Birchwood Hall Community
SUMMARY: We live communally because this meets many of our personal and political needs and beliefs. We do not try to be self-sufficient, although a number of us enjoy growing organic vegetables. We have a broad sympathy for many green and feminist ideas and causes and we try to lead an ecologically responsible lifestyle, but beyond that baseline we are a fairly varied group.
THE PEOPLE: The community currently consists of 14 adults plus one teenager away at university. We would like more families as part of the group -- but unfortunately this does not extend to pets, which we cannot have in the house due to allergies. A number of us have grown-up children (some of whom grew up at Birchwood!) who visit quite often, some with their own children, and we also often entertain parents, friends and other visitors. Most community members have some form of paid employment, whether part-time or full-time, and some work from home.
OWNERSHIP: As a housing cooperative, we own our land and buildings as a group, but no individual member has equity in the property. We each pay a weekly rent that covers most of the household costs.
THE PLACE: The community consists of a large Victorian house and a Coach House as living space, with eight acres of grounds (garden, woodland, orchard, volleyball court and outbuildings). We also have a small 20-bed residential centre called “Anybody’s Barn”, run as a separate charity.
LOCATION: Birchwood Hall is on top of a ridge, four miles from Malvern, eight miles from Worcester and 18 miles from Hereford. There are lovely views, but limited public transport and lots of hills to bike up, hence most of us drive cars.
IN GENERAL: Because many of us work outside the community and some of us lead very busy lives, members need to be fairly self-sufficient. We are good at providing support in time of need -- but not necessarily on an everyday basis!
THE FUTURE: We are currently looking to reassess how our two houses work together, cut down on energy use and plan the longer-term future of the community, so expect lots of meetings (though we do have a policy that they never last longer than 90 minutes and usually happen only once a week).
NEW MEMBERS: We’re in the process of looking for new members who would like to be involved in the physical re-modelling of the coach house and participate in restructuring the way our two houses work and live together as one community. However, please don’t expect to move in tomorrow; we need to get to know each other over quite a long period, for your benefit as well as ours, to make sure your joining the community will work for everyone.