I will try my best to describe what I saw although nothing I could ever say would come close to what it felt like to walk beneth that archway and into middle Earth!
You have probably all asked “what is it that I see from this roadside perch of mine or in the many pictures posted on the net?”
Well the answer actually is surprisingly little.
The parts of the castle you can see from the road make up only a small amount of the entire Hornburg which has been built in Quarter scale at the back of the quary.
This full reconstruction of the fortress is just large enough to stick your head through the archway and the tower stands well above your head, the bridge up to the gates is large enough to walk under. the detailing is exquisite – it sits complete with miniature bags of rice, arrows and swords and even the groves which you can see in the full sized version have been downsized and recreated perfectly!
After seeing the Hornburg in full it was easier to understand what the rest of the set pieces were. The biggest one is the front archway, and walking through it is like walking into another world- albeit a slightly less stable one!
The entire castle is made of foam, the only exception being that the floor is concrete in some places. That is not to say that it looks fake though-even up close the walls cannot be distinguished from real rock.
And it is all complete with lichen and grass in the cracks and there are even stains on the floor where blood was spilled during battle. Adding to the realness are the sacks of rice and potatoes stacked against the walls, along with plenty of axes and wood- there was even a piece of real rotting meat, which stunk terribly and did not really add much to the general awe inspiring feel of the place.
To the right of this the hallway extends a few metres before it opens out into the hillside and to the left a long ramp about three horses wide descends from the second arch further up the hill, along the inner wall there are steps for the human actors and braziers to light the way.
The amount of work is incredible- you can almost begin to understand where all the money goes to when you see the detail, and to think that it was all hand carved!
Continuing on, the piece up the back which you can not see much of accept a row of small arches makes up the second level of the Hornburg and there is much more to it than you would think.
At ground level, the top of the front wall rises out of the ground about three metres and forms the rampart behind which there is a bit of space for running back and forth and hauling up various people such as Aragorn from the armies below. Behind that is a short wall which seperates it from the area in front of the Big Hall (as they call it on set-original eh?) The hall is open at the front and a row of huge arches forms the front of it. Leading up to the arches are steps about three horses wide and on either side of these steps are statues of big Rohan warriors with axes in various states of disrepair.
The Big Hall goes back a fair way and is complete with columns, old tables and woven baskets full of every concievable thing you could need during a seige. I.e crockery, rags, weapons and more potatoes.
At the back of the Hall is a large medieval looking door, which looks far to big and impressive to be just another ordinary back door.
Above all of this interesting stuff and solely in full view of the road is a very boring row of window-type arches – which I am sure you have all seen and wondered about and which, I am afraid, come to nothing.
The set piece that sits up on the left side of the hill is the left hand view of the second level, I did not see this bit because it was getting dark and it was a long way to walk.
That is not all the info I have to pass on to you though, more recently I went back to watch the filming they had just resumed and met some nice people who kindly put to rest some rumours and created a whole lot of new ones to take there place.
1 Helms Deep will not be destroyed for at lest five months. In that time they will be building (supposedly) part of Minus Tirith and will do some more filming once that is done.
2 If you havn’t already heard(and I’ll warn you this is a pretty big script change) Arwen is to blow the horn at the Hornburg during the seige, and apparently everyone is totally surprised at how good an actress she is- the only problem being that they have had to cut a few scenes because her accent was not to good.
3 Another pointless rumour has emerged that the production over spent big-time in the fist five months of filming, losing over $300 million in that time- thats nearly $40 million more than the original budget of the whole trillogy!
Maybe the fact that they spent $30,000 on a 1 hour visit by the New Line executives just so they could see a bunch of Uruks do the Haka had something to do with it!
And last but not least, if you want to see Gandalf and 16 other horsemen charging down a hill waving there swords and shouting you should head over to Helms Deep before friday 12 of May, they are doing it all in full view of the road!
That is all for now, if I find anything else out you will be sure to hear it!