Review: Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean
Updated: Jan 24, 2019
Puzzlewood is somewhere that I've wanted to explore for a long time. I first heard of it when my children were small, but for many reasons, we just never got around to visiting. So, many years later, we decided to plan a trip there during the hottest May Day on record! We wanted to avoid the majority of the bank holiday crowds, so where better to visit than a cool (and hopefully quiet) woodland....
Puzzlewood can be found in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, approximately 30 miles from Bristol and just under an hour's drive away (the quickest route is across the old Severn Bridge into Wales).
There is plenty of free parking on site, and despite the fact there was a small queue when we arrived, the staff were very efficient and helpful, inquiring whether it was our first visit, and giving us directions to the various facilities.
When you first enter the site, there are a few farm animals to look at, plus a small playground. There are also plenty of picnic benches - picnics are not allowed in the wood, so make sure you're not hungry before you venture in!
The only toilets are just outside the wood too, and there is a small cafe selling snacks and drinks (it doesn't sell ice creams though - these can be bought from where you buy entrance tickets).
The wood itself is simply magical. It can't really be described in words, but if I tell you that scenes from shows including Atlantis, Merlin, Doctor Who and even Tree Fu Tom (!) have been filmed there, that will give you an indication of how special it is.
Despite the fact that it felt quite crowded when we first entered the wood, the crowds soon dispersed and for much of the time, it felt as if we had the place all to ourselves. May is a great time to visit as it is bluebell season, and the carpet of flowers on the forest floor was just breathtaking.
Puzzlewood has an app which tells you more about the history of the wood, as well as providing information about opening times and prices, and details of the filming that has taken place there.
We downloaded the app before our visit so that we were ready to do the treasure hunt (it's always a good idea to have something more than just walking around to occupy the kids). It was great fun for all of us to try to spot the ten golden coins as we explored the woodland (hint: if you want to find the coins in order from 1-10, turn right at the first crossroads you come to).
There is also a list of other items to spot, including bridges, lookouts, balancing beams and a crocodile! This list can be downloaded from the Puzzlewood website here and it can also be found on a noticeboard as you enter the wood. It was a nice bonus which certainly kept my two children occupied as they attempted to tick everything off the list.
Buggies are not allowed on the site (if you do bring one, you can leave it outside the entrance). The reason for this is that there are over 200 steps to climb within the wood. Strong walking shoes are a must, as a lot of the steps are quite slippery. It's also muddy in places, and some of the route is pretty challenging, especially for younger children.
I personally wouldn't take toddlers as I feel that it is somewhere suited to older children who will enjoy it so much more. Many of the smaller children we saw were either crying from the long walk, had fallen over, or needed to be carried out. School-age children will love it though, as there is so much to discover!
We spent around two and a half hours exploring Puzzlewood, which wasn't a huge amount of time but we definitely would have stayed longer if it wasn't quite so hot outside once we left the welcome shade of the woodlands. As well as the wood, there is also a small indoor barn with a maze which my two boys loved, plus a colouring challenge for which you also need to download the app.
A family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) is £25 or you can purchase an annual family pass for £70.
With lots of events during the year, including activities at Easter, Halloween and Christmas, we definitely hope to visit again soon.
If you're looking for somewhere different to explore as a family, less than an hour from Bristol, then a visit to this magical woodland is highly recommended!
(This was not a free visit - I just really enjoyed it and wanted to share my experience!)