Gloucestershire

Puzzlewood, Coleford

Mysterious and enchanting Puzzlewood sits within the historic Royal Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. If it looks familiar, that maybe because you’ve seen this magical woodland featured on the big screen in Star Wars, as well as TV’s Doctor Who, Merlin and Atlantis. There is even a theory that Tolkien used Puzzlewood for inspiration when he wrote ‘The Lord of the Rings.’

A meander around the ancient, moss-covered tree stumps and water-eroded limestone ravines, beneath trailing branches and emerald-green leaves, will surely put you in mind of sci-fi fantasy, dragons, fairies and unicorns. The rock formations, known as ‘scowles,’ developed millions of years ago as underground cave systems, which have subsequently been exposed due to uplift and erosion. 

There is evidence of Iron Age and Roman occupation at Puzzlewood. Yet it was not until the early 1900s that it was opened as a visitor attraction. Today, you can lose yourself in the willow maze, take part in an interactive treasure hunt (via the free Puzzlewood app) and meet the farm animals. These include shaggy Highland cattle, rare breed Soay sheep, cute golden Guernsey and pygmy goats, Shetland ponies, ducks and rabbits. 

The wild animals who live in the forest include shy deer, badgers, foxes and a wide variety of birds. You may even be lucky enough to observe greater and lesser horseshoe bats hunting at dusk. There are many different types of trees to spot, such as oak, beech, ash, lime and yew. The roots of the yew tree actively seek out veins of iron ore beneath the surface. 

Puzzlewood is certainly atmospheric at any time of year. Winter can be a magical time as the forest floor sparkles with a sharp frost. As spring beckons, the new leaf growth is particularly vivid beneath shafts of sunlight or fresh bursts of rain.  Breathe in the scent of wild garlic or surround yourself with a carpet of bluebells. Summer brings a wealth of leaf cover and welcome shade, while in autumn the leaf canopy turns a dazzling shade of gold and tiny mushrooms creep up from the forest floor. 

After walking around the forest, stop for a drink or light lunch at the small café. Children can let off steam in the outdoor play area and indoor and outdoor mazes.

Puzzlewood opens daily from mid March to early November, as well as more limited opening times in winter. Check their website for opening times and admission charges. Unfortunately, the uneven terrain means it is not suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs. Dogs are not permitted. 

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Gloucestershire here.

Pennygrove Road, Coleford GL16 8QB | 01594 833 187 | www.puzzlewood.net

Images copyright Puzzlewood

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