If you follow me on any kind of social media then you are sure to have noticed me use the #DeanWyeBloggers hashtag recently. A couple of weekends ago I was invited to join some fellow Outdoor Bloggers in the Forest of Dean for an activity weekend. I had planned to write just the one roundup post covering the weekend, but the organisers had packed in so much, it became far too unwieldy. So I’m splitting it into some more manageable chunks. First up, Puzzlewood.
Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean. A magical place.
I didn’t know a lot about the weekend before I jumped in the car on Friday morning and drove the 170 miles from my home in Lincoln down to Coleford in Gloucestershire with friend and fellow blogger Jenni from The Thrifty Magpies Nest. The organisers had purposefully kept things a bit of a mystery by not giving away exactly what we’d get up to while we were in their hands; we had an email with the address of our accommodation and a list of the kind of activities we might get take part in (to help with packing), but no schedule or confirmed experiences. I still don’t know whether I liked the mystery element, it messes with my desire to always be organised, but if it hadn’t been for the secrecy there is definitely one activity I would have avoided that I’m glad I didn’t. More on that another day.
The view from Puzzlewood House.
The one thing I did know was that I had been allocated a room in Puzzlewood House, on the Puzzlewood estate just outside the market town of Coleford. The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley covers a wide area across three counties and two countries, and I would be based right in the heart of it, in a self catering cottage in amongst fields and woodland.
Puzzlewood House is a three bedroomed cottage on two levels overlooking the farmyard and next to the café. I was in the twin room with its two single beds up on the first floor, and the two other bloggers who joined me (Greta from Mums Do Travel and Kirstie from The Family Adventure Project) had the family room on the ground floor with its double bed and bunk beds, and the double room up on the first floor. Between us we had a lovely large and comfortable kitchen/diner/lounge, and there was a large shower room on the ground floor and a larger bathroom on the first floor.
Inside Puzzlewood House.
To be honest we didn’t see much of the accommodation. The weekend was so packed that there was no time to sit and relax – I couldn’t tell you if the television in the lounge worked… But I can confirm that the sofa was comfortable for sitting and drinking tea first thing in the morning, the dining table was a handy place to sit and chat with my fellow bloggers, my bed was comfortable and helped provide much needed sleep, and the shower was hot and powerful enough to remove the mud I collected while out and about. Gretta, Kirstie and I were actually the first people to stay in the cottage since it was completely refurbished, and it has been done very nicely; everything you and your family might need for a holiday.
The farm cat.
Getting Lost in the Woods
Almost as soon as we arrived and had transferred the incredible amount of luggage up to my room (the perils of not knowing which activities I’d been allocated!), Helen, the site manager and one of the organisers for the weekend, suggested she showed us into the woods so we could explore. Yes please!
One of many goats.
Tallulah. Of course.
I actually had no expectations of Puzzlewood. Aside from checking to make sure I knew the location, I’d not done my research. I perhaps should have done, as it turns out it is super famous! Apparently it is the place, or one of the places, that inspired Tolkien to write The Hobbit. I can totally see why; if I was the book writing type I could definitely see myself being inspired to create a story based on my wanderings there. It’s also been used as a filming location for the latest Star Wars and some episodes of Merlin and Dr Who.
Helen guided us though the farmyard (sheep, goats, geese and three ponies) down to what looked like the bottom corner of the estate. The whole thing is a tourist attraction but it’s only open at the weekends and so, being a Friday, we had the whole place to ourselves. We headed through the gate which must have been some kind of space and time portal that transported me to a completely different world. Let me show you…
I only took a few snaps…
The mile or more of pathway winds through bright green moss covered tree and rock formations. The rocky, hilly, forest geography has been formed through the erosion of natural underground caves that became exposed on the surface and were then mined by Iron Age settlers through to Roman times for iron ore. Iron mined here was apparently used to make tools and weapons in the late prehistoric period, and over 3,000 Roman coins were found in the 1800s in three earthenware jars hidden in a rock cavity.
Wandering around here you really do feel like you are somewhere else entirely – it feels a long way from even the UK let alone Gloucestershire. The fairy in the woods didn’t even look the tiniest bit out of place.
Do you believe in fairies?
I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to explore Puzzlewood on a day when it was closed to the public, a very special moment to be enchanted by the magic of nature. But even when the whole group visited on the Sunday when it was much busier, Puzzlewood still had that incredible sense of peace that radiated from the beauty of the bright green moss covered trees and rock. I just couldn’t get enough of the mystery and majesty of Puzzlewood and would urge you to make an effort to visit; I bet it’s beautiful when the bluebells are out, and can’t even imagine what it looks like in Autumn.
Find out more about how to visit Puzzlewood here.
#DeanWyeBloggers was an activity weekend organised by Forest of Dean & Wye Valley Tourism to help promote the area. I was invited along with a number of other bloggers and had an absolutely fantastic weekend with them. I have been asked to follow up my visit with a blog post or two, but know that I always write from experience and with my own opinions.