What is Puzzlewood

GulleyIn Puzzlewood you will find strange rock formations, secret caves and ancient trees, which have kept locals guessing for centuries as to what hand or force could have created such a unique and eerie landscape, aptly named "Puzzlewood".

The geological feature on show at Puzzlewood are known locally as Scowles. Scowles are a significant geological features and 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.

Evidence of Roman occupation of the area is supported by the discovery of a hoard of over 3,000 3rd Century AD Roman 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.

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 3,000 Roman coins. No one knows why the coins were hidden away in the cliff face nor by whom. And could there be other treasures within Puzzlewood waiting to be discovered?


In the early 1800s a local landowner laid down a mile of pathways which meandered through the trees and gulleys to open up this ancient forest originally for the amusement of his friends and children. Then, in the early 1900s, Puzzlewood opened to the public, with an honesty box at the gate for the benefit of the local church. Since then it is 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.

What is Puzzlewood

Flora and FaunaPuzzlewood is home to a wide variety of trees; Oak, Beech, Ash, Lime and Yew can all be found in the wood. Yew has a particular liking for Iron and its roots will actively seek out the veins of iron ore. Look for the fantastic root formations. Fallen Yew branches are reused to make the fences and bridges, they are particularly suited to this as Yew is a very hard durable wood. Farmers used to say that "A Yew tree post will outlast a post of iron".

The face of the wood changes through the year.
In early spring the wood is fresh with the bright green of new growth and melody of birdsong. In late spring the bluebells create a beautiful blue carpet. Call us to check when the bluebells are out on 01594 833187.
In summer the bluebells are replaced by lush clumps of ferns, predominantly the Soft Shield Fern and the Harts Tongue Fern and the smell of wild garlic is in the air. Autumn brings a wide range of fungi on the old tree stumps. Throughout the year the rocks are covered in feathery moss which looks especially lush when it has been raining. Did you see anything else? - let us know.

The wood is home to badgers and foxes and a wide variety of birds.

Nearby is the Site of Scientific Interest of Old Bow and Old Ham Mines which is home to protected colonies of Greater horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) and the Lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros). They can often be seen hunting at dusk.

Please do not disturb the wildlife. The wood is their home and we are merely visitors to their domain. The beauty of Puzzlewood is in essence due to its unmanaged and natural appearance. Please keep to the pathways for your safety and so that future generations can enjoy the same beauty as you.

Click here to see our green tourism policy.

"It is an extraordinary area with a maze of paths, eerie passageways through moss-covered rocks, hidden dead ends, weird rock formations, tangled vines and gorgeous untamed scenery. It's a brilliant place for children."

David Else - Lonely Planet Great Britain

"The children were eager to explore and busy looking for goblins and pixies. Our daughter found fairy holes and our son found a lions den! One small boy we passed was eagerly hunting for a dragon with his parents."

Explore Gloucestershire.co.uk

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