Coed y Bleiddiau - Appeal

Gwynedd

Overview

A huge thank you to all the supporters of the appeal – we started work on site in October

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High in the breathtaking scenery of the Snowdonia National Park, this charming little cottage was built in 1863 for Henry Hovendon, Superintendent of the Ffestiniog Railway. When we first saw this building it was in desperate need of repair; the lathe and plaster ceilings had collapsed from water penetration, and the floors and joinery were rotten. Abandoned for nearly a decade and recently listed Grade II, Coed y Bleiddiau’s remote setting left it impractical for modern daily life. 

Now the restoration of Coed y Bleiddiau is steaming ahead, thanks to your support. 

 

Appeal Update: Target Achieved!

After the appeal was boosted this summer by a generous legacy, and the proceeds of the Spring Raffle, we made a final call for help to raise the remaining £68,000 needed to begin the work in October. Many generous supporters have given to help save Coed y Bleiddiau, and many have given again to this fresh appeal. We are so grateful to you all and look forward to sharing the progress of this restoration with you when work begins later this year. Thank you!



Supporters of Coed y Bleiddiau

We are hugely grateful to the 2152 donors who supported Coed y Bleiddiau, including:

Guardians:
Mr R Broyd OBE, three further anonymous Guardians

Patrons and other generous individuals:
Mr A Baker and Ms S Darling, Mr M Bennett, Mr H Channon, Mr and Mrs J Gibbs, Mr D Giles, Mr R Gurd, Mrs M Haddow, Mr G Kingston, Mr A Manisty, Mr A Murray-Jones, Dr H Parry-Smith, Mr M Power, Mr J Sharman, Mr P Skuse, Mrs M Williams

Charitable Trusts and Statutory Grants:
The Nerquis Hall Fund, John R Murray Charitable Trust, The Mrs FB Laurence Charitable Trust

Legacies:
Mrs Kay Mills-Hicks, Miss Mary Alice East

We are also grateful to the generous Guardians, Patrons and other supporters who have chosen to remain anonymous and to everybody else who supported the appeal.


Find out about our future rescue projects here.

History

Coed y Bleiddiau means ‘wood of the wolves’, marking the place where the last wolves were seen in Wales. It is a fragile reminder of bygone days, when the steam railway reached even the remotest of settings.

This little gem was built in 1863 for the line manager of the Ffestiniog Railway, just as the industrial revolution brought both an unprecedented demand for slate, and the technology to extract and transport it across the world.

Blaenau Ffestiniog, a farming community of a few hundred people, became a boom town of 11,000 as the largest slate mine on the globe was hollowed out beneath its rocky hillsides. Crucial to this gold-rush was the Ffestiniog Railway which, from 1836 to 1946, bore the slate downhill to the docks at Porthmadog.

 


Coed y Bleiddiau, Gwynedd in 1930


While this wonderful steam railway itself has been revived, the fascinating cottage of

Coed y Bleiddiau stands abandoned and forlorn.


Henry Hovendon
    

At first gravity had carried the slate down the hillside and ponies had hauled the trucks slowly back up. Thirty years later the line was converted to carry steam trains, so increasing production enormously. First among the additional staff now needed was the line supervisor, whose own house, Coed y Bleiddiau, was built hard on the line in the midst of its incline. Here Henry Hovendon lived with his large family, and oversaw the carriage of thousands of tonnes of slate down the hillside.

As the Welsh slate industry fell into decline, so this little house was leased. Its breath-taking setting and the charm of its position on the wooded hillside appealed immediately. It was rented for fifteen years by the gregarious composer Granville Bantock, to whom his friend, Edward Elgar, dedicated his second Pomp and Circumstance march.

The last inhabitants, Bob and Babs Johnson, lived here for over half a century until 2006 when their advanced age and ailing health made living in such a remote place impractical.

 

   Granville Bantock and Edward Elgar
  • Coed y Bleiddiau porch

  • Coed y Bleiddiau window

  • Coed y Bleiddiau gate closer

Our Plans

This is a small project by comparison with the recently opened Belmont - once restored, this little cottage will sleep up to four people. We are now gearing up to start the restoration of Coed y Bleiddiau in October 2016, and we have previously – thanks to a generous supporter – overhauled the roof.

One of the challenges from the remote location of the building, with no direct road access, is that all the materials must be ferried to and from the site by train. Even now, it is reached only by steam train or on foot, and has a tiny platform of its own where visitors will be able to flag down an approaching train.

Coed y Bleiddiau will undoubtedly be a magical Landmark for up to four people.

  • Coed y Bleidiau

  • Snowdonia Bridge

  • Waterfall

"No one who stayed at Coed y Bleiddiau was anything but happy", wrote Sir Granville Bantock’s daughter Myrrah. Bantock himself loved the waterfalls and bathing pools, and walking the misty peaks and ancient sites where children left tributes of buttercups and daisies. ‘Snowden, whose majestic peak dominates the landscape, acts as a friendly beacon to guide the rambler who seeks untrodden ways’, he wrote.

As a Landmark, access will be possible by foot from a parking area some ten minutes’ walk through ancient woods and open hillside, or by train. The railway is planning the logistics of offering a train option for guests and their baggage when arriving and leaving the building, either as part of the usual timetable, or at other times.

Find out about our future rescue projects here.

Ffestiniog Railway

A partnership

Our partners are the wonderful Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway Trust, a charity that, much like Landmark, works to keep a cherished aspect of our past alive. Today, they operate both the Ffestiniog and the Welsh Highland lines which offer the chance to explore the beauty of Snowdonia from over 40 miles of narrow-gauge railway.

With miles of this important line to manage and a great deal of machinery and infrastructure that needs attention, the repair and revival of Coed y Bleiddiau is beyond their means. They approached us for help and we have taken a long lease on this remarkable building.

Coed y Bleiddiau, Gwynedd in 1930

The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest independent railway company in the World

After being founded by Act of Parliament in 1832, the railway was opened in 1836 as a gravity and horse drawn line to transport slate from the quarries in the mountains around Blaenau Ffestiniog to the sea at Porthmadog and then all over the globe.

The Ffestiniog Railway has influenced the design and construction of railways in many countries around the world. It introduced many innovative engineering solutions to cope with the rapid increase in output from the quarries and in the number of passengers it carried, including introducing the world's first bogie carriages. The line closed in 1946 but was restored after the War by volunteers, reopening in 1955. Today it is a thriving scenic railway, and very popular with tourists.

The line runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog and the journey begins by crossing the Cob, a mile-long embankment which holds back the sea, then past the entrance to Portmeirion. After Minffordd, the determined sounds of the powerful engines reflect the effort of pulling carriages high into the mountains through ancient oak woodlands and Coed y Bleiddiau (‘The Wood of the Wolves’).

The track loops over itself at Dduallt station, using the UK’s only railway spiral - a simple but effective way of gaining extra height without increasing the gradient. Mountains of slate - evidence of the town’s rich industrial heritage - surround you as the train arrives at Blaenau Ffestiniog station, which is shared with mainline trains that run on tracks that are twice as wide, along the Conwy Valley Line from Llandudno Junction.

Coed y Bleiddiau, Gwynedd in 1930
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