Last night I fell asleep watching the stars twinkling overhead in the sky.
No, I haven't taken up camping, that is so never going to happen! The Forest Holidays cabins have large floor-ceiling windows (in the living room and main bedroom) which allow the light to stream in and cleverly illuminate the solid wooden floors and help to bring the outside 'in'. This morning when The (poorly) Boy came in with us at 4.55, he also pointed out the stars. At 7.25 when we all woke up, he glanced up to look at the trees and declared 'stars, gone.'
After a hearty continental breakfast we set off for a local attraction intriguingly called 'Puzzlewood'. It is so called because the whole place is a bit of a puzzle. It is full of scowles (a geological feature originated through the erosion of natural underground cave systems, uplift and erosion caused the cave system to become exposed at the surface) and a mile of pathways which were laid down by a local landowner in the early 1800s. These pathways meander through the trees and gulleys to open up this ancient forest, originally for the amusement of his friends and children. It's a little bit of a local celebrity having been used in the latest series of Merlin (the episodes: 'The Crystal Cave', 'The Eye of the Pheonix', and 'The Coming of Arthur', plus the one with the giant scorpions shudder) and a Doctor Who episode entitled 'Flesh and Stone'.
This was a completely different attraction to yesterday's debacle and looked promising from the outset. At the entrance there is a lovely little coffee shop selling home-made items, which doubles as a gift shop. Next to this there is a timber-trail playground set amongst 10-15 picnic benches. Follow the path along to a few farmyard animals (chickens, ducks, geese, a pig wallowing in mud), and just before the wood there is a barn half of which houses more farm animals (sheep, goats), the other half is home to a wooden puzzle; 'a maze of secret doors, dead ends, ups and downs and rounds and rounds'. We didn't go in this because The Boy is too young at the moment, I would imagine that children six and up would have great fun in there.
The wood itself is glorious! Even in this monochrome and dreary season, it is awash with colour from the mosses, ferns and lichens covering all the rock formations and banks. As you enter into the main glade, it is perfectly obvious as to why people think that it is the inspiration behind the elves' woods in JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. It is magnificent! The whole wood is riddled with paths twisting and turning through this chasm in the rocks or over these tree-trunks or under this fallen tree. It is stunning and awe-inspiring. We loved it, The Boy had fun squelching through the mud until he was faced with the first of many sets of steps. Daddy carried him and he soon fell asleep nestled in.
Be warned: there is no way you could take a pushchair along the paths, heavily pregnant women may want to give it a miss (lots of slippery, steep steps and paths) and there are no sign-posts for the way out, you have to explore (the paths do seem to loop back around to the main glade, but if you keep the field with the cows on your right, it heads back to the entrance). Saying that, this is a must-see local attraction; absolutely magnificent!
Our timing turned out to be impeccable as always; just as we sat down in the cabin the heavens opened and pelted the forest with huge and heavy hailstones!