,  Covering 14 acres, the set took 9 months to build.  In 2010, with the production of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, given the go ahead, Hobbiton was re-built with permanent materials.

70 set builders carefully created Hobbit sized gardens and orchards to add to the fantasy world. Real British flowers were planted around the site to cleverly give the impression they were growing wild. Small grass covered mounds formed by New Zealand army bulldozers, further helped replicate a romantic 17th century English countryside. Lichen grew over little wooden fences. Over one kilometre of paths and real hedgerows meandered around the area. Apple and pear trees grew nearby.

Peter Jackson had his set designers plant grass around the set a year before filming.  “I knew Hobbiton needed to be warm, comfortable and feel lived in. By letting the weeds grow through the cracks and establishing hedges and little gardens a year before filming, we ended up with an incredibly real place, not just a film set.” Peter said after filming was completed.

Although it took 2 years to re-build the set, the 400 people who made up the cast and crew, only spent 12 days of filming there. After the location work was completed, an agreement between the film producers and the Alexander family stated the set would remain as a permanent attraction.

hobbiton4Hobbiton

HOBBITON TODAY

Hobbiton has become one of the most recognizable film sets in the world. The site needs a staff of 50 to handle the volume of tourists and Hobbiton is now one of the North Island’s most popular man made attractions. It is also the most visited farm in the southern hemisphere.

To get around the sprawling set, an 8 kilometre road network was constructed and escorted tours began in 2002. Today, visitors from as far away as Europe and America flock to the magical set to see what ‘The Shire’ is like in reality. In fact, some fans even arrive dressed as Elves and Hobbits. An increasing number of couples are choosing to marry in ‘The Shire’.

In 2013, the 500.000 tourist took the 2 hour tour of  Hobbiton.

The whole area is presented exactly as it appeared in the Tolkien films. There are 44 Hobbit holes where Frodo, Bilbo and Sam, along with their little mates, relaxed. This is a manufactured place of tranquility and gentle beauty with the sweet smell of honeysuckle in the air.

hobbiton77Hobbiton Interior

hobbiton43The Green Dragon

The Green Dragon Inn offers a traditional English beef and ale pie. The instantly recognizable double arched bridge, and ‘The Mill’ are the other main attractions.  ‘The Party Tree’ in the centre of the Party Field at ‘Bag End’, the home of Bilbo Baggins, is another highlight for tourists. I’m sure Tolkien would have a smile on his face if he could wander around this storybook place that was born in his imagination. It is easy to forget that Hobbiton is part of a working farm stocked with 13.000 sheep and 400 cattle.

“If you have seen the LOTR movies and are a fan of the Shire, you will really enjoy this movie set. The farm where the set is located is beautiful, and the set itself will make you smile. The shire is real!! Lots of hobbit doors to see and take photos of. There are so many details in the gardens, road signs, laundry lines, etc. Our guide knew all sorts of fun facts about the making of the movies and shared all sorts of trivia with us. The set is bigger than I thought it would be.”  Tripadvisor post.

Here is a short trip around Hobbiton:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysOAVDSgNqA

An amateur cam visit to the Green Dragon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbNhzukPFYI

hobbiton66Hobbiton Signpost

hobbiton-rHobbiton

hobbiton2Party Tree on the Hill

Just 16 kilometres away, Matamata is a typical Kiwi country town and is a centre for dairying and horse breeding. The creation of Hobbiton has changed the fortunes of this small town which is now a popular day trip for those living in the cities of Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton. With thousands of visitors passing through the country town on their way to Hobbiton, a new vitality has brought life to Matamata, all thanks to a fantasy in the mind of a writer being brought to reality by the talents of a New Zealand film director.

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

HOBBIT COINS

In 2012, when ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ was released, a series of commemorative coins were minted featuring the faces of Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins and Gollum. New Zealand Post released some of the coins in pure gold with the most expensive one worth close to $4,000. They were, and remain, the only official legal tender coins to feature Hobbit property. The face value coins range from one dollar to ten dollars and played into Tourism New Zealand’s ambitious campaign to market New Zealand as ‘Middle Earth’ to the world.

The attractively designed commemorative coins proved popular with Hobbit fans both locally and around the world.

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hobbit33If you enjoyed this blog, please share it and leave a comment. You can also find past blogs at the archive page.

Comments

  1. Angela Stevenson says:

    Very interesting well written blog. I thoroughly enjoyed it thanks

  2. What a interesting place is Hobbiton! Thank you for the info.

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