Saturday, August 13, 2011

Puzzlewood - A Forest Adventure

We are lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
The Forest of Dean is approx 43 square miles of woodland, dotted with villages and market towns, nestled between the rivers Wye and Severn on the English/Welsh border. One of the best things about the area is the history that seeps out of every pore. Although now primarily a tourist destination, up until very recent times (and, to a lesser extent, in the present day) the Forest of Dean was very much a working forest, riddled with mine works both deep within the earth and open-cast.
Nowhere is this extensive working more apparent than at the fabulously named Puzzlewood.

Situated near the market town of Coleford this tourist attraction has benefited immensely over the past few years from BBC patronage - fans of Doctor Who and Merlin may recognise the surreal landscape - the attraction has been developed to include cafe, indoor wooden maze, outdoor Willow maze, play area and large picnic area.

The Puzzlewood itself is quite breath taking. From the moment you step through the living archway the light changes as the brilliant sunshine is filtered through the leaves of beech, ash, lime and oak trees that tower above.
The formations were created hundreds of thousands of years ago by the erosion of natural underground cave systems, exposing rich veins of iron ore to the surface which were then exploited by early Foresters, digging it out of the rock using little more than antler picks and rock tools.

All around there are amazing rock formations, secret caves, rickety bridges made of yew branches. The root systems of many of the huge trees are clearly visible snaking through the rocks. Everywhere is carpeted with bright green moss and ferns with the rich red of the compacted earth pathways wandering in and out of gullies and through clefts in the rock.

I was utterly entranced by the place! Needless to say, the Little Man and his two older cousins who accompanied us absolutely loved it! Indeed I would say that this small but beautifully formed piece of woodland could keep any child (and most adults) occupied and captivated for hours...

Meet our tour guide: a very friendly Robin kept us company!
What could be around the corner? 

Climbing the rocks...
Be warned though - the pathways are quite rough and ready, narrow in some places, steep in others. Pushchairs are not permitted within the wood and I would suggest that it is not for those who are at all unsteady on their feet or have difficulty walking. Sensible shoes are a must (I actually saw one visitor in wedge heeled sandals. I can't imagine she got very far!), as is old clothing. The paths can be slippy and little people have a tendency to run about a lot! The Little Man landed on his bum several times and the stains caused by the glorious iron-rich red soil are a PIG to get out!

Once we had finished having fun in the woods it was back out to explore the rest of the attraction, enjoying a picnic lunch (how refreshing to find a tourist attraction that actually provides ample tables for picnics with none of the "only food bought on the premises may be eaten here" signs so commonly seen elsewhere!) and letting the kids burn any remaining energy in the playground.

At less than £20 for a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) and no charge for children under 4, I think Puzzlewood represents excellent value for money and well worth a visit if you are staying in the area.


  1. looks a very intresting place :) lovely photos

  2. Now that looks like my kind of place to go exploring! If ever I get across the country I'll put it on my list.


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