Hobbit location tours open

Kiwis are very proud of their country's involvement with The Hobbit.
Kiwis are very proud of their country's involvement with The Hobbit.

A King Country farm which doubled as Trollshaw Forest in Sir Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has opened its gates to the public.

The Denize family, who own the 690-hectare farm in the Mangaotaki Valley near Piopio, welcomed their first tourists this week after launching their website hairyfeetwaitomo.co.nz.

The location's story is similar to that of the Matamata farm which became the Hobbiton set used in Sir Peter's The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) finds Sting in a cave shot on the Denize farm.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) finds Sting in a cave shot on the Denize farm.

The 80-metre high limestone bluff which runs through the middle of the Mangaotaki farm caught the eye of The Hobbit location manager Jared Connon in October 2010 and a year later, the 500-strong cast and crew of The Hobbit spent a week filming there under Sir Peter's direction.

The location is at the heart of about 20 minutes of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, from the point where Gandalf and his party rest at an an abandoned farm to the point where Radagast the wizard leads a pack of orcs on wargs away on his rabbit-drawn sled.

Because much of the sequence includes studio shots and computer-generated imagery, about six minutes of unadulterated location footage appears.

So integral was the location to the shoot that Tourism New Zealand used footage shot there to promote The Hobbit overseas, and the first publicity shots showing Bilbo pulling his sword Sting from its sheath were also filmed on the farm. Tour guide Suzie Denize recalls the filming, "You would see somebody glueing a piece of lichen and a fake spider web, just in case Peter Jackson wanted to film from a certain angle. The cast were just full of life, quite nice, they would be good people to go to a party with."

Residents of the Piopio township moved out of their homes for the week to make way for the likes of Martin Freeman (Bilbo) and Sylvester McCoy (Radagast).

"Sylvester McCoy was one of the guys we had a chat with in the catering tent and he was all made up and had all of this stuff stuck to his face," Mrs Denize said. "It was make-up that looked like bird poop as Radagast had a bird's nest in his hair."

In the year since the first Hobbit film was released the Denizes spent every spare hour building a ticket office/shop and tracks to make the location accessible.

Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre managing director Celina Yapp, who enjoyed a tour yesterday, said the location complemented Hobbiton.

Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours owner Libby Chandler, who was with her, said: "Hobbiton is more of a cultural experience, this is more of a natural experience."

"It's great Waitomo has another attraction above ground."

Entry is $50 per adult and $25 per child under 14. 

Waikato Times