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The Shire
By Mikey
Friday, 18th June 2004 22:59

I armed myself with a copy of "The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook" before we came away as I wanted to visit some of the locations whilst we were in New Zealand. (I'd also like to visit the moisture farm from Star Wars Episode IV in Tunisia one day too.) Most of the sets used during filming have been returned to their natural state but the Hobbiton set is different. Because of bad weather, the set was not fully dismantled on schedule and the landowners managed to convince New Line cinema to let them run it as a tourist attraction.

The farm on which the set was built is near the town of Matamata in the central area of the North Island. A large sign in Matamata welcomes visitors to Hobbiton and many of the shops have changed their appearance slightly in recognition. As the set is hidden away on a private 1200 acre farm, private access is not allowed and a tour must be taken by purchasing tickets from the Matamata visitor centre. After a fifteen minute bus journey, we arrived at the farm. The bus driver gave us some of the background of the farm and the family that own it on the way along with the story behind how the location was chosen in the first place. The New Zealand Army was contracted to build a 1.5km road from the main public road to the site on the farm where filming took place and this road is still in place. After the bus dropped us off, our guide proceeded to give us more information and took us around the site pointing out the locations of some of the Hobbiton buildings and structures that had now been removed. The guide's knowledge was very good and he confessed that before tours started about 18 months ago, he had known little about the films or the story. His knowledge was pieced together from repeated viewings of The Fellowship of the Ring, information from New Line and from the family who own the farm (they had pretty good access to the set during construction and filming). Interestingly, the guide's previous job was working for a company that had been bought by a company headquartered in none other than Shepton Mallet!

The entire tour lasted about two hours and I enjoyed it immensely. It's amazing being there and appreciating the work that went into creating the set. For instance, the tree above Bag End in the film was actually taken from a neighbouring farm, dismantled, moved and then reassembled in the right place. Many students then spent two weeks wiring plastic leaves onto the tree that was in shot for only 19 seconds of finished film.


Having taken a few photos and danced on the party field, we were taken back to Matamata and we headed for Rotorua. I'm looking forward to seeing a few more Lord of the Rings locations in the next few weeks. Sadly none of them will be as complete as Hobbiton is but it should still be fun.

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