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Tuesday May 28th 2024

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe | 2005

The Chronicles Of Narnia : The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe film location: Purakaunui Bay, New Zealand
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe film location: the kings and queens are crowned at ‘Cair Paravel’: Purakaunui Bay, New Zealand | Photograph: Flickr / John Steedman

Close friends CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien both wrote epic fantasy novels inspired by the English countryside, so when it came to bringing the Lord Of The Rings and The Chronicles Of Narnia to the big screen, it was inevitable the films would be shot in – New Zealand.

Lewis’s thinly veiled Christian allegory also used the stark, rocky landscapes of the Czech Republic.

The film’s New Zealand North Island base was the old Hobsonville Air Base in northwestern Auckland, where most of the spectacular sets were built, including London’s ‘Paddington Station’, as the Pevensie children are evacuated from the capital to avoid the bombing of the city during WWII.

The subsequent railway journey to ‘Coombe Halt’ is the only section filmed in the UK, on the the Severn Valley Railway, a full-size, standard-gauge steam railway, running 16 miles between Kidderminster in Worcestershire and Bridgnorth in Shropshire, also seen in the 1978 version of The Thirty-Nine Steps.

‘Pewsey Station’, where the first evacuees receive a warm welcome on the train’s first stop, is Highley Railway Station on the SVR line in Shropshire. Opened in 1862, and having operated for over 100 years before closing to main line services, Highley is now the station for the Severn Valley Railway’s Engine House Visitor Centre.

From Highley the train journeys north, crossing the Oldbury Viaduct en route to Bridgnorth – and that’s all there is of England.

It’s back to Auckland to find where the Pevensies stay with Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent). Although the gardens of the professor’s house are Monte Cecilia Park, the grounds of the Pah Homestead, 72A Hillsborough Road, Hillsborough, to the south of the city, the house itself is nothing more than a digital invention.

Its design is based on the moated Tudor manor house of Kentwell Hall, at Long Melford on the A134, three miles north of Sudbury in Suffolk, England. You can see the real Kentwell on screen in the 1996 screen version of another children’s classic, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows (as ‘Toad Hall’), but more famously in the far less benign Witchfinder General, with Vincent Price as the notorious Matthew Hopkins.

The Chronicles Of Narnia : The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe film location: Tiské stěny, Tisa, Czech Republic
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe film location: winter in Narnia: Tiské stěny, Tisa, Czech Republic | Photograph: Wikimedia / Zp

Confined indoors by constant rain, it’s not long before the Pevensie children (they’re certainly not ‘kids’, are they?) discover that the wardrobe standing alone in a disused room offers a portal into another world.

There wasn’t enough dependably deep snow in New Zealand to represent ‘Narnia’s’ permanent winter, so the production moved to Europe, and the Czech Republic.

The forbidding rock formations through which Lucy (Georgie Henley) is led on the way to the home of Mr Tumnus (James McAvoy) are Tiské steny (The Tisá Walls), towering above the village of Tisá, about 50 miles north of Prague. As you can see, with sheer faces and numerous crevices, the cliffs provide an ideal spot for experienced rock climbers.

The icy wastes of ‘Narnia’ were filmed further east near the Polish border, in Adrspach National Park, Trutnov, where sandstone outcrops have weathered into a dramatic vista of towers and terraces, between the towns of Adrspach and Teplice.

The Chronicles Of Narnia : The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe film location: Pravcicka Brana, Czech Republic
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe film location: the Beavers take the children to the stone arch: Pravcicka Brana, Czech Republic | Photograph: wikimedia / Sredlova

Back towards Tisá, the snow-covered rock arch, over which the Beavers lead the children to point out the realm of Aslan, is Pravcicka Brana, the largest natural sandstone arch in Europe with a span of over 25 metres.

To prevent the inevitable damage that would be caused by numerous visitors, the arch is now strictly off-limits (even the cast had to be added digitally for the film), but you can view it from the Falcon’s Nest hotel alongside.

Once the powers of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) are challenged and the children start out on their trek to find Aslan (Liam Neeson), the winter begins to retreat, and it’s back to New Zealand. The springtime landscapes were filmed in a valley appropriately called Paradise, 1771 Glenorchy-Paradise Road, in Glenorchy, at the head of Lake Wakatipu toward the south of the South Island. The film-friendly area was also used as ‘Lothlorien Woods’ in The Lord Of The Rings and for the farmhouse where Logan hides out in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Aslan’s encampment, where the children spruce up their combat skills as the lion explains their destiny to Peter (William Moseley), was built at Elephant Rocks, Island Cliff-Duntroon Road, Tokarahi, a collection of weathered limestone outcrops on farmland about three miles southwest of Duntroon, inland from Oamaru on the South Island. Once a prehistoric seabed, the land has been uplifted in the last million years or so and eroded by wind and rain into the organic looking shapes.

Seeming to be nearby, but back northwest of Auckland on the North Island, the unfortunate Edmund (Skandar Keynes) is held captive in the camp of the White Witch in the darker depths of Woodhill Forest, a pine forest northwest of the city, off State Highway 16.

But it’s back to the South Island for the great climactic battle between good and evil, fought on the lush green slopes of Flock Hill, off West Coast Road north of Castle Hill, high in the South Island’s Alps, northwest of Christchurch. Although it’s private land, you can visit on organised tours.

The battle won, the Pevensies are crowned kings and queens at the ‘Great Castle of Cair Paravel’, which was added digitally to the spectacular clifftops above Purakaunui Bay, a few miles north of north of Dunedin, and it’s across the sands of the Bay that the lone figure of Aslan finally disappears.

Although obviously not seen in the film, CS Lewis’s vision was originally inspired by the Golden Valley in Herefordshire, lying between the Wye Valley and the border of Wales. Between the villages of Dorstone and Bredwardine, you’ll find a Neolithic burial chamber, known as King Arthur's Stone, which is supposed to have given Lewis the idea for the stone slab on which Aslan is sacrificed.

Richard Attenborough’s 1993 film Shadowlands, which dramatises the story of CS Lewis’s late blossoming love for American novelist Joy Gresham, features Symonds Yat, a a five-mile horseshoe bend in the River Wye, another inspiration for the idyllic countryside of ‘Narnia’.