‘Wolf!’ he cried. ‘Wolf!’ and there it was, a huge wolf in Coed y Bleiddiau, the ‘forest of the wolves’. Full of life and vigour, with its jaws open, howling up at the sky. Nothing but a skimpy picket fence to hold it back and 400 sets of roots. This was a willow wolf in the Vale of Ffestiniog.
Local legend says here was home to the last wolf in Wales, hence the name of this oak woodland is Coed y Bleiddiau. On the other side of the valley is Cae’r Blaidd or ‘field of the wolf’. Just across the mountains is Beddgelert, the ‘grave of Gelert’, the dog that saved the son of Llewelyn the Great from a wolf attack (or so they say).
Wolves became extinct in England in the early 1600s but lived on in the wilds of Wales for much longer. They were probably still around during the Civil War and there is talk of a Knight’s Grave nearby, maybe he slew the last wolf? Or was he a victim?
This wolf has every chance of living forever, a vigorous type of willow (salix viminalis) planted in March 2010. It’s been sited by the path that runs parallel with the Ffestiniog Railway, in a small clearing, away from overhanging trees which would block the sun and inhibit growth.
10 months on and our wolf was looking a bit shaggy. Instead of taking pruners or shears to it we twisted the new growth back into the framework. We had meant to do this in December but feared the willow would have been frozen brittle and snapped. Click here to see the willow wolf having its winter spruce.
Previous residents of note at the derelict cottage, the other side of the railway track, include St John Philby, father of Kim Philby, the infamous spy. His house guest at the outbreak of WWII was William Joyce who travelled from here via London to Berlin where he became known as Lord Haw-Haw, the propaganda broadcaster, subsequently executed for treason.
The wolf was funded by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), designed and built by Beryl Smith of Llanidloes (www.craftsmidwales.co.uk) with a little help from CCW wardens and volunteers.