Puzzlewood: A Maze In Nature

If you don’t yet have Atlas Obscura–“A Compendium of the World’s Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica”–in your RSS feed, you should. Today they did an interesting writeup on Puzzlewood, a 14-acre stretch of the Forest of Dean near Coleford, Gloucestershire, England.

Puzzlewood is a mysterious and bizarre tangle of paths, caves, strange rock formations, and trees. The Forest of Dean was a frequent haunt of J.R.R. Tolkien, and some have suggested that the mysterious landscape of Puzzlewood was the inspiration for Middle Earth. There’s no solid evidence for this, but it’s a good story.

The strange combination of limestone caves, uplift, erosion, and pre-Roman open-cast mining have created a natural labyrinth. The effect was made more pronounced in the 19th century when the owner of the land laid down a mile of twisting paths. The proprietors have added a willow maze and an indoor “wood puzzle,” which they describe as “a maze of secret doors, dead ends, ups and downs and rounds and rounds.”

Puzzlewood is such a complete labyrinthine package that it even came with a treasure for those who braved its mysteries. Workers in 1848 found 3 jars hidden in the rocks. Inside were 3,000 Roman coins. No one has a clue why they were hidden there.