Any visit to the Wye Valley or even Gloucestershire could be considered incomplete without a stroll around the captivating beauty spot of Puzzlewood forest. Located near Coleford and part of the ancient Forest of Dean, the wood is characterised by its timeless atmosphere complete with mossy rocks, caves, intriguing meandering walkways and thriving wildlife.
The unique woodlands were thought to have inspired Tolkien’s Middle Earth featured in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien often visited the wood and even worked there in the 1920s. Puzzlewood has also been the location for the filming of a multitude of big budget blockbusters which we’ll explore more later in this article.
A brief history of Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean
Puzzlewood’s charm is possibly due in part to its seemingly uncontrived beginnings. In the 1800s a local landowner created a mile of winding walkways and paths which characterise the site. He is reputed to have built them to simply provide entertainment for his friends and family in a place of great natural beauty. In the 1900s the woods were then opened to the public with an honesty box at the gate for contributions to the local church. Apart from a few additional mod cons in the last century, the pathways have been maintained in their original layout and are essentially the same, preserving the spirit of this magical setting.
The intriguing rocky landscape of Puzzlewood forest was created by the erosion of carboniferous limestone subterranean caves which then resulted in rock formations called Scowles, formed millions of years ago. Scowles are unique to Puzzlewood and the Forest of Dean resulting in its magical feel and more importantly, they are hugely important wildlife habitats for bats, plants, ferns and invertebrates. The wood has attracted human interest for over 2,500 years as the rock was easily mined for iron ore. The nearby Rivers Wye and Severn were invaluable for transport routes, opening up the whole area to endless opportunities.
There is also evidence of Roman occupation within the woods with open cast mining and typical Roman stone pathways. The Romans built furnaces powered by charcoal to produce weapons, armour and nails and even when they left, axes, picks, swords and hoes were produced to serve the Anglo-Saxon Kings of England who enjoyed hunting in the Forest of Dean. In fact, between 1228 and 1293, more than one million arrowheads were made! In 1848 a hoard of more than 3,000 3rd century Roman iron coins were found in three earthenware pots, hidden in a cliff face within the woods. Although strangely, nobody knows where this find is to this day!
The main charm of the 14-acre wood is its wild, untamed feel with its wandering trails, the unmanaged tangle of vegetation and pervading green hue. There is no set route to the pathways so simply roam at will, taking in the giant oaks, ash and yews, scamper over the log bridges and explore the caves and crevasses.
Video of Puzzlewood
Puzzlewood in films and on TV
Many people have been transported to the otherworldly atmosphere of the ancient landscape on the silver screen as Puzzlewood has featured in numerous big budget blockbusters as well as some UK TV classics. From Horcrux hunting to Jedi Warriors, it has hosted top celebrities such as Daniel Radcliff, Daisy Ridley and Ewan McGregor. The unique scenery has brought mythical adventures to life for many millions across the world.
BBC’s Merlin was shot in Puzzlewood
Puzzlewood was a natural choice of location for the BBC’s adaptation of Merlin across all five series. The winding walkways and leafy dens conjure up the time of King Arthur and the mystical world of Morganna. You will truly believe that unicorns and dragons could be hiding amongst the lush vegetation of the forest.
Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Part I filmed in Puzzlewood
JK Rowling has spoken about growing up near the Forest of Dean and incorporated the magical woods into a few of her Harry Potter novels. The gnarled and twisted trees, mossy stone formations and ancient trees of Puzzlewood are an obvious filming location for pivotal scenes of the Deathly Hallows. The trio of heroes hide out there whilst they find and destroy the concealed fragment of Lord Voldemort’s soul.
Star Wars VII, The Force Awakens in Puzzlewood
Filming of Star Wars VII, The Force Awakens which was broadcast in 2015, saw stormtroopers galore roaming the forest waving lightsabers and fighting the dark forces. The location was described as ‘the most magical forest on the face of the earth!’ by Kathleen Kennedy, Star Wars Producer and President of Lucasfilm. The area was a key location for the film and where Rey met her arch enemy Kylo Ren for an epic battle. The vegetation is so distinctive that you can match scenes from the film to the actual location within the woods.
The Secret Garden filming in Puzzlewood
Most recently the newest adaption of The Secret Garden was in part filmed in the woodland creating a sense of an enormous untouched forest for Mary Lennox to investigate and explore with Dickon and Colin.
Dr. Who episodes also filmed in Puzzlewood
A UK TV household name since the 60s, Dr. Who has used Puzzlewood a few times as a filming location. First with the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, who fought the Weeping Angels in the forest and then returned to the site again for the Christmas special. The team then revisited the forest when Peter Capaldi took over the role as the Doctor.
