Joe and I have enjoyed the Harry Potter series for years. We got a late start; it wasn’t until around 2005-2006 or so, when a friend gave us the first book in the series, Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, that we became fans (said friend fancied himself as a “pusher” of sorts – he’d buy you the first book and then you’d be “hooked”).
We’ve since read all the books (and seen all the movies) several times. Because we live in Orlando, we’ve also had the ability to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter dozens of times. And since we like to travel, we’ve made it our business to visit a lot of the places where the movies were filmed. However one place we still haven’t visited is Dobby’s grave.
Dobby (28 June (year unknown) – March 1998) was a male house-elf who served the Malfoy family. His masters were Dark Wizards who treated him cruelly. In 1992, he disobeyed his masters and tried to warn Harry Potter of the plot to have the Chamber of Secrets reopened. He came to know this via the contact between his masters and Lord Voldemort.
At the end of that school year, after Harry had vanquished the memory of Tom Riddle and slayed the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, he tricked Lucius Malfoy into freeing Dobby. Harry accomplished this by placing T. M. Riddle’s Diary inside his own sock. Lucius disgustedly ripped the sock off the book and threw the sock into the air, where Dobby caught it.
According to the series, if you give a House Elf a piece of clothing, they are then free.
Dobby went on to work in the kitchens at Hogwarts, for which he was paid one Galleon a week and got one day off each month. He had been accompanied to Hogwarts by his friend Winky (who had recently been dismissed) and so began Dobby’s new happy life nearby his closest friends: Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
In 1997, Dobby helped Harry spy on Draco Malfoy along with Kreacher. In 1998, he went on Aberforth Dumbledore‘s orders to save the lives of Harry and his companions from Death Eaters at Malfoy Manor. During this rescue he was fatally wounded by Bellatrix Lestrange’s knife, but successfully apparated Harry and Griphook to safety at Shell Cottage. Harry dug Dobby’s grave without magic, in the gardens of Shell Cottage and carved into the headstone of the grave “HERE LIES DOBBY, A FREE ELF.“
The scene in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows where Dobby dies and Harry Potter digs his grave was filmed in the sand dunes of Freshwater West Beach, located on the Pembrokeshire coastline, in Wales. It’s a section of coastline owned by the National Trust. It’s about 2.5 hours from Cardiff, and 40 minutes from Tenby.
The film crew cleaned up after themselves when filming was done, but fans of the series soon erected a memorial for Dobby at the filming location. Fans have continued to visit the memorial ever since, often leaving a sock at the “gravesite,” in a fashion similar to leaving a pebble, stone or coin, on a real-life grave.
So many socks (And painted rocks. And other mementos) have been left on the beach over the years that the former filming location has become something of an environmental hazard.
Went for a walk along Freshwater West and found this memorial to Dobby the house-elf, complete with dozens of lovingly placed socks pic.twitter.com/iSRObQmtVU
— Megan Rebekah, ghost girl respector (@_meggybread) May 9, 2021
Environmental officials considered tearing the memorial down, fearing harm to the beach’s ecosystem. But with over 75,000 visitors per year, they’ve now decided to allow “Dobby’s grave” to remain, with one caveat. From the National Trust:
…the memorial to Dobby will remain at Freshwater West in the immediate term for people to enjoy. The Trust is asking visitors to only take photos when visiting the memorial to help protect the wider landscape. Items like socks, trinkets, and paint chips from painted pebbles could enter the marine environment and food chain and put wildlife at risk.
Freshwater West is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the surrounding area is home to large grey seals, harbour porpoise, and some of the largest populations of seabirds in the world. To protect local wildlife from plastic polluting the marine environment, the Trust asks all visitors to Freshwater West to leave no trace.
In its Executive Summary, the National Trust said: “The management of ‘Dobby’s Grave’ requires further liaison between relevant stakeholders to reach a ‘middle-ground’ which allows access but provides a more sensitive solution for the local environment. The involvement of one or more local charities or groups is suggested in terms of adopting a role in overseeing the site in future.”
So there you go. If you’re a Harry Potter fan and decide to visit “Dobby’s grave” (here’s how to find it), remember the old saying, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”
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