I was really looking forward to today, we was going to visit Hobbiton, the most recognisable set from the Lord of the Rings. We was booked on the 1PM showing but got delayed leaving our hotel, and the 2 hours drive was a peddle to the metal thrash to get there on time. Fortunately we made it, so what can you expect from a tour of Hobitton?
It all started when Peter Jackson was flying over the north of New Zealand searching for the perfect canvas to build the little town of Hobbiton. He discovered the Alexander Farm and with hectares and hectars of beautiful rolling hill it was exactly what he was looking for. The crew got to work immediately and transformed a small area of the farm in to what we know today as Hobbiton. There was only one thing missing. The beautiful oak tree that in the book that sat upon the top of Bag End. Peter Jackson found the perfect oak tree a few miles away so had it cut up in to 15 pieces and re-assembled on top of Bag End with thousands and thousands of artificial leaves flown all the way from Taiwan.
One thing I didn’t know was that for the Lord of the Rings film the Hobbit holes were all made from untreated wood, polystyrene and a host of other non-permanent materials. essentially it was built to last for the filming and then to go into disrepair. If you cut an oak tree in to 15 pieces, it is going to die.
Following the huge success of the Lord of the Rings the plan was drawn up for filming of The Hobbit. However by this time Hobbiton was almost falling apart. It was at this point the family who owned the farm struck a deal with the production company. This deal stated if the land was to be used as a set again it must be done so in a way that would leave a sustainable and permanent set behind. The production company agreed and in 2010 work started again. This has now left the farm owners with a very lucrative tourist attraction that can see up to 3000 people pass through per day!
The attention to detail on the set was monumental and I won’t bore you with the details, or spoil it for you if you visit. But just one good example is of the pear trees in the middle of Hobbiton. Peter Jackson didn’t like the look of the ugly pear tree so he planted plum trees and had all the leaves removed and replaced with artificial pear tree leaves. All that effort and the trees were only in 3 seconds of the final film. Insane.
So the tour itself starts with a 10 minute bus ride in to the centre of the farm where Hobbiton is located whilst your tour guide explains how the tour will be run and the rules. The first stop is actually somewhere you walk straight past without a thought. Do you remember in the film where Frodo meets up with Gandalf for the first time telling him that he is late? Well you walk right where Gandalf’s cart pulled to stop and see where Frodo’s furry feet would have been standing.
When Frodo jumped in to the cart, remember how small he looked? Well that was because the cart was specially built so that Frodo sat 3 meters behind Gandalf. Camera trickery at its most basic. You then get to walk past the five hobbit holes that he passes and were the children run out screaming for fireworks. One of these holes has a very large and very well maintained garden. Apparently there are 30 full time gardeners that were employed after the filming was completed to keep the place looking prim and proper.
You are then slowly taken around the different hobbit holes and the guide points out where in the film they where used. He also explained why the hobbit holes have different sized doors. If they were filming a hobbit the door needed to be large, to make them look small. If they were filming Gandalf the hole needed to be small, so he appeared large in comparison. Again, such basic camera trickery, not everything is CGI.
Before you know it you are standing outside a very familiar hole, Bag End. You are not allowed in anymore, but a couple of Brits we was grouped with told us that they did go in when they did the tour before The Hobbit was filmed. We decided to head to the back of the group so we could get some clear photos, do you remember the sign on the front?
After bag end there are only a few more holes before you get to walk over WaterMill bridge and on to the Green Dragon for your free drink. You get about 20 minutes here to enjoy the Lord of the Rings atmosphere, enjoy your drink and take in the beautiful scenery before you are back on the bus and back to reality. At £40 each it is quite pricey but well worth it if you’re a fan.