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Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 12:49 UK
Sculpture sees return of the wolf to Ffestiniog forest

By Huw Jenkins

The willow wolf, at Coed y Bleiddiau (meaning forest of the wolves)
It's said that the last wolf in Wales lived in this forest

‘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 300 sets of roots.

But this was a willow wolf in the Vale of Ffestiniog.

Local legend says this was home to the last wolf in Wales, hence the name Coed y Bleiddiau. Just across the valley is Cae’r Blaidd or ‘field of the wolf’.

These days it’s a mountaineer’s dream place to stay, complete with climbing wall in the basement.

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 – 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. Twice a year it will need to be pruned to keep its shape.

The skimpy fence is there to give the willow a sporting chance against the ravenous wild goats which come and go as they please.

Once the willow gets established the fence will come down and children will be able to crawl into the belly and exit by the tail which doubles as a tunnel.

The wolf was funded by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), designed and built by Beryl Smith of Llanidloes with a little help from CCW wardens and volunteers.

You can see the willow wolf from the Ffestiniog Railway. It's on the right when travelling from Tan-y-Bwlch station to Campbell's Platform, after the Garnedd tunnel.


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