Haw-Haw to History
Did you know that the Oakeley Arms' little patch of Snowdonia is packed full of history, folk-lore and local legends? The Oakeley Arms itself lies at the edge of one of the oldest forests in Wales. The ancient Coed y Bleiddiau (or Forest of the Wolves) is named after the fearsome wolves that made their home among the dense, dark trees. It's said to be one of the last places in the country where wolves roamed free.
But, there's some slightly more recent history that has intrigued and surprised many of our guests and customers. Any of our readers who enjoyed our walk last week will have walked past a very special little cottage, deep in the forest.
It was built in the 1860's by the Ffestiniog Railway for use by the Superintendent of the line; at the time a Mr Hovenden, so the cottage became known locally as Ty Hovenden (Hovenden's House). No-one knows why such a remote location was chosen; there's no road access here so a railway halt was built here especially to serve the cottage.
During the 1920's the cottage took the name of the eerie forest that surrounded it and became known as "Coed-y-Bleiddiau". It was rented by Sir Granville Bantock, the famous composer and conductor, where he lived with his family until 1937. Memoirs written by Sir Granville's family recall the brilliant method of acquiring groceries and shopping - as the morning train approached, Lady Bantock would hold out a large wicker basket with a shopping list and money for the train guard to grab as he passed on the moving carriage. The afternoon train would return with a full basket of groceries, which would be heaved out of the carriage as it passed the cottage.
After the Bantock family left the cottage, it was rented to the well known British Fascist, Harry Philby, and it is these connections that are thought to have led William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw Haw, to stay at the cottage during the war.
William Joyce became an infamous fascist, known for his broadcasts that promoted Nazi propaganda and beliefs in the 1940's after he fled to Germany to escape from the British authorities. It is claimed that he often mentioned the little cottage and the local area and residents during his radio broadcasts. After the war, Joyce was captured for his crimes and tried for treason; he was executed in 1946.
As for the remote little cottage, it was rented in 1951 by Mr & Mrs Johnson who lived there for over 50 years. When the Ffestiniog Railway re-opened in the 1980's, the couple were often spotted in their garden waving to passengers as the train shuffled by.
Today, sadly, this fascinating little cottage is in desperate need of restoration and a little TLC, but it's certainly worth a walk into the forest for a glimpse of this enchanting house in a bewitching location. And keep your eyes peeled for wolves!!