Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

Hobbiton – Our walk through the Shire in New Zealand

Hobbiton – Our walk through the Shire in New Zealand

An image of a hobbit hole with a yellow door and a wooden fence with a gate out front of it at Hobbiton, in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Way before Bob and I decided to go to New Zealand, I held close to my heart the idea of one day visiting Hobbiton.  When we viewed the movie, The Hobbit, I fell in love with the whimsical Hobbit Holes that Bilbo Baggins and Frodo called home.  The dome-shaped dwellings captured the imagination of my inner child, and the seemingly utopian bucolic lifestyle struck a chord with me.

An image of the "welcome to hobbiton" sign at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Of course the allure of fantastical creatures and magic was also fun to contemplate, but it is the pretext on which the Tolkien books are based and the clear underlying message that resonates with me.  The idea that one must always have hope, foster optimism, show courage against all odds, and embrace adventure are concepts that speak to me on a personal level.

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It is impossible to visit Hobbiton without embracing the fantasy world that Director Sir Peter Jackson brought to life from pages of the books by author J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, also called There and Back Again, and

An image of the Alexander sheep farm which is home to Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

it was easy to see why Peter Jackson chose the Alexander farm for the production of his movies.  Near Matamata on the North Island of New Zealand, the acreage not only includes lush green rolling hills, but remarkably there are no power lines, roads or modern-day trappings to mar the idyllic landscape.  It was the perfect place to bring to life The Shire.

An image of the highway which leads through forests to Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

But first we had to get there.  Chris, the proprietor at our lodgings, Panorama Country Homestay in Rotorua, phoned ahead and booked our tickets for a 10 o’clock tour.  An easy hours’ drive through the scenic countryside put us at the Hobbiton Visitor Centre…

An image of the 5 km highway sign giving directions to the Hobbiton Movie Set Tourist Farm in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

where we boarded a bus to convey us through the scenic pastureland of the Alexander property to the valley of Hobbiton.

An image of sheep on the pasture lands at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

My anticipation had me as giddy as a child and was helped along by the movie’s musical score pumping from the sound system along with interspersed details about how the Alexander farm had been discovered through an aerial search for just such an appropriate location.  The short ride brought us to a small parking lot.

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Just as Frodo’s adventure began when he exuberantly ran from Hobbiton along Gandalf’s Cutting,

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so our adventure began by entering Middle Earth along that same narrow footpath.  The passage revealed nothing of what was in store until we broke free of the close stone walls.

An image of the Party tree sitting on a hill high above the Shire at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

And then we were there, in The Shire.  I was bubbling over with joy because, even at a glance, I knew that Hobbiton was everything I had hoped it would be.  Directly in front of us, a crude wooden signpost planted firmly next to a tidy garden plot pointed the way to East Farthing, West Farthing and Tuck Borough.

An image of the East Farthing street sign in front of Sams House with a yellow door and beautiful gardens at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

A turn to either side revealed a couple of Hobbit Holes neatly tucked into the hillocks bordering the village path, each with a different coloured round wooden door.

An image looking up towards Bilbo Baggins home high atop Bag End at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Facing us dead ahead was a network of lanes that wend their way through orchards, over stiles, through a woodlot, by the frog pond, across a gully and up The Hill…

An image of Bilbo Baggins home on Bag End at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

where two huge trees stand sentinel over the quiet village below.

An image of various hobbit holes on the side of a green hills at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

In all, forty-four Hobbit Holes peak out of the undulating emerald hillsides on the Alexander farm transforming a 12-acre section into the centre of Middle Earth.

An image of sheep on a green field beside the stone bridge at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Even the fertile pastures of sheep and cattle surrounding Hobbiton blend seamlessly with the humble rural lifestyle of the Hobbits.  Though we were attached to a tour group of 25 people or so, we were not obligated to keep up with the group but could linger at will to admire each individual Hobbit Hole.  And there was much to appreciate!

An image of a hobbit hole with a yellow door at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Known as a smial or Hobbit burrow, each was a luxurious underground dwelling. As described in a quote by J.R.R. Tolkien, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

An image of Bob and Jean standing in the doorway of the gourd artists hobbit hole at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

In the movies, cozy rooms populated with interesting fixtures are portrayed within each Hobbit Hole, and although we checked to see if some of the Hobbits were home, we found each interior was no more than a narrow shell albeit sometimes used for storage or with a modest piece of Hobbit-sized furniture still in place.

