“there was still a light on the faces of the mountains far above…The sound of running and falling water was loud, and the evening was filled with a faint scent of trees and flowers, as if summer still lingered in Elrond’s gardens.”

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Kaitoke Regional Park
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Kaitoke Regional Park

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.

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This was my “lembas bread” sandwich in Rivendell
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Rivendell arch
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Rivendell arch
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Rivendell arch

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.

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Rivendell post showing the relative heights of the creatures in Middle Earth. I’m taller than one of them.
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Tree in Rivendell where they filmed the first set of promo shots for Legolas, also part of Elrond’s house
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At Rivendell
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This is where they filmed the bridge Arwen and Aragorn were standing on before he leaves with the fellowship – totally obvious, right?
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At Rivendell
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This was another part of Elrond’s house in Rivendell

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.

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Kaitoke Regional Park
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Bridge in Kaitoke Regional Park
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Bridge in Kaitoke Regional Park
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Crossing the bridge
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Crossing the bridge
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Beautiful tree in Kaitoke Regional Park
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Crazy tree in Kaitoke Regional Park

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.

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Harcourt Park or Isengard

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.

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Harcourt Park or Isengard
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Recreating the Wizards Walking scene in Isengard

Title quote: J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

2 thoughts on ““there was still a light on the faces of the mountains far above…The sound of running and falling water was loud, and the evening was filled with a faint scent of trees and flowers, as if summer still lingered in Elrond’s gardens.”

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