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Hobbiton in Spring NZ Exclusives

NZ Exclusive Listing
 NZ Exclusive home
 The Jafas Have Landed
 Tehanu's Second Trip to Hobbiton
 Tehanu Goes to the Auditions!
 Non-Industrial Light and Magic
 Hobbiton in Spring
 WETA Closeup for Technophiles
 Waltzing Around Wellington
 Tehanu’s set visit: Hobbiton
 The Y2000 Mordor Walk
 Last Alliance Set Report
 Looking for Weathertop
 Shadowfax and Other Famous Horses
 One Year of Filming
 Kiwis in Middle-earth
  more coming soon
Hobbiton Gate

I’m getting to like the guy that watches the gate to Hobbiton. I think his story is more interesting than what you can get to see of Hobbiton at the moment.

I paid Hobbiton a visit on my way south last week. It was Spring and the farmhouses were surrounded by trees in full frothy blossom. At the gate to Hobbiton the farmers who own the land there were sorting out their sheep, which is a kind of humble magic all of its own if you’re not used to watching a good sheepdog work. The elder farmer swore blue murder at the dog, the younger farmer was quite polite, but in any case the dog knew his business well enough and controlled the sheep with an imperturbable tail-waving enthusiasm.

That’s farming for you. Despite the horrible driving downpour there was no chance of strolling onto the set unseen, had I been so inclined. So I paid the watchman a visit instead. Imagine what his new job must feel like after spending a few decades of his life in the serious work of saving people from burning to death

He remembered me from a few months back. When I last visited he was an ex-fireman and looked like a typical cow-cocky who’d spent most of his life outdoors. He was puzzled by the mania for "The Lord of the Rings" that had sent over 60 carloads of people down to the middle of nowhere to lean over the gate he was set to guard.

Since then he’s read the books and been taken on a tour of the studios at Camperdown. Needless to say he now knows more about film-making in New Zealand than I do. He’s fascinated by the people, who are the sort of people you’d expect to find in one of the most creative professions in existence.

More than that, he’s become as big a fan of the books as anyone I’ve met, and he totally supports Peter Jackson and his vision for the films.

Which means unfortunately he isn’t about to tell us anything that he’s not instructed to say, because he’s very loyal to the film project. He could confirm that a whole bunch of hedgerows had been trucked in to the set (everyone locally saw that, after all) and also the fact that there’s not much work happening on the set now. The locals have estimated that there’s no more than two people working there now, and the army has gone home, leaving a humungous road to nowhere. The set’s being mostly left to age. And the interiors of Hobbiton aren’t there at all, of course; they’ll be in the studio somewhere. We’d heard from someone that saw them building Bag End in styrofoam or something so no surprises there.

So mainly we chatted about Tolkien’s use of language and stuff like that. Honestly, I didn’t bring the subject up myself for a change! The watchman had his own set of volumes to quote from.

If anyone is wondering whether LOTR will appeal to ordinary people from all walks of life, or whether PJ is the man to make this movie, think about this guy guarding the gate at Hobbiton. You couldn’t meet a more practical down-to-earth person, and if he’s swept up in the excitement of this movie, I don’t see who is going to resist its appeal.

I went off and talked to other people. My search for really great coffee in rural New Zealand led me to the Workman’s Café in Matamata, and the spirit moves me to spread the gospel on that. Great coffee there. Anyhow, by the time I left Matamata I found out that people had collected truckloads of dead leaves last Autumn for use when filming starts, so they can have Instant Autumn whenever they want. Weird. They must have to put them in a coolstore somewhere.

Just think; one day soon the gate will open and there’ll be trailers and truckloads of props, caterers and portaloos, vans full of lights and cameras, and finally the cast and crew, all streaming down the fine new road to Hobbiton. A temporary village will spring up overnight, have its moment of life, and then it will all be over and they’ll bulldoze the whole set into the ground as a safety hazard to livestock.

We should petition them to keep it open as a tourist attraction when filming’s over.

No Shortcut To Mushrooms

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