Stormtroopers walk through Puzzlewood
As we celebrate Star Wars Day, it might seem strange to be making a connection between a world-famous Sci-Fi franchise and an ancient British forest, but it is a little known fact that the Star Wars team decamped to the Forest of Dean for the latest instalment of the epic space tale.
Episode VII: The Force Awakens take some of the action to Takodana, a forest planet. The filming location is Puzzlewood, near Coleford and a visit to this atmospheric moss-covered woodland in the Forest of Dean is unforgettable. Imagine, Han Solo and Chewbacca were here!
Puzzlewood's mysterious landscape has attracted many film producers and directors over the years, appearing in the Doctor Who Weeping Angels Christmas Special, Atlantis, Merlin, and Wizards vs. Aliens, to name but a few. It has also been the backdrop to action in big-screen hits including Jack the Giant Slayer and The Huntsman! Find out more about Puzzlewood.
A view of Puzzlewood
There is something other-worldly about this area and perhaps that’s why so many local locations have appeared in Dr. Who. As well as Puzzlewood, scenes have been filmed in Beechenhurst Forest, Clearwell Caves and Gloucester Cathedral. All worth a visit in their own right but altogether more intriguing as part of a Dr. Who trail of discovery.
The real Forest of Dean features in the Harry Potter Books and indeed author J K Rowling went to school in the Forest of Dean, and so it is fitting that a number of scenes were actually filmed here.
In the first two films, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the majestic cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral stand in for Hogwarts gothic-style interiors. Many Hogwarts scenes were filmed here, including the flooding of the girls’ toilets and the scene where Harry and Ron hide from the giant troll. The entrance to Gryffindor Common Room can also be found at the cathedral.
Back in the forest, the view from Symonds Yat became famous around the world after featuring in The Deathly Hallows Part 1 and, in the same film, the forest pool from which Harry retrieves Gryffindor's sword is also in the Forest of Dean.
Cathedral ruins used in filming
This vast expanse of mixed and ancient woodland, which clothes the Wye Valley and stretches up to Gloucester, has been the backdrop to many more memorable scenes in TV and film:
• The BBC Series Merlin features Cannop Ponds, Raglan Castle and Goodrich Castle
• Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass uses Gloucester Cathedral
• Outlaw, with Danny Dyer, is also filmed in Gloucester Cathedral and the town of Lydney
• The TV adaptation of Tess of the D’Urbervilles uses Soudley Ponds as of its settings
The list continues, and what many of these productions have in common is an element of mystery and fantasy. Some are set in different worlds and many are centred on a deep connection to an abiding and mystical landscape. This sense of mystery and magic is something that you experience in real life when you come to the Forest of Dean. The landscape feels timeless, awe-inspiring and sometimes not quite of this world.
A bridge leading through the trees in Puzzlewood
For an excellent guide to TV and Film in the area, visit wyedeantourism.co.uk/film_TV. If you are wondering where to stay…our Forest of Dean location makes an ideal base and the forest and meadow settings of the cabins will set free young imaginations when you return to your hot tub cabin after your cinematic pilgrimage. Expect a few re-enactments from the kids! Once everyone is settled down, choose a film to watch from our Entertainments Package and see if you can spot any of the places you have visited.