Happy Hobbit Day!
During our visit to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand in 2017, my mum and I visited Matamata and Hobbiton Movie Set two days before we left New Zealand and started our long journey back to the UK.
As we made the hour’s drive from where we were staying in Rotorua we played the soundtracks from The Lord of the Rings continuously. My mum is a Ringer too, and making this trip to Hobbiton together – as well as New Zealand – made it all the more special.
Visiting Hobbiton Movie Set was everything I had hoped for and more. We visited on a bright, warm summer’s day in late November and thoroughly enjoyed our time, the whole experience being managed very well with small group sizes and a limited amount of groups touring at a time.
Located on Alexander farm, a 1,250 acre sheep farm in the heart of the Waikato, location scouts chose this site after spotting a magnificent pine tree towering over a nearby lake, adjacent to a rising hill. That pine tree was perfect for Hobbiton’s Party Tree, and the set was built around it.
After an initial attempt at demolition that left 17 bare plywood facades behind, the set was reconstructed for the filming of The Hobbit. Once filming was completed the set was left exactly as you see it during your visit.
Walking around the wonderful Hobbit Holes I was joyfully overwhelmed to be there. The level of detail is enchanting with each Hobbit Hole representing the Hobbits that live there. You can see a one belonging to a beekeeper and, among others, Hobbit Holes owned by a baker, a woodworker and a cheese-maker.
After challenging someone in our tour to answer whether they thought a pile of apples was real or fake, our tour guide explained that near enough everything you see above ground is manmade and everything below ground (the flowers, the trees – well, all except one) are real. Hobbiton and its flower and vegetable beds are all maintained year-round by a group of (human) gardeners.
The one tree that isn’t real is the very oak that sits atop Bag End. Still in place and as realistic and beautiful as ever, our tour guide said that occasionally one of the fake oak leaves falls down and makes a cracking souvenir.
A mug of cider from the Green Dragon and a lunch in a marquee just off the set rivalled the finest of Hobbit hospitality; Mum and I chatted with a pair of Australian sisters and compared our sometimes white Christmas with their BBQ lunches on the beach.
With such attention to detail as hand-drawn and handwritten signs in the Green Dragon, a ‘gone fishing’ sign outside one Hobbit Hole and little Hobbit-sized benches dotted around, you really believed that Hobbiton is a lived-in village and that the Hobbits have just popped out together for a few hours, leaving their washing behind to dry in the sun.
New Zealand holds a special place in my heart, nearly as much as The Lord of the Rings does. There are plenty of filming locations I didn’t see and I look forward to making the journey and visiting New Zealand again.
The biggest of thank yous to my mum for joining me on this adventure to the other side of the world; it was a wonderful experience I’ll always remember.