Even before it was retrofitted with several Hobbit Holes to play the part of Hobbiton in Peter Jackson’s adaptations of the classic Tolkien book series, this sheep farm seemed like a perfect stand-in for the famous fictional “Shire,” home of hobbits everywhere.
Indeed, its natural likeness is undoubtedly the reason Jackson and his producers chose the location – with the only other qualification being that it’s located in New Zealand, unofficial real-life location of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
The farm is still an active sheep farm, but visitors can tour the area used for the set.
Most of the Hobbit Holes are fenced off and you can’t enter them, but one is specifically designed for visitors to enter and explore. Tour guides are employed to explain where in the movies each area appears – Bag End is a highlight, along with The Green Dragon, a whimsical old-world pub.
In fact, The Green Dragon is now open for business and at the end of the tour you can have a drink there.
The set is very detailed and the hobbit holes are purposely made to look as though they have been there for years, complete with details like fake moss and many other small touches.
The tree at Bag End is a fake tree intended to preserve the area’s appearance as it was in the film, even though the one featured in The Lord of the Rings was real.
The film version was actually cut down and placed there for the movie.
It died by the time they decided to film The Hobbit, so a fake tree with hand-painted leaves sits in its place, an exact replica of the original.
The gorgeous location makes it easy to see why this was chosen for The Shire.
The farm is in the middle of the countryside, still seemingly hidden from the modern world.
A GPS is helpful in locating it, since there aren’t really any signs directing you where to go.
The remains of a giant penguin the size of a human have been discovered in New Zealand.
The fossilised bones are of an animal thought to have been about 1.6m (5ft 3in) tall, weighing up to 80kg (176lb).
It lived in the Paleocene Epoch, between 66 and 56 million years ago.
The animal, dubbed “monster penguin” by Canterbury Museum, adds to the list of now-extinct gigantic New Zealand fauna.
Parrots, eagles, burrowing bats and the moa, a 3.6m-tall bird, also feature.
Why was the penguin gigantic? “This is one of the largest penguin species ever found,” Paul Scofield, the museum’s senior curator, told the BBC.
It was specific to the waters of the Southern Hemisphere, he added. Penguins are thought to have become this big because large marine reptiles disappeared from the oceans, around the same time that dinosaurs disappeared.
“Then, for 30 million years, it was the time of the giant penguins,” Mr Scofield said.
Image Credit: Photograph by Chris Gin
Sunrise lights up Cathedral Cove, an iconic spot near Hahei, New Zealand.
The natural tunnel is part of the Te Whanganui-a-Hei Marine Reserve on the Coromandel Peninsula.
It also served as a portal to Narnia in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
This photo and caption were submitted to the 2014 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest.
A reconstruction of the parrot.
The team initially thought the fossils belonged to a giant eagle. Photograph: Brian Choo/Flinders University
Fossils of the largest parrot ever recorded have been found in New Zealand.
Estimated to have weighed about 7kg (1.1st), it would have been more than twice as heavy as the kākāpo, previously the largest known parrot.
Palaeontologists have named the new species Heracles inexpectatus to reflect its unusual size and strength and the unexpected nature of the discovery.
Prof Trevor Worthy of Flinders University in Australia, the lead author of the research published in the journal Biology Letters, said: “Once we decided it was something new and interesting, the challenge was to figure out what family it was from.“Because no giant parrots have been found previously, parrots were not on our radar – thus it took some time to differentiate all other birds essentially from parrots to conclude that the unique suite of characters was definitive of a parrot.”