An image of a hobbit hole with a blue door and a tall chimney at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Now, the same cannot be said for the exterior elevations and grounds.  Exquisite detail went into the dooryards and facades of each unique dwelling and provides clues as to the trade of the occupant.  The poorest Hobbits live in primitive burrows with no window or at best one,

An image of Bilbo Baggins home on Bag End at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

while the wealthier Hobbits have more luxurious dens based on the diggings of their ancestors and sometimes expanded from a humble hole into a many-tunneled mansion.

An image of an open beehive in front of the Beekeepers hobbit hole at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

One of the Hobbit Holes belongs to the Beekeeper.  To convey that to the casual observer, a wooden beehive sits with lid open near the front door of the smial,

An image of a small table with bee keeper gloves and two honeycombs on it at the home of the beekeeper in Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

a couple of honeycomb frames are stacked on the tiny table by the door, and the beekeeper’s gloves are right where he left them.

An image of seven jars of honey sitting on a wooden table at the home of shire beekeeper at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Nearby, jars filled with rich, golden honey are lined up at a stall where neighbours using the honour system can drop coins into a rough-spun sack tethered to a stick.

An image of the bread for sale out front of the bakers hobbit hole at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Outside the Baker’s Hobbit Hole, we found a tiny wheelbarrow laden with bulging bags of flour while a selection of freshly-baked bread on a rudimentary wooden stand tempts prospective buyers.

An image of the cheesemakers hobbit hole at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Where the Cheesemaker hangs his hat, a window in the burrow offers a glimpse of cheeses waiting to ripen,

An image of the cheese makers hobbit hole at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

and a shaded table next to the cart trail that passes his dwelling showcases a nice selection of cheeses that are ready to eat.

An image of Jean pretending to offer cheese for sale at a Hobbit hole in Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean

I had great fun pretending to be a Hobbit.

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Hobbits are very resourceful and love to make things by hand; many Hobbits have wares on display to prove that point.  Hobbits also take pride in their finely-crafted items and believe that, if something is worth doing, it must be done well.  Where the gourd artist resides, artfully-painted gourds hang from the rafters, and pots of paint line shelves next to a leadlight window.

An image of various woodworking tools sitting on a bench in front of the carpenters hobbit hole at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Well-made wooden items are on display outside of the carpenter’s dwelling illustrating his craftsmanship,

An image of the carpenters hobbit hole with a blue door at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

and even a pedal-operated lathe stands idle, that is until Bob gave it a whirl.  The attention to detail thrilled both Bob and me when we discovered the carpenter’s tools that completed the picture.

An image of the view of the frog pond as seen from Sackville Baggins gardens at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

It is common knowledge that Hobbits have a passion for gardening, and they put much effort into a well-ordered and skillfully-farmed countryside, but Bob and I were absolutely delighted with the aura of lazy comfort that permeates the Hobbit village.

An image of the flower gardens and a stone window in the Gourd Artists home at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

The whole effect is partly owing to the finely-orchestrated tumble of flowers and plants in each Hobbit’s cottage garden.  Year-round gardeners at Hobbiton ensure that there is a constant succession of beautiful blooms to enhance all of the plantings and adorn each Hobbit home.

An image of Jean standing in front of Sams House at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

The home of Samwise “Sam” Gamghee, the Hobbit known for gardening, and his wife, Rosie, proudly showcases an English country garden complete with kitchen herbs.  A bountiful profusion of vibrant blooms spills over a weathered picket fence,

An image of Sams House with a yellow door and beautiful gardens at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

while pretty pink roses clamber up onto the burrow-like bump of their home.

An image of sackville baggins garden growing at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Because Hobbits are essentially self-sufficient and they enjoy simple food, it goes without saying that vegetable gardens and orchards are scattered throughout Hobbiton.  Vegetable patches are not tidy groomed plots but rather laid out in unique casual designs.  Using a variety of herbs, vegetables and flowers, the combination of hues and textures delights the senses while providing plenty of vegetables for the Hobbits and the grounds workers alike.

