Back in 1998, sheep farmer Dean Alexander was enjoying a quiet day on his farm on New Zealand's North Island
when a visitor changed his and his family's lives forever. Jules Lund travelled across the Tasman to see just why.
It seems the makers of the film trilogy Lord of the Rings needed the perfect place to build the Hobbiton village. Peter Jackson, the award-winning New Zealand filmmaker, spotted Alexander Farm during an aerial location search.
The Alexander family knew nothing about Lord of the Rings but they soon learnt. Their property has the three main elements the makers were searching for: a lake, a big tree and a field.
Construction began in March 1999 and filming commenced in December that year and continued for three months. It was all a mammoth task.
The New Zealand Army was contracted to build a 1.5km road into the site. Diggers, bulldozers, loaders, trucks, rollers, graders and other heavy machinery were all utilised.
Barberry hedges and trees were brought in and nurtured throughout winter.
Thirty-seven hobbit holes were created with untreated timber, ply and polystyrene.
The mill and double-arch bridge were built from scaffolding, ply and polystyrene, then glued and painted.
Thatch for the pub and mill roofs was cut from rushes around the farm.
The oak tree overlooking Bag End was chopped down and brought in. Each branch was numbered and chopped, then transported and bolted together. It weighed 26 tonnes. Artificial leaves were imported from Taiwan and individually wired onto the dead tree.
Generators were brought in to run base camp and filming equipment, power, water and sewerage logistics all had to be considered.
Catering for up to 400 people a day involving three two-course meals was undertaken.
After filming, half of the hobbit holes were demolished and when the Alexanders decided to open up to tourism, they rebuilt the holes from permanent materials.
Visitors delight in seeing Bilbo Baggins' house. One hobbit hole was deep enough for Gandalf to enter and so can you, but don't hit your head on the chandelier as he did!
There's much activity at Alexander Farm once again as Hollywood is reconstructing the magical shire for Peter Jackson's next blockbuster, The Hobbit. That means if you are on a tour you will be visiting a movie set before the film's released!
The Tolkien stories and subsequent films have an enormous following and people come from around the world to visit Hobbiton.