Puzzlewood Magical Forest — The Real Middle Earth
Puzzlewood is a unique and enchanting place, located in the beautiful and historic Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England. There is more than a mile of meandering pathways through Puzzlewood and over 14 acres of ancient woodland. It has an atmosphere quite unlike any other wood. The magical forest is one of the most stunning in the world and it’s easy to see why it’s been used as a filming location for Merlin and Dr. Who. It is no wonder that JRR Tolkien is reputed to have taken his inspiration for the fabled forests of Middle Earth from Puzzlewood.
In Puzzlewood you will find strange rock formations, secret caves and ancient trees. The geological features here are known locally as scowles. The scowles originated through the erosion of natural underground cave systems formed in 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 Roman coins from the 3rd Century 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 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. In the early 1900s, Puzzlewood opened to the public. Since then it is has remained essentially unchanged with the same stunning pathways and bridges as in earlier times, but with the addition of a variety of animals and visitor facilities.
Lighted Fairy Woodhouses
Boston-based freelance artist Daniel Barreto combined houses with trees in a series of lovely photo manipulations titled Woodhouses. Barreto photographed parts of houses around Boston, and superimposed them onto images of tree trunks that he had taken in New Hampshire. The charming Woodhouses were even animated for effect, and resemble fairy’s houses in an enchanted forest.
Hill of Witches, Lithuania
On one of the most beautiful and oldest parabolic dunes in Juodkrantė, Lithuania, the forest is alive with a vast array of fairy-tale creatures, witches, demons, kings, princesses, fisherman and devils. Known as the Hill of Witches (Raganų kalnas), this public trail through the woods takes visitors on a trip through the most well-known legends and stories in Lithuanian folk history.
Work began in 1979 on the sculpture park, and it now features over 80 different wooden carvings from local artists. Each beautifully hand-crafted sculpture depicts a popular character from folk and pagan traditions of Lithuania. The public park got its name long before the sculptures were placed along the wooded trails, and is in fact a reference to the pagan celebrations that take place on the hill during the Midsummer’s Eve Festival.
Each year on June 24th, people across Lithuania dance, sing and bring in the midsummer with the older folk traditions of the country. After Christianity came to Lithuania, the celebration was renamed Saint Jonas’ Festival, but many of the practices still have pagan roots, as echoed by the fantastic Hill of Witches sculptures.
5 Cozy Cabins in the Woods
I dream of living in a cabin in the woods, far away from the stress of the city. I imagine every facet of the experience: waking up to breathe fresh mountain air; taking long walks to soak in all of the sights and sounds of the forest; and lay in bed at night knowing that I am far away from everyone and everything. Here are five spectacular eco-friendly cabins nestled in the woods:
- Flathead Lake Cabin in Montana, United States — For those looking for a lakeside retreat, look no further than this cozy cabin on Flathead Lake in Poulson, Montana. Designed by Austin-based Andersson Wise Architects, this minimalist mountain home is built with salvaged materials and makes for a rustic, yet serene escape.
- Porter Cabin in Maine, Unites States — Alex Porter designed and built this off-grid cabin for her father on an island in Maine. The tiny carbon footprint and efficient design all make for low energy use, which is then supplemented by a rooftop solar system. If you’re looking to get away from it all, this would definitely be the place. Too bad it’s private!
- Bromont Cabin in Quebec, Canada — This cabin is built entirely from wood that is aging to blend in with its forested surroundings. Designed by the Canadian firm Blouin Tardif Architecture-Environnement, this cozy home enjoys tons of natural daylight with the help of solar passive design.
- Gulf Islands Cabin in British Colombia, Canada — Looking for a minimalist experience in the dense woods of the upper Northwest? This cabin by Olson Kundig Architects is a modernist dream with just enough Thoreau to have you writing poetry in no time.
- Schell Wheeler Cabin in Washington, United States — Located in Snoqualimie, Washington, the modern cabin was designed by Johnston Architects for two mountain guides. The soaring cabin celebrates the mountains and nature, and also respects it through its low energy design, use of fallen trees found on site and a generous amount of daylight that floods the cabin.
Five Cool Camouflage Homes
1 — Casa de Penedo or the ‘House of Stone’ can be found in the Fafe Mountains of Portugal. It was built in 1974 with four different boulders. The house has no electricity so the homeowners use candles in every room.
2 — Dune Home in Atlantic Beach, Florida, these two psychedelic apartments are pure 1970s. They were constructed using technology that was devised to create gunite swimming pools. The two-story suites have beach level terraces. Nice. The home was on the market in May, 2012 for $1 million.
Blue Ghost Fireflies, North Carolina
A forest floor in North Carolina is traced with the movement of blue ghost fireflies in this time-lapse image by Spencer Black, who says the element of surprise compels him toward long-exposure photography.
"These fireflies are unique because their blink pattern is much longer than the common firefly and they hover about a foot off the ground," says Black. "Witnessing them by the thousands, floating above the forest floor in complete darkness, is truly an incredible experience."
Stunning Woodlands Photography Contest Winners
A cabin in a bluebell wood has been selected as the winning photograph in the Woodland Trust’s annual competition (first picture). The shot was taken in Embley Woods, Hampshire by Ashley Chaplan. The competition is aimed to showcasing and connecting people to their local wood areas in the United Kingdom. Details and more incredible photographs can be seen at the VisitWoods.org.uk website.