Anne here, and I'm just back from my travels. I went first to Brisbane (capital city of the state of Queensland) for the Romance Writers of Australia conference, and then to New Zealand for the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference but I'm blogging today about neither of those events (though I will, once I've unpacked my case and sorted out my thoughts.)
Today it's all about Hobbiton, the "real live" movie set used in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
I first started to read Tolkien when I was fifteen, but never finished The Hobbit. And never read the rest. I tried again as an adult, but again, never finished. I also started to watch The Hobbit on a plane, and again, didn't finish it. So I was definitely the odd person out on the little tour I did. (I had to confess that what drew me to make the tour was my love of little houses. Yes, a deeply frivolous wench, I'm afraid. The tour guide thought so, too.)
The day started here, at the tourist information centre in the main street of Matamata. The only access you get to Hobbiton is through the tours —you can't just arrive and wander around. And it's not cheap — $78 for the tour (though it includes a half pint of hobbit beer or cider or non-alcoholic ginger beer.)
The hobbit village was sited on a sheep farm set in rolling hills with a background of steep mountains behind. It was originally built as a two dimensional movie set that was pulled down after the filming of The Hobbit was finished. It was for built for exterior shots only, and the interior scenes were filmed elsewhere in a studio.
However after the first movie came out, even though there was virtually nothing to be seen, visitors kept coming to the farm to see where Hobbiton had been, so when it came time to make the second movie, it was decided to make the village more permanent, using real materials, and solid building methods, so it could live on as a tourist attraction, long after the movie had been made. And so it has.
It's extremely cute, as you can see, and the level of detail is delightful. You can see a house belonging to hobbit cheesemaker, a baker, a fish smoker, a bee-keeper, a wood-turner and more — I could happily fill this blog with pics. And the vegie and flower gardens are all kept up beautifully — there's quite a substantial workforce maintaining the village. The tour guide told me a lot of the vegies are used for meals in the Green Dragon.
Before the movie people arrived, the farm was just an ordinary sheep farm, with lush green grass and a few big old pine trees that would have been planted when the first British settlers arrived — pines are not native to New Zealand. There was one enormous old pine that was estimated to be 140 years old.
Speaking of detail, when Hobbiton was built, they wanted a more European feeling, so all kinds of mature European trees were planted to give that village look. And it being early spring, some were still bare-branched and others just coming into blossom.
The gnarled old tree at the top of this photo ("growing" on the roof of the hobbit hole) is fake all the way through — it was made from silicone and the leaves were hand-made in China, and then painted to give the exact shade of green the director, Peter Jackson, wanted. The other trees in the village, however are all real.
I was a little disappointed that you can't actually go into the hobbit houses. There's only one you can enter, but it's empty and like a large closet inside — really it's only opened so that people can have their photos taken looking out of it. As we all did.
The Green Dragon pub however, is very much for people to go into. It's as cosy and warm as you could want, with fires burning in three large fireplaces, and drinks and snacks available, and tables and benches outside for warmer weather. It's early spring in New Zealand, and though it was sunny, the air was quite crisp, so I was for staying indoors with the fire and my half of golden ale.
So that's it for my visit to Hobbiton. I enjoyed it immensely, and whether or not you're a Tolkien fan or a fan of the movies, I'd recommend a visit to Hobbiton.
Are you a fan or not? Have you been to any other book-world or movie-world type locations?