SUMMARY: We live as a communal household (over two buildings) 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 values, but beyond that baseline we are a fairly varied group. The key to our success and stability is that we like each other!
THE PEOPLE: The community currently consists of eleven resident adults and three children who live here all or most of the time. We span a wide age range, and we enjoy entertaining friends, relatives and other visitors, so the household can sometimes be quite busy! 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, partially income-related, that covers most of the household costs. Our aim is that Birchwood is an affordable place for anyone to live.
THE PLACE: Birchwood Hall 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 “Anybodys Barn”, run as a separate charity. Each member is entitled to his or her own room, and we all share a variety of communal spaces. Some members have office or workshop space within the community.
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.
DAY-TO-DAY: Because many of us work outside the community and some of us lead very busy lives, members need to be fairly self-reliant. We are good at providing support in time of need – but not necessarily on an everyday basis! We eat our evening meal together every day – a key part of the communal experience – and we make decisions by consensus and discuss current issues at weekly meetings. But the community is not a “project” – it is a home for the members who live here.
THE FUTURE: Because we have only recently integrated the Coach House within the community, and are in the midst of a project to create more living space there, this is a time of change for us. We are currently assessing how our two buildings will work together in the context of the longer-term future of the community.
NEW MEMBERS: We’re currently in the process of looking for new members. 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.
WHAT NOW?: If you would like more information or want to enquire about the steps involved in joining Birchwood Hall Community, send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and tell us something about yourself and why you are interested in communal living.