Our family holiday to the Wye Valley didn’t just include castles, we disappeared into the forest.
The Forest of Dean is ancient woodland and the second largest crown forest in England. The Romans occupied the forest to mine for coal and charcoal burning and the last colliery closed in 1965.
We visited a small wood called Puzzlewood. From the outside the wood on the hill appeared innocuous and uninteresting, yet, going by the publicity literature, the wood had gained popularity and been used in many film and TV productions, including Dr Who. Why?
The path leading in split into two, then again. People trekked from one side to the other, weaving between the rocks and trees. The ancient woodland had pockets of iron mining and small ravines, and needed sturdy handrails in parts and rickety bridges. Around us I heard the familiar comments – I’m sure we’ve been along this bit before. In fact, I immediately recalled the infamous scene from Three Men in a Boat where the men got lost in Hampton Court maze, constantly re-discovering the same crumbs of donut on the ground. Breadcrumb trails would have been useful. However, the scenery did at least change as we trekked up and down, and having spotted fields, we reached the farthest edge, turned round and walked back.
It has a spookiness to it and you could see why the Dr Who episode about the weeping angels was filmed there, but it also is beautiful and almost surreal. Supposedly the inspiration for Tolkien’s Middle Earth woods, Puzzlewood certainly has an other worldliness to it.
What it really needs is a more appropriate name – Mirkwood, Fanghorn…