Never mind The Village being used to hold rogue spies, it seems they grew up round here as well. Coed y Bleiddiau, which means “Wood of the Wolves”, a cottage resting on the hills where it is said the last wolf in Wales met its end, was for a time home to Harry St John “Jack” Philby. His son, Kim Philby, might sound a little more familiar having been a successful double agent in British Intelligence before he defected to the Soviet Union in 1963.
Philby was a key figure in a ring of spies known as the Cambridge Five.
The cottage was also home to composer and conductor Sir Granville Bantock. I’m not immediately familiar with his work.
Despite its august residents, it was built in 1863 as an intermediary stop for a horse tramway linking the slate industry with Portmadog. It still sits on the Ffestiniog railway line, though the trains are steam driven rather than horse -pulled these days.
I’m not sure I knew it was there, but Coed y Bleiddiau has just won the Tourism and Leisure category of the RICS Awards 2019. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors say the awards “showcase the most inspirational initiatives and developments in land, real estate, construction and infrastructure. They celebrate the achievements and successes of RICS professionals and their impact on local communities.”
The repair, restoration and reuse of an existing railway building as a holiday let for The Landmark Trust, Coed y Bleiddiau is a small, unassuming Grade II listed cottage situated in a beautiful, isolated setting beside Ffestiniog Railway.
RICS judges said the team behind the project – including Peter Napier and Company, The Landmark Trust, and Mark Roberts Building and Conservation – have carefully restored the cottage to allow it to be used by visitors to Snowdonia National Park and that it is a high-quality restoration that was completed with constricted access, requiring the majority of materials to be brought on site via the trainline.
I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled when having a wander.