“Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today; for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt.” J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings
Not far from Matamata in New Zealand’s north island lies the Alexander Family sheep farm – home to Hobbiton from “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” films. It is a large working sheep farm of some 1,200 acres which was spotted from the air as an ideal place to set The Shire in the film series’. It is some distance from the road and has a rolling landscape complete with a natural party tree which featured so prominently in “The Fellowship of the Ring”.
I love The Lord of the Rings books and films (less so The Hobbit which is more of a fairy tale in my eyes) and so for my 38th birthday, off we went. I was expecting to be slightly underwhelmed ahead of time…thankfully my expectations were well-surpassed – it really is stunning how well it is merged into the landscape.
The set was originally due to be dismantled after “The Lord of the Rings” was completed but freak weather delayed this and led to a rethink which ultimately led to the farm owners becoming tour operators. Aspects of the set was falling into disrepair and has thankfully been re-built to last as a result of The Hobbit films being made and as such we encountered a delightful view and insight into film-making, glorious countryside and perhaps just a small wish that life was actually just like that envisioned by Tolkien and latterly by Peter Jackson on the big screen. Maybe that is a part of why the books are so loved by millions.
Who would believe that the tree atop Bag End is now made of silicon and steel and has 200,000 leaves individually wired to it? How about making a distant barn look like a tree just for filming? Having the whole area as a government-enforced no-fly zone during filming? Bringing in a handful of black-faced sheep because they looked more Hobbit-related rather than the NZ Romney? How they aged wood using vinegar? Created their own lichen using (in part) yoghurt? The list is pretty long and is just a taste of things we learned. I can recommend this as a tour for any enthusiast…and perhaps just for those who love a view of what life could look like in a distant Middle Earth.
A 2-hour tour included a free drink in the Green Dragon pub and overall (complete with additional purchased ale in hand), a very satisfied customer. Enjoy some photographs of New Zealand/Middle Earth below…I will aim to bring you some more views from the films in the future!
One final word, my favourite quote from any book…
“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” Bilbo Baggins – The Lord of the Rings