Our next stop on the Lord of the Rings tour around Wellington was Kaitoke Regional Park, which was home to Rivendell, the last homely house. The section of the park where filming took place has actually been renamed Rivendell. There isn’t a lot to see here today, except for a scale reproduction of the archway. But the location itself is very beautiful, and we enjoyed a picnic lunch there.
We walked the circuit where filming took place – there are location maps at several points to show you where the filming locations were and a pillar showing the relative heights of the various creatures of Middle Earth. Since it’s supposed to be autumn in Rivendell during the Lord of the Rings as the elves are at the end of their time in Middle Earth, Sir Peter Jackson insisted on matching Tolkien’s descriptions to the letter. This meant bringing in yellow maple and other deciduous leaves by the thousands to give the right look. Just one more example of the level of detail that went into these movies. Our tour guide was thoughtful enough to provide props, and we taking some photos with them.
The park also has walking trails, a creek, and a bridge you can explore. It was a hot day in Wellington, so the place was packed with families enjoying the cool waters in the creek. We had some extra time to explore before heading on to Isengard.
On the way to our next stop, we passed the quarry where the Helm’s Deep sequences were filmed over weeks of night shoots, but like most other quarries used for filming is not open to the public.
Our next stop was Harcourt Park near Wellington, which served as the home of the Orthanc Tower, though the tower itself would be a model filmed in the studio. But Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Christopher Lee filmed several scenes there, one of which we tried to reproduce.
What I didn’t know was Sir Christopher Lee himself lived such an amazing life aside from his prolific acting career. He found himself in close proximity to various major historic events like the final guillotine execution, met Rasputin’s assassins, and served in British intelligence during World War II in the (not making this up) Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. Their records are still classified. And those are just some of the things he did before he was 25! He read Lord of the Rings every year for many years and actually met Tolkien at one point. He would have liked to play Gandalf, but he was deemed too old by the time Lord of the Rings began so took the role of Saruman. In the latter years of his life, Lee also released several heavy metal albums, his first at the age of 88. Again, I am not making this up. Check out a few more facts here.
Title quote: J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring