One of the first things we wanted to do when we moved to the Forest of Dean was visit Puzzlewood. This ancient forest is said to have inspired Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Simply for this reason, I knew I had to go there. I was absolutely blown away by how beautiful this place is.
Puzzlewood is an ancient woodland which was once the site of iron ore extraction. There are naturally-occurring underground caves in the landscape, which became exposed over time. This has created the winding pathways and gulleys which we are able to now explore.
It’s instantly stunning. I’ve never seen anything like it before. There are twists and turns everywhere, and it does feel like you’ve been transported to another world. I can’t really describe the atmosphere of the place. It does leave you in awe, and you can feel how old the area is. I think ‘magical’ is probably the closest word to describe it that I can think of.
Puzzlewood is often used for filming. If you’ve ever watched Marlin you’ll know the forest in that show is full of mystical creatures and hideouts. Generally this has been Puzzlewood, which has appeared on the show in all of its five seasons. Dr Who has also been filmed here, as has BBC’s Hidden Kingdoms, Wizards Vs Aliens and Jack The Giant Slayer (among others). There’s a great display with photos of the stars who have visited to film here.
I love how unexpected it is. There are bridges, seats, sculptures and fences all made from wood and tucked away in this bright green mossy forest. You can walk through the caves, climb up and down steps, and walk for what feels like miles and never get bored of the sights.
We visited in Bluebell season, where wild garlic blossomed in between the bluebells. The bluebells are replaced in summer by the unfurling ferns.
Puzzlewood also has a small cafe (although you can also bring a picnic) and animal centre. There’s an indoor maze, outdoor play area and maze, and plenty of wildlife to see too.
One thing to note is that due to the nature of the forest it’s not wheelchair or pushchair accessible. At the moment it’s open at weekends and on Wednesdays only too, so bear this in mind if planning a trip. We went last Easter as well, and there was an Easter egg hunt in the forest as well as other activities for children.
Puzzlewood is located near Coleford in the Forest of Dean. It does close down for most of the winter, so now is the perfect time to start planning your trip. I recommend checking their website for closure dates, prices and any activities which are currently planned. They do open briefly at Christmas so it’s a lovely place to visit Father Christmas. You can also rent a cottage at Puzzlewood and use it as your base to explore the area.
I can’t wait to go back again soon. Another great attraction which is nearby is Goodrich Castle – the perfect place for civil war buffs and history lovers to visit.
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