Wednesday, October 6, 2010

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.


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