The Missing Piece: Reviewing a day of magic and folklore at Puzzlewood
The best days out are really the ones that capture kids imaginations without any gimmicks, flashing lights or plastic toys. It's the simple days that inspire you to spend hours outside within nature exploring each nook and cranny and being immersed into a magical and enchanting world, which is just what Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean does.
There is a good reason why this ancient woodland has been used as a location for fantasy movies and shows such as Merlin and Star Wars and it's also to be said to be the inspiration for JRR Tolkiens middle earth. Puzzlewood had been on our list of places to visit for a few years and had we known it was going to be such a hit with our boys we would have made a point of visiting much sooner.
As it's very much an outdoor attraction it would be wise to pack waterproofs and wellies because it can become somewhat of a muddy affair, as well as decent walking shoes as some of the pathways can become a little slippery. The woodland is not pram friendly although my two-year-old had no problem tackling the different walk ways, stairs, bridges and secret passages and therefore I would encourage those with younger children to visit Puzzlewood.
Puzzlewood lies just outside of Coleford, in the countryside and as soon as you arrive you are welcomed by an array of farm animals, including Highland cattle and Shetland ponies. There is also a very pretty willow maze to explore and makes for a perfect natural playground. Near the entry is the lovely cafe with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating so if you're a little peckish I would suggest stopping here first before heading down into the woods as you will be surprised by how many hours you will spend exploring them. I recommend the homemade soup or yummy cakes but if you're trying to keep to a budget there are also plenty of picnic benches dotted around. There is also a small indoor play barn with a toddler racing track and a very fun indoor maze which we all enjoyed having a go at and getting a little lost in the process.
Of course, the main highlight is the woods itself, which spans 14 acres and you cannot help but be immediately take aback by how spectacular and atmospheric by the natural beauty of this place. With every step, there are different paths to explore and get lost down and an array of things to find such as dinosaur feet, secret caves, magical doorways and hidden benches. It's also a great opportunity to spot some wildlife and different kinds of trees and plants, we came across some really interesting wild mushrooms which we admired from a safe distance. Apparently, there are plenty of foxes and badgers who have made Puzzlewood their home so if you're really quiet perhaps you may come across one.
We spent a whole day exploring the woods and play areas and would certainly say you need to allocate a few hours to spend here so you can take your time and not be rushed. As it's located in the beautiful Wye Valley there is also plenty to do in the surrounding area and there are also cottages on site which can be hired for an even more magical stay.