An image of a Jean opens a hobbit hole door at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Our tour guide also relayed interesting details about the film production when we were within earshot.  One fun fact is that the director had to come up with a way of accentuating the significant size differences between the Hobbits, elves, dwarves, men, and Gandalf, the wizard.  One method employed to create the illusion was by building Hobbit Holes in graduated sizes ranging from 60% to 100% scale.  Gandalf standing next to a small door like the one above would appear far taller than Frodo where he was filmed entering a full-sized door.

An image of the Party field at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

In Hobbiton, the Hobbit Holes blend seamlessly with the grassy plain, whereas some other features dominate the quiet village.  Case in point, The Party Tree.  As described in The Hobbit, any festivals or birthdays are celebrated by all the Hobbits gathering around The Party Tree where it presides over the Party Field.

A wide angle image of the party field and distant hills at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean

When scouting for a movie location, the director took note of an enormous pine tree next to a small lake on the Alexander’s property.  Jackson knew immediately that it would make the perfect Party Tree and become the centrepiece of Bilbo’s 111th birthday festivities.

A closeup image of Bilbo Baggins home on Bag End at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

The natural landscape of the movie location also provided the perfect spot for the most important Hobbit Hole, that of Bilbo Baggins of Bag End.  Providing the best view of The Shire, it had to be nestled beneath The Hill and sheltered by a massive oak tree.  Only problem was the lack of an aptly-placed oak tree.

A closeup image of Bilbo Baggins home on Bag End at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

So, when filming Lord of the Rings, they constructed an oak tree using pieces of a massive oak tree that grew near Matamata.  Branches of the living tree were numbered and cut, the trunk sectioned, then all parts were moved and pieced back together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Following filming, that tree was dismantled.

An image of Bilbo Baggins home on Bag End at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

When it was decided to make The Hobbit movie a few years later, another oak tree had to be put in place above Bag End but one that looked 60 years younger than the first one, to be true to the story line.  This time an artificial tree with 200,000 synthetic leaves was installed on top of The Hill.  It is so realistic that it took our tour guide to enlighten us about the secret.

An image of the flower garden and stone steps our front of Bilboo Baggins Home at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Bob and I were tickled when our wanderings brought us to Bilbo Baggins’ doorstep.  A short series of stone steps leads from the gate to a commodius Hobbit Hole befitting of a village elder,

An image of the green door at Bilbo Baggins home on Bag End at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

and to be sure, it had the iconic green door.  Standing slightly ajar, the door hinted that Bilbo had left in a hurry, and the glimpse into his burrow was enough to suggest a world of adventure just waiting within.

An image of flower gardens out front of Bilboo Baggins Home at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Although a wooden bench in Bilbo’s garden begs visitors to sit a spell,

An image of Bob and Jean standing outside of Bilbo Baggins House at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

the warning issued on the infamous sign, “No Admittance – Unless on Party Business”, forestalled any temptation.  Guess Bilbo was out making plans for his birthday party!

An image of a hobbit hole with a red door at Hobbiton, in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

I could have stayed in Hobbiton all day soaking up the ambience.  It is a magical place that had me recalling bygone eras and simpler times.

An image of a hobbit hole with a blue door in the side of a hill at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

We leisurely scrutinized each burrow-like bump that was so neatly sheltered by earth and blanketed with wildflowers, grass and clover,

An image of hobbit clothing hanging on a clothes line at Hobbiton Movie Set in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

and delighted in the small Hobbit-sized clothes hung on the line to dry.

An image of a fish being filleted on a wooden table at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

We noted every exquisite detail that marked each Hobbit’s dwelling…

An image of a Jean using a hobbit leaf rake at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

such as garden tools at rest by the front door,

An image of the community garden filled with various flowers and plants at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

a winsome scarecrow defending a vegetable patch,

An image of a herbs drying in a wood shed hobbit hole beside a hobbit hole at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

tiny terracotta pots stacked neatly by one aspiring gardener,

An image of the community billboard in Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

the village bulletin board crammed with current notices,

An image of a mail box with sheep painted on it at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

a whimsical letter box,

An image of a hobbit hole with a green door at Hobbiton, in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

the woodcutter’s ample supply of firewood…

An image of a rustic wooden gate at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean

a lichen-crusted wooden gate outfitted with hand-forged hardware, and

An image of a various vegetables sitting on a bench beside a garden at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean

wicker baskets overflowing with the garden’s bounty.

