To Hobbiton and Back: My Visit to the Set of Hobbiton for the movie, The Hobbit

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View of The Hobbiton as you walk onto the grounds.

View of The Hobbiton Set as you walk onto the grounds, July 3, 2011.

New Zealand is considered “The Middle Earth”. At least, that’s how I viewed the countryside as I traveled around in a camper van in July 2011. I had come half way across the world. My husband and I were visiting relatives and seeing the beautiful countryside of New Zealand. And I had convinced him to stop at the famous sheep ranch that was used as the set of Hobbiton.

I had read the Lord of the Rings Series at age 13. The Fellowship of the Ring is still my favorite book of the three. But I didn’t know that filming had started for the next two films of The Hobbit. They were filming the prequel in two parts, but all at the same time. I was in for one of the biggest surprises of my life.

Hobbiton: Movie Set and Farm Tours is near Matamata, New Zealand. It is the Alexander Family Farm that was used as the Hobbiton Set for The Lord of the Rings movies. After the original three films were made, the facings for a lot of the hobbit holes were taken down. When my husband Keith and I arrived, the set had been reconstructed again for The Hobbit. We had to sign waiver forms to not post or share pictures of our visit until Dec. 14, 2012, the release date of the movie, The Hobbit.

So, I’ve been waiting about a year and a half to share this story. It has been worth the wait. I’m happy to bring photos of my visit to celebrate the opening of the movie today.

On the day we visited, it was winter in New Zealand. The set had been closed for shooting until spring and better weather for outside shots. The farm was allowed to bring in visitors, if they signed a waiver. It was overcast most of the day, but luckily it didn’t rain. The hobbit holes had green plastic fencing around them to keep the sheep out. Plus, many holes were covered with plastic sheets to protect them from the elements. My pictures of Bag End show the plastic sheets draped over large parts of the outside.

This is the Party Tree. The swing is at the far bottom for scale.

This is the Party Tree. The swing is at the far bottom for scale.


My first picture above is when you enter the tour. This is the area where Gandalf enters the shire at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring. The current set for The Hobbit recreated the shire so it would look as it did when Bilbo was younger. Everything has been recreated for The Hobbit. But I believe, with less hobbit holes. To the right is the Party Tree.

Samwise's House in the Lord of the Rings series.

Myself standing in front of Sam’s House.

This is Sam’s house below. All the set is build for people 5′ 2″ and shorter. That was the height limit for being a hobbit. I’m 5’4″. I miss the mark for the hobbit casting, but the set effect still works for me. I look hobbit size in the picture.

Inside of a Hobbit Hole set

Inside of a Hobbit Hole set

To the right is one of the Hobbit Holes that was open for us to see inside during the tour. You can see how when the door opens, the actor steps inside with just enough space to walk a step or two. The hillside is dug out enough to allow them to step as if entering the home, closing the door if needed. Then, they would wait until the shot is done. Sorry, all the inside shots of the hobbit holes, including Bag End, is a set on a sound stage. But I thought it was very cool to see how it was all done.

The outside of Bag End

The outside of Bag End

This is Bag End. You can most recognize it by the door to the Hobbit Hole. Here is probably where the most plastic sheets were used to cover the set. Of course, I needed my picture next to this famous Hobbit Hole.

View of the Shire from near Bag End, top of the hill.

View of the Shire from near Bag End, top of the hill.

Here is the view while standing on the path directly in front of Bag End. You can see the lake, the Party Tree, Samwise’s hobbit hole, the mill, bridge, and “The Green Dragon” pub. At this point, I felt I was in Hobbiton. You cannot see anything that reminds you of modern life. With this view, you can tell why they picked the Alexander farm to be the shire.

The Shire as a backdrop.

The Shire as a backdrop.

Here I am at the end of the row of Bag End. It’s at the top of the hill and path. It’s amazing how the feeling of a small village is captured. The paths feel cozy.

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As you come down the hill, you can get a sense of how much detail is worked into everything. The paths, the fencing, and landscaping all gives you the feel it’s being lived in. The plants are mostly real. There was some disguising of trees and reworking of some greenery. But a lot of the plants and gardens are the real thing. Jasmine grows hanging down by the door at Bag End. Even though it was winter, some of the plants have flowers on them. It was great to see it all up close.

Keith Turner standing by a Hobbit Hole on the Hobbiton Set.

Keith Turner standing by a Hobbit Hole on the Hobbiton Set.

Here is my husband, Keith, next to another one of the amazing hobbit holes. I love the attention to detail in the fencing, the roses in front of the door, and the home like effect. It is to note, he is 6’4″. He really ducked down to fit this picture.

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To the right, is a Hobbit Hole that demonstrates the attention to detail on the set. I love this hobbit hole. It looks so warm and friendly. I want to move in, and sit by the fire. I love the footpath leading up.

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This is the garden that the hobbits are seen working in during Fellowship of the Ring. The “Green Dragon” Pub is directly at the top of the picture in the background. I believe there are sheep or cows in the background. During a day of shooting, all the farm animals would be moved. On the day I visited, the animals were out in pasture. So, some can be seen in the previous pictures as well.

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I hope you enjoyed my pictures of visiting Hobbiton. I can’t wait to see the movie, The Hobbit. Since I have visited, I’ve waited a year and a half to share these with you. Plus, there was more shooting to be done after my visit. I’m excited to see what and how everything was used in the upcoming film. Here’s to the release of the Hobbit Part 1. It’s time for a celebration under the Party Tree.

Resources:

The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook (Extended Edition) by Ian Brodie
Harper Collins Publishers, Auckland, New Zealand 2004.

Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours
Matamata, New Zealand
http://www.hobbitontours.com

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