Puzzlewood has enough to keep you occupied for a half or whole day. In addition to tree spotting and exploring the distinctive geological features, there are many animals to pet from Shetland ponies, sheep and goats to Highland cattle and donkeys. There are also some friendly Runner ducks and Call ducks as well as Silkie, Brahma and Buff Orpington chickens roaming freely.
The woodland is home to an abundance of indigenous wild creatures including foxes, badgers, hedgehogs and even the largest population of the protected lesser horseshoe bat. Many of these creatures are nocturnal so hide away during visitor hours, however, there are also plenty of deer and rabbits to look out for in the daylight.
Keeping abreast of technology, the Puzzlewood team have developed a free phone app to download before you even arrive at the forest. It has all the information you need on opening times and events, plus a host of other features to keep the kids entertained. There is an interactive augmented reality treasure hunt and a colouring game, as well as interesting information on the history of the woodland, Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley area.
The scenery of the forest is without a doubt Instagram worthy. If you want to take your photography to the next level and take pictures to treasure for a lifetime there are also courses to guide you on how to capture the perfect picture at Puzzlewood. Check out the attraction’s website for more information.
Places to eat at and near Puzzlewood
The fresh air of the woodland really works up an appetite. For a quick lunch or snack there is a café on site called Puzzlewood Café with sandwiches and light bites. You can eat in or take food away for a picnic. If you are hankering for some classic pub grub try The Ostrich Inn in nearby Newland for some wholesome pies, ribs and tender beef wellingtons. Or another option is The Miner’s Sling in Coleford which offers an authentically local menu, changing daily, including a full English roast.
Places to visit near Puzzlewood
The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley plays host to many other fascinating and fun places to visit. If the enchanting scenery of Puzzlewood above ground isn’t enough, visit the underground caves at Clearwell and see the mining sites as well as the spectacular limestone rock formations.
Just a few minutes’ walk from Puzzlewood is the delightful Perrygrove Railway. An idyllic way for families to spend the day. Take a trip on a real miniature steam train around the orchards, gardens and woods and ride it as many times as you like during your visit. Stop for a picnic, play hide in seek in the indoor village or explore the treetop adventure playground. There is plenty to keep everyone entertained in all seasons with their indoor and outdoor activities.
For some artistic inspiration a visit to the sculpture trail, also in Coleford and only a short drive from Puzzlewood, is worth exploring. There are both permanent and temporary collections of unique contemporary sculptures set amongst the forest in a timeless landscape to evoke all imaginations. The pieces are scattered around the wood on and off the track so that visitors need to seek them out or simply come across them on their journey through the wood.
For more ideas on things to do in the Wye Valley from canoeing to sightseeing at spectacular historical monuments read our Wye Valley article here.
How to Get to Puzzlewood
Getting to Puzzlewood by Car
The address to get to Puzzlewood is Puzzlewood, Perrygrove Road, Coleford, GL16 8QB.
You can use this postcode for your SatNav as well as follow the brown signs for Puzzlewood from Coleford – GL16 8QB
Parking at Puzzlewood is free.
Getting to Puzzlewood by Train
The nearest train stations are Lydney, just over 5 ½ miles away – https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/LYD.aspx
Chepstow, 10 miles away – https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/CPW.aspx
and Gloucester 20 miles away – https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations/GCR/details.html
You can then get a local taxi from the station to Puzzlewood (details below).
Getting to Puzzlewood by Bus
You can get a Stagecoach bus to the nearest bus stop in Coleford and then get a local taxi to Puzzlewood (details below).
You can visit Stagecoach bus service journey planner here – https://www.stagecoachbus.com/plan-a-journey
Getting to Puzzlewood by Local Taxi
You can get a taxi from bus or train stations to Puzzlewood by using a couple of local taxi services: CDS, 01594 832288 or Sovereign, 01594 836757.
Opening Times and Accessibility for Puzzlewood
From April to September, Puzzlewood is open from 10am, the last entry is at 5pm and the gates are locked at 6.30pm. The cafe also closes at 5pm.
In February, March and October – December, Puzzlewood is open from 10am, the last entry is at 3.30pm and the gates are locked at 4.30pm. The cafe closes at 4pm.
Please note: There is reduced opening times with some days closed during December and January. Please check Puzzlewood’s website for updated information on this.
Unfortunately, Puzzlewood is not suitable for wheelchairs or children’s prams due to its natural and uneven surfaces. Dogs are also not permitted due to the presence of farm animals.
Ticket Prices for Puzzlewood
Children aged 3-16: £6.00
Children aged 2 and under: Free
Family (2 adults and 2 children): £25.00
For most up to date opening times and ticket prices you can visit the official website –
Puzzlewood is a fantastic day out. Be transported to a magical mystical land and discover secret caves and walkways to inspire the imagination. Or simply wander peacefully and soak up the atmosphere surrounded by nature at its finest.