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Published: January 31st 2005
Inside Bag End
Obligatory cheesy shot!
We set off early again, in search of a special place. We had scoured our tourist road atlas and asked at the information centre, but nobody seemed to know the way. We even looked for a small ugly creature with a rasping voice to take us there, but to no avail. We knew it wasn’t far away…
We then consulted our copy of the Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook. Sure enough, it was able to tell us. To find The Shire, we had to head for a place called Matamata.
So, after an hour and a half of expert driving (Graeme) and excellent navigation (me) through flat farmland and small rolling hills, we came to Matamata. Arranging a visit to The Shire turned out to be very easy - tours run frequently throughout the day, and luckily there were spaces on the next tour. It seems to be Matamata’s biggest tourist attraction - in the middle of a dairy farming and horse training region there’s not a lot else to see.
We were loaded onto a bus (called Gandalf) with lots of other would-be hobbits and travelled to a sheep farm 20 minutes from Matamata. We heard
Looking down on Hobbiton
with the Party Tree on the left of the photo
about how Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema found the location, how they were contracted to destroy the set after filming and only the rain delayed them (by which time the farm owners had thought ‘hey up, here’s a way to make a bob or two’) and how it’s the only one of the 150-odd sets used in the films that still survives. We were shown the road that the army built specially for the films, the car park where the technical trucks parked, and the big field where make-up, costumes and catering were. All very exciting, but not why we were there…
And then, around the next bend, was the lake. And the party tree. And a board saying ‘Welcome to Hobbiton’ - not very authentic! Down a hill and round another corner, and we found what we were looking for - the remaining 17 hobbit holes. They are merely plywood facades in the side of a hill because the detail was taken to Wellington for filming in a studio, but they were pretty cool. We saw the tree where Gandalf set off the fireworks when he came into Hobbiton, the field where the Hobbits partied on the
night that Bilbo disappears, the place where Sam’s house is at the end of The Return of the King. The highlight was definitely Bag End, Bilbo and Frodo’s house, which we could go into and have these cheesy photos taken. Sadly all the interior shots were done in a studio, but it was cool to see the outsides! Apparently people regularly dress up as hobbits on these tours, but our tour was lacking anyone quite
Our visit to the Shire was sadly short, and we didn’t meet any real live hobbits (they were all out to lunch!). It was an interesting visit, and we’re going to have to get the first film out on video again soon to put the places we’ve seen today into perspective!
Till the next time - adios x
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