Have you ever felt the desire to step into a fantasy land? Where magic and fairies and wonder seem possible? Look no further than a special section of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England known as Puzzlewood. Maze-like pathways were built into the forest in the 1800s, allowing tourists to witness the ancient trees and moss-covered rock formations that are unique to Puzzlewood.
Pathway in Puzzlewood forest, 2014. c. Leah Putz
Upon setting foot in this enchanting forest, it feels like you’re walking into Middle-Earth, or some sort of magical fairy land. The twisted roots and trees, growing moss covered over nearly everything, and the centuries-old pathways make it a very whimsical place to wander through.
Puzzlewood forest, 2014. c. Leah Putz
The best thing about the forest, to me, though, is the fact that it was often visited by my favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien. His descriptions of Fangorn Forest, the Old Forest, and even Mirkwood are a bit reminiscent of Puzzlewood, and it’s easy to believe that the Forest of Dean may have been an inspiration for him. I like to believe that because while inside Puzzlewood, it’s easy to imagine you’re in the depths of Fangorn Forest, half expecting an elf to pop out from behind a tree or an Ent to spring to life.
Sign at Puzzlewood, 2014. c. Leah Putz
The beauty of the forest hasn’t been missed by Hollywood or the BBC, either. If any of my photos from Puzzlewood look familiar, it may be because you’ve seen it on film. The forest has been featured in Doctor Who, Merlin, and most recently Star Wars: the Force Awakens. After I had visited I made it a game to try to find Puzzlewood in the Star Wars movie (hint: when Rey and Kylo Ren are fighting there about halfway through the film) and in the Doctor Who episode ‘Flesh and Stone.’ I don’t blame directors for choosing Puzzlewood as a filming location- of my dozens of photos I took during my hours of ambling through the 14 acres of wood, I didn’t have a single bad shot.
Puzzlewood Forest, 2014. c. Leah Putz
After about a two hour train journey from London to Lydney, and then a taxi from the Lydney train station, I arrived at Puzzlewood on a slightly rainy day in August, but even though the weather wasn’t ideal, the forest and the surrounding areas were still incredibly lovely. The entrance to Puzzlewood is adorned with an adorable cafe (called Puzzlewood Cafe) and farm animals including Highland cattle, ponies, sheep, ducks, and goats. There are also numerous outdoor and indoor play areas, making it a very family-friendly outing.