From fairytale castles and mystical caves to secret beaches and ancient woodlands, England is full of hidden gems and deeply buried secrets.
One of the most mysterious places to visit in England is the aptly named Puzzlewood.
Puzzlewood is a magical and enchanting woodland in the depths of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, which has graced the silver screen and our television sets time and time again, including as a prominent Star Wars filming location.
Secrets of England: Why You Should Visit Puzzlewood in Gloucestershire
Puzzlewood is a kaleidoscope of thick gnarled branches and mossy oaks and offers so much mystique and magic in its surroundings, that it’s no wonder it has become a popular filming location for the likes of Dr Who, Merlin, Jack the Giant Slayer – and most famous of all – Star Wars.
Once you’re wandering around this incredible forest yourself, we can assure you that you will be in awe of your surroundings and will be lost in an enchanting landscape that you thought only possible within fantasy novels.
Puzzlewood is a remarkable 14 acre ancient woodland with a maze of pathways and twists and turns at every corner.
There is no right or wrong way to walk through this wood, no right or wrong turning. Just maze upon maze, twist upon twist and turn upon turn of marvellous forest to keep you second guessing for a couple of hours at least.
Climb the ancient stone steps, duck under the low-hanging branches and balance on the wooden stepping stones. Simply enjoy disconnecting from the outside world while walking through these impressive and unique woods.
But it’s not only the natural surroundings to admire. There are also several gnarled, twisted and unique benches dotted around the woods. Although manmade, they fit in perfectly with the forest’s mystical vibe.
Some of these benches will be along the side of swamp areas, others will be hidden beneath overhanging branches and some will require you to cross rickety bridges to get to them.
Puzzlewood Star Wars Filming Location
So by now, you’re probably wondering which scenes in Star Wars were filmed at Puzzlewood. If you’ve visited before, then you would have instantly recognised the woods. The twisting trees really are that distinguishable!
Roughly halfway through Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren and The First Order can be seen destroying planets with red laserbeams.
As this is happening, we can see Rey running through some woods, shortly followed by her trusty droid BB-8. This is the first moment we see Puzzlewood within this Star Wars movie.
Later, Rey returns to the woods and is met by Kylo Ren who tries to extract information on Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts from her mind. He then kidnaps her. All of these infamous scenes were also filmed within Puzzlewood.
Kathleen Kennedy, the President of Lucasfilm was once quoted as saying: “[Puzzlewood is] the most magical forest on the face of the earth. It was pretty amazing when we found it, because Puzzlewood defined everything that we were looking for, and it was extraordinary when we got there.”
Kathleen – we would have to agree with you!
Other Filming At Puzzlewood
Alongside Star Wars, Puzzlewood has been a magical filming location for lots of other hit TV shows and movies like:
- The Secret Garden (2020)
- Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)
- Doctor Who (2005-present)
- Merlin (2008-2012)
You can see a full list of Puzzlewood filming locations here.
The Art of Getting Lost in Puzzlewood
Whether you’re wandering around this woodland alone, with friends or your other half, don’t try to take note of where you’re going or where you should be going.
The sheer magic of this wood is in getting lost in it.
Scott and I were so engrossed in our conversation and in the magical landscape of this entire place, that we didn’t think too much about where we were going. Instead, we just let our feet do the deciding… and we very quickly became lost.
Little did we know that at one point, we had completed a full circle of the forest.
We were halfway through covering the same paths that we’d already stumbled along before we realised we’d already come this way.
We cannot tell you just how surreal that feeling is… to have walked for over fifteen minutes along the same path you walked along only an hour earlier and for you not to realise.
What we also found amusing at the time was that we’d passed the same mature couple four or five times as well. They were quite clearly as lost as were as we heard glimpses of their conversation: “Where are we?”, “No, we’ve already come this way…”, “Have we?”
We felt the same way they did… and then we had the sudden dawning realisation: “That’s our future right there.” Understandably, this kept us in fits of giggles as we continued stumbling along and getting even more lost.
That is the power and magic that Puzzlewood has in abundance.
Visiting Puzzlewood Today
Getting There: Puzzlewood is less than a mile south of Coleford in the Forest of Dean. The simplest way to get there is to drive to Coleford and follow the brown tourist signs for Puzzlewood. If you’re using Google Maps or a SatNav then use the postcode: GL16 8QB.
Opening Hours: Throughout the summer months, Puzzlewood is open daily between 10am – 5pm. However, other months only offer entry on Wednesdays and weekends – and last entry is at the slightly earlier time of 3.30pm. Please also note that the woods are completely closed during January and in severe weather conditions or with winds of over 25 mph. For the full guide on opening hours depending on when you’re visiting, take a look at the official Puzzlewood website. Please note there are also admission charges for adults and children aged 2+ years.
Facilities: There’s a large free car park and toilets onsite. They also have a small café offering simple snacks, cakes, sandwiches and drinks. The café also stocks a few souvenirs and gifts but don’t expect a whole shop for this. Your best souvenir will be the memories of getting lost and the endless photographs you’ll want to take.
Other Things To Do in the Forest Of Dean
Clearwell Caves are still something of a hidden gem in England, and as they’re just one minute down the road from Puzzlewood, it’s certainly possible to visit both in one day.
The caves are home to thousands of years worth of mining history thanks to the iron ores and red, yellow, purple and brown ochre (a type of clay often used for pigments) found inside them. In fact, there are still ‘Forest Freeminers’ alive today whose birthrights entitle them to dig for the precious ochres and iron even now.
But a trip to these caves is especially fantastic at Christmas-time as you’ll be transported into a magical winter wonderland below ground complete with fairy lights, festive displays and even a Christmas market! We went a few years ago and loved it!
This castle is a Norman medieval castle and has been preserved well over the centuries. The poet William Wordsworth even praised it as “the noblest ruin in Herefordshire”.
Canoeing & Kayaking
The Forest of Dean is also home to the River Wye, which runs through the Wye Valley and makes for a very special canoeing or kayaking experience.
Go Ape Forest of Dean
Who doesn’t love an adventurous day of climbing trees and ziplining through the air?
At 15 metres above the ground, the Treetop Challenge at Go Ape Forest of Dean is a high one even for thrill seekers – and is sure to get your blood pumping!
We hope you’ve found this guide to the Puzzlewood Star Wars filming location useful and that it has convinced you to head to Puzzlewood for an interesting and unique day out.
This is no ordinary forest… it’s puzzling, intriguing, mystifying and enchanting – come see for yourself! And if you do, let us know in the comments!
We’d also love to hear your stories if you’ve already been to Puzzlewood. Did you get lost too? Share your stories, hints and tips below…
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