It began (not so much a long time ago, more like July) when a mysterious film crew was spotted, refusing to divulge the nature of their business.
The intrigue only deepened when discarded movie production equipment and cabling were spotted in the woods.
Now a leaked letter has confirmed the fevered speculation: the setting for a new Star Wars film, supposedly located in a galaxy far, far away, will in reality be the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.
Revealed the day after stars including Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher celebrated the end of filming in a party at London’s Science Museum, the letter sent to “the extraordinary cast and crew” of Star Wars: Episode VII, extolled their “professionalism, passion and patience”.
And then, revealingly, it added: “From the deserts of Abu Dhabi, to the Forest of Dean, to the stages of Pinewood, you have risen to every challenge and been as wonderfully kind as you are brilliantly talented.”
Star Wars 7 cast in pictures
Star Wars 7 cast in pictures
1/15 John Boyega
The 22-year-old best known for sci-fi movie Attack the Block is a new arrival for Star Wars and will be one of the sequel's 'trio of young leads'.
2/15 Harrison Ford
Ford will be returning as Han Solo for Star Wars 7 and is rumoured to have a 'gigantic role in the first of the next three films'.
3/15 Daisy Ridley
There's not much out there on Ridley, who is a relative unknown bar appearances in TV dramas Casualty and Mr Selfridge. But the British actress is set to become a huge star now...
4/15 Adam Driver
Lena Dunham tweeted confirmation that her fellow Girls star had landed the role of the villain in JJ Abrams' film. Now he has been officially confirmed and is expected to play a Darth Vader-like baddie.
5/15 Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the 1977 original, has confirmed she will reprise the role in upcoming Star Wars films.
6/15 Kenny Baker
Baker played R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise and will be back reprising his role for the 7th movie.
7/15 Domhnall Gleeson
Gleeson played Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter films and recently starred with Rachel McAdams in About Time. He has been confirmed for Star Wars 7.
8/15 Miltos Yerolemou
The Game of Thrones actor is not expected to have a 'major part' in the film
9/15 Oscar Isaac
Last seen in the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, Isaac has been confirmed as a new arrival and will likely feature in a lead role.
10/15 Andy Serkis
Also confirmed for the 7th installment is Serkis - who has a reputation as one of the best motion capture actors out there. So expect him to portray some sort of other worldly character.
11/15 Max Von Sydow
He's not a spring chicken but Von Sydow is a new arrival to Star Wars. Rumours suggest he might play a sinister old Jedi but that remains to be seen.
12/15 Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill will be back as Luke Skywalker along with his fellow original cast members Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford.
13/15 Anthony Daniels
Anthony Daniels has starred as C-3PO in past Star Wars films and will be back for JJ Abram's seventh.
Neela Debnath/The Independent
14/15 Peter Mayhew
Peter Mayhew will reprise his role as Chewbacca with many fans excited at the theoretical prospect of a wizened old Chewie retired from space flight
15/15 Original Star Wars trio
Here are the original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill back in the day.
For Star Wars fans, here at last seemed to be confirmation that the seventh film in the franchise was partly shot at Puzzlewood, near the market town of Coleford, where the cabling and uncommunicative (but “brilliantly talented”) film crew had been spotted.
As well as promising “a magical day out in the Forest of Dean”, Puzzlewood’s moss-covered rocks and twisted yew-tree roots have previously provided the perfect, otherworldly setting for scenes from TV series including Doctor Who and Merlin.
JRR Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, is also said to have taken his inspiration for the forests of Middle Earth from Puzzlewood.
The choice of Puzzlewood as a location continues a tradition of every Star Wars film containing scenes shot in Britain.
For the latest instalment, Episode VII, some scenes have been shot at Pinewood studios in Buckinghamshire – although with mixed success following an accident with a door that left the 71-year-old Ford, reprising his role as Han Solo while nursing a broken ankle.
The possibility of Berkshire being the location for some filming was raised in September after a man taking publicity photos for a flying school returned home to find he had captured images of a grounded Millennium Falcon and X-wing fighter.
Film fans have speculated that Puzzlewood could double as Dagobah, the planet where Yoda trained Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back, or the forest moon of Endor, home of the ewoks. Previously the ewoks had been filmed in the redwood forests of northern California.
The Forest of Dean tourist attraction’s precise role, however, may yet remain a mystery until the film is finally released in December 2015.
The letter, which appears to have been sent by Episode VII’s producers, did not go into any more detail about what the Forest of Dean would represent.
Instead, its authors talk about their ambition “to make a film that entertains millions of people, of all ages, for generations”.
This probably means that film makers and Gloucestershire residents are united in hoping that the Forest of Dean has more luck than Whippendell Woods near Watford, Hertfordshire, the location for the filming of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s first meeting with Jar Jar Binks – probably the most-unpopular Star Wars character ever.Reuse content