It was early spring at the Alexander's lovely property near Hinuera. I felt quite nostalgic for my own Okoroire farm years, quite near here.
There were the first early lambs happily sitting all over the area that was used for the Shire and Hobbiton in the 'Lord of the Rings' series of films. Some landscaping and planting was taking place in preparation for the new movie 'The Hobbit', that New Line Cinema is planning to make here.*
Here's the 'Party Tree' that was the scene of Bilbo's 111th birthday party and Merry and Pippin's firework prank.
It was a requirement of the contract the Alexanders signed that nothing should be left, but a series of storms and happenstance meant that the last few hobbit holes were not 'removed' and after a request from the Alexanders, New Line agreed to let them remain in very simple form, but without their brickwork, doors etc. And it's lucky in a way that they did, because now that they need to use this farm again, it is a much simpler job to reinstall them.
I wasn't expecting much, but the tour was very interesting and informative, even to our family who know almost all there is to know about the making of the films, due to James's almost obsessive interest. I especially enjoyed the information about the farm itself, and the secrecy and ergonomics of the filming process - catering etc., for such a huge number of people who had to be on site during the day.
Afterwards it was a pleasant surprise to also have a shearing demonstration and be allowed to bottle-feed some orphan lambs.
Speaking as a local, I thought it well worth the visit and the price. As a tourist, a very good introduction to New Zealand sheep farming, and an excellent insight into the process of big film-making, and the whole Lord of the Rings phenomenon.
Go here to the wiki site for more information about the film. Or watch the excellent material that comes with the extended versions. Fascinating. The music soundtrack is lovely too.
*New Line is under contract to produce the Hobbit with MGM, which is due to be sold soon. It's not considered this will prevent the film going ahead. However I'm not sure what the effect will be of the outcome of the Tolkien Family Trust vs. New Line court case.