Return to Puzzlewood

An enchanted forest on the border of England and Wales, home to wizards, fairies and heroes…

I visited Puzzlewood for the second time recently and it wasn’t because I was last there in August that it looked familiar – it was familiar because it has appeared many times on film and television – lots of  scifi & fantasy genre ones at that. It doubles wonderfully for ancient mystic forests, fairy glens and alien planets.

The BBC has used it for Merlin, Robin Hood, Doctor Who and the recent Russell T Davies version of A Midsummers Night’s Dream. Hollywood has been a few times – Ewan McGregor wandered through it while filming Jack The Giant Slayer and probably it’s most notable recent appearance has been in Star Wars The Force Awakens. Look for the part when Rey runs away from Maz’s castle – the wood where she gets captured by Kylo Ren is Puzzlewood.

I had heard of the location a while ago but assumed it was in the middle of no-where somewhere down south. It’s actually barely 15 minutes off the main motorway to Cardiff! Perfect place to stop on the way to one of my favourite geeky cities.

So last summer I dragged two mates with me to the Forest of Dean to visit both Puzzlewood and Clearwell Caves*. Another filming location less than 2 minutes drive away – ridiculously perfect day out! So perfect I went again a few week ago with my equally geeky boyfriend to show him the places they film Doctor Who, Star Wars and many, many more.

Puzzlewood is beautiful, so worth a visit even if it hadn’t the geeky links. It’s strange but familiar and you could drive yourself potty trying to work out what was filmed where – some are obvious, others you’d need to really study the film or episode to spot.

Visiting again in the spring sunshine was amazing as the light filters though the budding trees giving a different look to areas that were in shadow last year. I can understand why it’s used so often – it can be filmed and lit so differently. The trees twist in the most remarkable formations and there are moss covered stones that are as green as the leaves.

It’s a wonderful place that is worth visiting any time of the year. I certainly plan on returning again, maybe take my Rey costume next time and drag a Kylo along and get to play Star Wars…


*The Sycorax spaceship in the first Tennant Christmas Special – that was Clearwell Caves, also used later in the Satan Pit and Fires of Pompeii.