It's a bit all work and no play for us at the moment, so to give ourselves a reminder of what it's all about, last weekend a group of us went by train (from Oxford) and car (from Lancaster) to visit Springhill Cohousing in Stroud, where 35 households have been living together since 2003. Some of our members had already seen Springhill, and David from Stroud has visited our site too (you can see him talking about Springhill and cohousing generally on one of our YouTube videos), but for the people who visited this time it was our first experience of cohousing in action.
It's a beautiful site... we followed the most direct route from the station and this took us up through a park to a gate which led straight onto Springhill's pedestrian street. In intimacy and security it reminded me of a university campus, though it was clearly a place where people of all ages were living together. It also has a lovely 'lived in' feel - there was garden furniture out on the street, and lots of pots and planting. I was really impressed with how well the houses blended in with their surroundings, and I hope ours will do the same.
We were very impressed with the three-storey co-house, especially the top floor where the community eats together 3-4 times a week. We talked about recipes and local sourcing and fridge organisation, how they manage signing up and paying, and what they've learnt as they've gone along. Then we went to look at various of their houses and flats, and saw the different things people have done with their space. Most of their houses are bigger than ours will be, but share an open-plan design and focus on energy-efficiency.
Pete spent a lot of time investigating their composting facilities, and we were all impressed with their SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage System). We talked about cohousing challenges too of course -- how to develop menus that work for everyone, and managing the 'four Ps' -- parking, parenting, painting and pets...
We learnt a lot but we also really enjoyed ourselves and came away feeling inspired. Maria Angeles said that she wished we could fast-forward to when we have moved in ourselves, and I know just what she meant... Many thanks to David, Natalie, Sarah and everyone else we met who took time our of their weekend to talk to us, it was inspiring, interesting and useful, and we look forward to inviting you back one day soon!