A typical part of Puzzlewood of tree roots, rocks and moss

Puzzlewood is an ancient woodland site, near Coleford in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England, and is a filming location for the BBC drama series, Merlin.

The site, covering 14 acres (5.7 ha), shows evidence of open cast iron ore mining dating from the  Roman period and possibly earlier.

It is now a popular tourist attraction. Over a mile of pathways were laid down in the early 19th Century to provide access to the woods, and provide picturesque walks. The area contains strange rock formations, secret caves and ancient trees, with a confusing maze of paths. Puzzlewood is said to be one of J.R.R Tolkien's inspirations for Middle Earth in The Lord of The Rings.


The geological features on show at Puzzlewood are known as scowles. Scowles originated through the erosion of natural underground cave systems formed in the Carboniferous Limestone many millions of years ago. Uplift and erosion caused the cave system to become exposed at the surface. This was then exploited by Iron Age settlers through to Roman times for the extraction of iron ore. It is usually impossible to date open cast extraction precisely, although ores with a chemical signature consistent with those from the Forest of Dean were certainly used to make tools and weapons in the late prehistoric period.

Evidence of Roman occupation of the area is supported by the discovery of a hoard of over 3000 3rd Century AD coins which were found in the scowles of Puzzlewood. Once the Romans left, nature reclaimed the old workings with moss and trees, to create the unique landscape. The historical use soon became forgotten, and the folklore of Puzzlewood began.

The Puzzlewood TreasureEdit

In 1848, some workmen, after moving a block of stone in the woods, found a small cavity in the rocks. In this cavity, hidden away, were three earthenware jars containing over 3000 Roman coins. No one knows why the coins were hidden away in a cliff face nor by whom.


In the early 19th Century, the owner laid down a mile of pathways which meandered through the trees and gullies to open up this ancient forest, originally for the amusement of his friends and children. Then, in the early 20th Century, Puzzlewood opened to the public, with an honesty box at the gate for the benefit of the local church. Since then it has remained essentially unchanged with the same pathways and bridges as in earlier times, but with the addition of visitor facilities on the Puzzlewood site. It has attracted thousands of visitors each year ever since.

Influences on Tolkien and RowlingEdit

J.R.R Tolkien, a frequent visitor to the Forest of Dean, may have visited Puzzlewood, and many believe Puzzlewood was the inspiration for the fabled forests of Middle Earth, such as the Old Forest, Mirkwood, Fangorn or Lothlórien contained within The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien may also have been inspired by the less well known scowles on the grounds of Lydney Park. When The Lord of the Rings was named Britain's favourite book in the Big Read, TV presenter Ray Mears chose Puzzlewood as the location from which to champion Tolkien's work. J.K Rowling is also to have said to have visited Puzzlewood, and it may have been this that influenced her idea of The Forbidden Forest in the Harry Potter books.

Filming LocationEdit

Puzzlewood was used as a filming location for many episodes of BBC series Merlin, it was also used as a location for the 2010 Doctor Who episode Flesh and Stone. It has also been used for many other movies and television programs.


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