Learning by Being there: Literary Inspirations: Puzzlewood

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean is a place like none I have ever been to before. I've walked through many kinds of wood but never before have I come across one like this. You can completely understand why Puzzelwood has been used as a filming location for movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and TV shows like Merlin.

As soon as you enter the woods you feel as though you've entered another dimension. The amazing, rocky paths carved naturally throughout, twisting and knotting amongst the deep green moss simply adds to the enchantment of it all. The site actually shows evidence of iron-ore mining dating back to the Roman period, possibly earlier. In fact, some 3,000 Roman coins were found here by workers in 1848. The coins were stored in three earthenware jars in a cavity in the rock formations but the origins are unknown.

Listed as a regionally important geological site the area contains strange rock formations, secret caves, ancient trees, and a labyrinth of paths. Many films and TV shows have been filmed here over the years and it's been said that JRR Tolkein, author of Lord of the Rings, was inspired by Puzzlewood.

If it's a hot day, as it was when we went, being in the woods is somewhat of a relief as they are lovely and cool. If it's been wet though, it might be best to wait to visit until another day, particularly if you have older people or children with you. The paths and natural stone steps that have carved their way into the bed of the forest can get very slippy. My son had a fall and a lady we saw along the way also fell over. In fact, it made me wonder if they even allow visitors in wet weather as it can be quite dangerous.

Due to Covid restrictions, you must book in advance so try to pick a month you know is usually quite reliable for the weather, as reliable as we can expect it to be in the good old UK! Make sure you wear sensible shoes and try to avoid taking pushchairs. Dogs are not allowed as there are farm animals on site.

It only takes about an hour to walk the woods. There's a small cafe on-site for food and drinks and plenty of outdoor picnic tables. There's a small play area and a little maze taking you to some musical instruments the children can enjoy but apart from that and the animals, there isn't enough there to make it a whole day out. Therefore, I would only recommend visiting if you are no more than two hours away.

You could use Puzzlewood as your backdrop to learning about many topics from film production and stories such as Lord of the Rings, to the Romans or even iron-ore mining. There is a Roman coin trail for the children with ten coins to spot along the way so it might make sense to use the day out for your Roman learning if you're on that subject.

Whatever you decide to do, whether it's just enjoying a fun day out or use it for learning, you will all certainly enjoy an hour in the enchanted woods, once dubbed the most magical forest on the face of the earth.

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