An image of various hobbit holes among green hills at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Everything pointed to the peaceful life that Hobbits have in this beautiful, fruitful land where country living is at its finest.  We could understand why Hobbits are content to remain in The Shire enjoying the comforts of home, and yet Frodo and Bilbo found the courage to leave Hobbiton and set off on an adventure.

An image of the frog pond with a duck hunting for food on the bottom at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

Our own adventure continued as we wandered past the Frog Pond and Sackville Gardens, skirted The Party Field…

An image of the green fields covered in sheep sitting in front of the old watermill at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean

then ducked into the cool shade of a small forest where we followed the Merry Meander alongside Ferny’s Fen, ’round The Water and to the Watermill.

An image the old water mill at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

The Mill, as it is commonly called, is absolutely adorable.  Inspired by a similar mill that J.R.R. Tolkien remembered from his youth when living near Birmingham, England, the gently-turning wheel creates a sense of peace and tranquility…a good place to sit and ponder life for awhile.

An image of the old water mill beside the stone bridge over the pond at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

The Mill is located adjacent to Bywater Bridge on the shore of The Water.  It has been run by the Sandyman family for generations and provides ground corn to the Hobbits.  It’s large waterwheel is powered by the meandering river that runs through Hobbiton.

An image of the Green Dragon Inn on the pond at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean

As we neared the end of our tour, The Green Dragon Inn came into view, so we lingered on the beautiful arched stone bridge admiring the soft reflection of Hobbiton in The Water.  The tour guide soon hastened us and we were pleased that she did.

An image of Jean standing at the counter inside the Green Dragon Pub at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean

When Bob and I slipped into the warm, cozy atmosphere of The Green Dragon Inn, we were enveloped in the amiable atmosphere of a Hobbit’s life.  Technically in Bywater east of Hobbiton, The Green Dragon Inn is a watering hole for Hobbits from both villages, and as we contemplated which specially-brewed refreshment to toast our immersion in all things Hobbit,

An image of the main fireplace inside the Green Dragon Pub at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

we could have sworn that Frodo peeked through one of the round wooden windows.

An image of interior of the Green Dragon Pub at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

With the glow from crackling log fires warming the golden tones of the rustic interior, the atmosphere had us wanting to stay right there in Hobbiton.  We could feel the history of the place simply by appreciating all of the artifacts displayed on shelves and fireplace mantels.

An image of Jean offering cookies for sale behind the main counter at the Green Dragon Pub at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

The many rooms of the Pub offer ample seating for those who want to sample some of the rustic fare, and I was given the opportunity to step into the role of a barmaid and tempt fellow pub-goers with a choice of sweet treats.

An image of the carved wooden green dragon inside the Green Dragon Pub at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean

Thankfully, there is only one dragon in The Shire, and that is the masterfully-carved Green Dragon that graces the arch above the bar of the Inn.

An image of the Party Tree sitting on the side of a hill at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean

Our adventure did not end there.  As we strolled along The Water’s edge towards East Farthing, we were given a pretty view of small Hobbit Holes dug into the far shore at the edge of The Party Field.

An image of the fishing nets and fishing wharf on the pond at Hobbiton in New Zealand.

Passing by a collection of fishing nets and traps set out to dry by one Hobbit gave away the ideal fishing hole, and to perpetuate the fantasy, a primitive wooden rack was hung with fish to dry.

An image of the Green Dragon Inn at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Photography by Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean.

As we were paraded back towards the parking lot, I reflected on this truly magical place.  For me, it had been the opportunity to visit a fictional land not a movie set.  I was able to experience where the story had taken place, not where a movie had been filmed.  I played at touching something untouchable by unlatching the gates, opening the doors, peaking into the mailboxes, walking in the footsteps of The Hobbits and sitting in the Inn.  It was great fun visualizing the imaginary as it related to the physical space of that 12-acre plot known as Hobbiton, and the whole experience had been grand.

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