We had been longing for green rolling hills, the familiarity of places we knew and being able to pop into the local pub... That day had finally come as we were going to Hobbiton! Yes that's right we were returning to the Shire!
Not gonna lie we were pretty excited! Resisting the temptation to find a hobbit cloak to wear (although we were told some die hard fans go wearing all the garb) we boarded the Hobbiton bus and headed out of Roturua.
It was about an hours journey out of town to Matamata to the Alexander's sheep and beef farm, which had been selected by location scouts as the perfect setting for Hobbiton. 44 hobbit holes were built on this site and we discovered that it is only by the chance of bad weather that the movie set still remains. After the LOTR movies were filmed it was scheduled to be taken down but over 6 months of bad weather prevented it being demolished. It seems that in this time the land owners realised what a gem they had and when crews came back to rebuild and film for The Hobbit movie they insisted that the set be rebuilt with permanent materials and for the shire to remain as part of the contract... Which is why we can visit it now, yay!
As we got closer we caught our first glimpse of The Shire over the hill...
We were told about the attention to detail that was put in to making the setting exactly right. Even the sheep were scrutinised, it was thought that the sheep on the farm were 'too modern' so they moved them to another field and brought in more suitable looking sheep with black faces that fitted in with Peter Jackson's take on the shire. Even the local birds didn't fit in and to avoid their calls being picked up during filming it was someone's job to fire shots in the air to scare the birds away.
It was such an odd feeling walking towards 'the shire', down a small stone walled path, it was like we had been there before. It was only then that we realised it was the path that Frodo and Gandalf walk along together in the movies
And then we found our first hobbit hole!! Complete with window and chimney peeking out from the grassy mound.
Each one is unique with so much detail you could almost believe that the hobbits came back once all the tour groups had gone home! With garden chairs sitting next to small tables of food and half smoked pipes, to the curtains and flowers in the windows. It was awesome!
The look of the Shire was based on an English countryside feel. Trees were brought in and replanted, but one of the astounding facts we were told was that the thousands of artificial leaves were sent in from Taiwan which were each individually wired to the trees to give them the right look!
Even the moss on the gates and fences is artificial, made of a special blend of wood shavings, glue, paint and yogurt to get the right effect.
Some of the hobbit holes were of different sizes to get the right scale for the different shots.
As we walked around each characters house was pointed out. It was gorgeous with all the colourful flowers and different coloured doors. The post box outside their home would depict what that person did for a living, for example if there were chickens painted on it then they farmed chickens. This is Dan outside Sams house pretending to be a gardener!
And of course you will recognise BagEnd!
We only had an hour and a half to walk around the set, which was finished with 25 minutes in the Green Dragon Pub for a refreshing brew! We felt at times that it was a bit rushed but were grateful that we had arrived on a day that had gorgeous sunshine and wasn't as busy as normal. On their busy days they have over 2700 people coming through so we were lucky to get views without other people in them.
The detail in the pub was great too, with notices about missing cloaks and where to get fiddle lessons, books and hobbit paintings there was loads to look at and take in. I could happily have spent longer here.
I had joked that this would be an incredible wedding venue... And guess what... You can get married here!!