In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—both the book and its 2010 film adaptation (Part I)—the titular wizard hand-digs a grave for his dear friend Dobby and marks the seaside memorial with a stone bearing the epitaph “Here lies Dobby, a free elf.”
The scene was filmed at Freshwater West Beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales, which has become a popular pilgrimage destination for Potterheads. But the real-life location of Dobby’s grave site is far less understated than what you see on screen, because people have a tendency to leave their own tributes. Most of them fall into either of two categories. One is stones of all sizes, painted with quotes from the series, portraits of Dobby, and other Potter-related visuals. The other is socks—a nod to how Harry freed the house elf by duping Lucius Malfoy into handing his servant a sock (and Dobby’s subsequent affinity for socks and other knitted apparel).
Though very charming in theory, the fan-led tradition is threatening to create issues for the region’s wildlife, which includes everything from lizards and ground-nesting birds to gray seals and harbor porpoises. The beach itself is a “legally protected conservation area … of international importance,” the National Trust, a charity that manages hundreds of heritage sites and natural lands, said in a statement.
To better handle the tens of thousands of visitors the beach draws annually, the National Trust recently conducted an eight-month-long review that pinpointed better parking options and toilet facilities as top priorities. According to The New York Times, doing away with Dobby’s shrine entirely was also on the table. But for now, at least, officials have ruled that it can stay. That said, they’re asking people to limit themselves to snapping photos and refrain from adding anything to the spot.
“Items like socks, trinkets, and paint chips from painted pebbles could enter the marine environment and food chain and put wildlife at risk,” the statement explained. Officials are considering working with local organizations to “reach a ‘middle ground’ which allows access but provides a more sensitive solution for the environment.” In other words, the rules could change in the future.
[h/t The New York Times]