Puzzlewood: Tolkien's Inspiration For Middle Earth

Nov 6, 2017 1 comments

The “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel of the same name were shot almost entirely in New Zealand, but the inspiration for the mythical realm of Middle-earth came from Tolkien’s homeland, England.

One of the places that Tolkien is said to have been inspired is Puzzlewood, an ancient woodland near Coleford in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. This primordial forest covers 14 acres of mossy rocks, twisted roots and woodland bridges, with a maze of pathways winding through the gullies.


Photo credit: dave lewis 88/Flickr

In Roman times, and days before that, there was an open cast iron ore mine in the area. Iron ore extraction has left the region with peculiar landscape features consisting of amorphous shallow pits and irregular labyrinthine hollows up to several meters deep. This kind of geological feature is known as scowles.

Geological research has suggested that scowles actually have a natural origin. They began as a natural underground cave system which formed in the Carboniferous Limestones of the Forest of Dean many millions of years ago. Uplift and erosion eventually caused this cave system to became exposed at the surface. Iron ore, probably derived from run-off of mineral rich solutions, formed in the caves and in fissures in the surrounding limestone which was later exploited by humans during the Iron Age and later in the Roman period. Once the Romans left, nature reclaimed the old workings with moss and trees, to create the unique landscape. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the woods were open to the public for the first time.

Tolkien isn’t the only one to be charmed by Puzzlewood. Some say that the mythical “Forbidden Forest” of Harry Potter’s world bear striking similarities to the geography of Puzzlewood, indicating that author J.K Rowling may also have been inspired by the forest. Puzzlewood have also played host to a number of television dramas including Dr Who, Merlin and Atlantis.

Related: The Rock Houses That Inspired Tolkien


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  1. Beautiful pictures but please check your grammar before publishing next time.


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