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The Making of Harry Potter
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Image by Dave Catchpole
Warner Bros Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter
Warner Bros Studio, Aerodrome Way, Leavesden, Watford, Herts, WD25 7LS

A great day out for every fan of the boy wizard.

The Making of Harry Potter studio tour, covering 150,000 square foot, on two soundstages opened on the 31st March 2012, with stars galore at the red carpet launch at the Leavesden Studios where all eight movies were produced.

The home for many film productions, including several James Bond features, before a relatively new production company arrived there to make a film about a young boy who on his 11th birthday discovers he is a wizard.

Over the next ten years, the cast and crew of over 4,000 in total used more and more of the studios as the popularity of the books and films grew. The three young stars lived, grew up, went to school and turned into adults there on those stages.

Your tour begins in the foyer, with a flying Ford Anglia hanging from the ceiling and the walls adorned with huge photos of the cast, along with a few props.

Passing by the set of the cupboard under the stairs, you enter a room with a number of vertical TV screens showing Potter movie posters from around the world, followed by a short video sequence showing the rise of Harry’s popularity, the production teams discovery of the stories and the enormous worldwide success of the books and films.

Moving into the cinema, a short film introduced by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, talking about their experiences growing up on a film set for ten years, with clips from all eight films. The film ends with them standing in front of the main doors to the Great Hall and they walk in through the doors and invite you to follow them.

The screen at this point slowly rises to reveal the actual main doors to the Great Hall, surrounded with stone statues and carvings. What a wizard way to start the tour.

Walking through into the Great Hall we are told that we were now walking on the actual stone floor used in the films and seeing the actual tables where the actors ate their feasts. Dummies down each side of the hall wear the actual costumes used in the films. At the far end of the hall is the teachers’ table area, with more amazing costumes worn by Professors Dumbledore, Snape, McGonagall, Moody, Trelawney and Flitwick, as well as Hagrid and Filch too.

Leaving the Great Hall you enter the first of two vast sound stages. This includes sets for the Gryffindor Common Room and Dormitory, Dumbledore’s Office, Potions Classroom, Hagrid’s Hut, Burrow’s Kitchen and parts of the Ministry of Magic, also Umbridge’s gaudy pink, feline office. Each filled to the brim with props and costumes.

Props can be seen everywhere, with a massive cage in the centre, chock-a-block with goblets, chandeliers, wands and armour. A huge glass case contains the wands of 24 of the major characters – less than 1 percent of the total number of wands made for the films. The ornate doors to a Gringott’s vault and to the Chamber of Secrets are seen after passing a wall dedicated to the paintings produced to decorate the walls of Hogwarts.

Below the giant swinging pendulum of the Hogwarts castle clock there are several huge touch screens containing an interactive Marauders Map.

There are sections of the soundstage dedicated to various movie-making crafts. The hair and makeup section, costumes section, animal department, graphic design and production.
The final section in this first soundstage is dedicated to the Special Effects department with three huge video screens showing all the tricks and techniques, including greenscreen footage and CGI. Props attached to their motion rigs, include the Gringott’s Vault Cart and Mad-Eye Moody’s Recumbent Broomstick.

In separate room you can have a go on a broomstick or drive the Ford Anglia yourself, using the greenscreen technology.

The Backlot about half way round the tour is an open air section between the two soundstages where refreshments are available, including Butterbeer the popular wizarding beverage.

Also featured on the backlot are the Knight Bus, another Ford Anglia, Hagrid’s motorbike/sidecar, the Riddle family tombstone, a section of the rickety wooden Hogwarts Bridge, Potter’s burnt out cottage from Godric’s Hollow and Number 4 Privet Drive.

Entering the second soundstage you pass some of the giant chess pieces from the first movie. A number of video screens here progressively show what it was like to work in the creature shop, cleverly leading you from one screen to the next, past models of Fawkes, a snapping Monster Book of Monsters and a giant animatronic head of Hagrid. The next room has the life size (i.e., ENORMOUS!) model of Aragog the spider and one of three animatronic Buckbeak models.

Walking around the corner (WOW) you are transported into another world entirely. The dark lighting and cobbled street can only mean one thing – you have entered Diagon Alley. The shops using the original sets have been rebuilt– Flourish & Blotts, Eeylops Owl Emporium, Potage’s Cauldron Shop and of course Ollivander’s Wand Shop, each and every one them is crammed full of detail. At the other end of the street is Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, with the bright orange shopfront standing out from the crowd of blackness and featuring a moving model of one of the red-haired twins doffing his hat.

At the end of Diagon Alley you move onto the Art and Design department with walls covered with architectural drawings and detailed plans, accurate down to the millimetre, for many of the props and sets already seen. A draftsman’s table serves as a projection screen for another video about the work of the art department.

Moving on, up the ascending path are walls full of concept paintings and artwork, also intricate cardboard models of Hogsmead and the Hogwarts.

You are only looking at a model of the model though, as entering the next room, there, spread over at least 15 square metres is the most amazing, complex and elaborate model built to a 1:24 scale. It has a bigger footprint than the average house.

The last part of the tour is a fitting tribute to the crew and cast of the most popular film franchise of all time. A much tidier recreation of the interior of Ollivander’s Wand shop, with over 4,000 wand boxes lining its shelves – one for every single person who worked on the films.

Exit through the Gift Shop.

Caldey Abbey 26th June 2013 (2)
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Image by Gareth Lovering Photography 5,000,061
Caldey Abbey is an abbey and monastery of the Cistercian order, situated on the island of Caldey, south of Tenby on the Welsh coast of Pembrokeshire. Caldey Island has been known as one of the centres of Cistercian activity since Celtic times and thrived during medieval Europe. However, the current abbey was built in 1910 by Anglican Benedictine monks. It is considered to be the most complete example of the Arts and Crafts style in the country, and the largest project of John Coates Carter. At the time of building, the abbey was called "the greatest phenomenon in the Anglican community at the present time". The roofs are of white roughcast with red tiling, and the abbey church has a south tower, with five side-windows, and has a "tapering" tower with primitive crenellations. The abbey passed to the Cistercian order in 1929. Today, the monks of Caldey Abbey are known for their lavender perfume, shortbread and chocolate production, and opened a shop on the Internet in 2001. A Celtic monastery was founded on the island in the sixth century, and a Benedictine foundation existed from 1136 until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 (Benedictian monks were from the St Dogmaels Abbey located on the River Teifi. Pyro was the abbey’s first abbot; Saint Samson was also one of Caldey Abbey’s pioneer abbots. William Done Bushell offered the island to Dom Aelred Carlyle in 1900. An Anglican Benedictine community, led by Carlyle, arrived six years later in 1906, and built the current abbey in the Italian style with assistance from Lord Halifax and others between 1906 and 1910. Initially a row of cottages were built for the people working on the building; hence the abbey was named as "cottage Monastery." The chapel was added in 1910. Three years later the monks were received by the Roman Catholic Church. They left Caldey later in 1925, due to financial difficulties, and by 1928 moved to Prinknash Abbey. The much stricter Cistercian Order, who now occupy the abbey, came in 1929 from Scourmont Abbey in Belgium. The monastery was rebuilt in 1940 after a fire The monks are now financially self-reliant, supporting themselves with tourism and sale of perfumes. Perfume, shortbread and chocolate production all provide income for the monks, as well as the sale of prime beef. The monastery opened an internet shop in 2001. Their lavender perfume is said to be "simply the best lavender soliflore on earth" by the perfume critic Luca Turin. Chocolate is also sold under the "Abbot’s Kitchen" brand. The monastery used to operate a now-defunct dairy which would sell iced confectionary and cake. Profuse growth of wild lavender flowers in the Caldey Island prompted the monks of the abbey to create scents with new fragrances. They branded the scents and marketed them with the brand name “Caldey Abbey Perfumes.” With booming demand for this brand of scent there was need to import scent oil from outside the island. The scent is now manufactured throughout the year and is partly based on the island’s gorse. The structure is considered to be the most complete example of the Arts and Crafts style in the country. It was also John Coates Carter’s largest project. The roofs are of white roughcast with red tiling, while the large basement arches are of brick. The abbey church has a south tower, with five side-windows, and has a "tapering" tower with primitive crenellations. The windows are simple, with lead glazing. Originally the fittings included silver and ebony altar decorations and other luxurious items, but many were destroyed in the 1940 fire. The refectory of the Abbey was made from fine timber, and although inspired by an ancient pattern, it was modern in design. Two large water tanks underground and a narrow water shaft eliminate the threat of water scarcity in dry seasons

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