Sustainable living co-operative is thriving place for future generations

Members of the co-operative share and exchange their skills and experience to help everyone move towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

See this page in: Cymraeg

More than 100 people have come through the doors of Brithdir Mawr in Pembrokeshire in the past quarter of a century, learning how to live sustainably with nature, growing their own food, generating their own energy and creating a community, in the truest sense of the word.

One such resident is Lea Trainer. He used to live a busy 14-hour day life as a project manager, rising at 4am to commute to work and arriving home hours later exhausted and barely having time to see his kids. Lea and his family have swapped the hustle and bustle of city life for the idyllic surroundings of Brithdir Mawr, spending precious hours with his children within a sustainable community. Ten adults and seven children make up the community of Brithdir Mawr.

They share ideas, resources and skills, learning about nature and ways of living that connect them with the earth. By growing their own food, and generating their own electricity and Lea feels the move has changed his family’s life for the better:

“My wife brought the children here last year for an educational trip and they were texting me about birds and insect-spotting and I had a bit of an epiphany. I just wondered why I had a beautiful wife and kids but was hardly seeing them.”

“Our life is incomparable to before. Now I can spend quality time with my children and my wife. We eat together as a community, we go into the woods, we learn about nature, renewable energy. I’ve already noticed a real difference in the children. They have really developed their personalities and freedom of expression. They are at one with nature, climbing trees, carving spoons out of wood and have really come out of themselves.

Lea Trainer

“Each day is different here. We do all meet as a community at 11 for coffee and then again for dinner. Some people have part-time jobs, others will tend to the garden and our children are home-schooled. We have a community day each week where we do activities together, like apple-picking.”

Lea said:

“I have seen so many benefits to my family from our move here already. It’s working perfectly for us and it’s such a beautiful area to live in. On a clear night, the sky is amazing and one of the residents has a huge telescope and we were able to see the rings of Saturn. You can’t get that in a textbook.”

Wales Co-operative Centre has been supporting and championing the growth of community-led housing since 2012, and in April this year, it launched its Communities Creating Homes programme which aims to stimulate demand for community-led housing throughout Wales. The programme is funded by the Nationwide Foundation and Welsh Government.

Recent research commissioned by the Wales Co-operative Centre found that those living in community-led housing felt less isolated as they were surrounded by a supportive network, had improved mental health and wellbeing and had further developed their skills set as well as gaining improved levels of confidence.

With more than 30 schemes already in place across Wales, communities can be created for various purposes and shared visions. Where some schemes have been created to make housing more affordable for residents, others have been developed for people who want improved eco-friendly lifestyles.

As for Brithdir Mawr, the next step in its development is to purchase the 80-acre site on which it is based from the current leaseholder, so that it can guarantee to be around long into the future. The residents have launched a crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to buy the land they live on and are hoping to raise £1million to purchase the site.

Brithdir Mawr is a co-operative community that has been acting as the steward for an 80 acre farm in Pembrokeshire since 1994.

In 2002, the Brithdir Community officially formed a housing co-operative to govern the properties democratically; since then, members meet weekly to discuss the management of the homes and land.

Though the structure of the community has changed over the years,the ethos remains the same, with members sharing resources, meals and knowledge, and creating a supportive, nurturing environment to live in.

A sustainable and globally responsible community

The co-operative aims to work towards a lifestyle that leaves the environment – both local and global – better, or at least no worse, at the end of their lives.

The community try to meet as many of their needs as possible from the land. They husband goats, ducks, chickens and bees to provide milk, eggs and honey. They also produce organic fruit and veg in polytunnels and large gardens as well as preserve produce and bake bread.

They coppice wood for fuel and use their own materials such as wood and willow for craftwork.

The community take care of the land according to organic principles, and try to recycle and conserve resources as much as possible, using compost toilets and are off the grid water and electricity.

Living and learning together

Everyone that stays at Brithdir Mawr believes that the benefits of collective living outweigh the difficulties. They believe that working together is easier and more enjoyable than working separately and they aim to behave in a way so that all can flourish and feel at home.

Members of the co-operative share and exchange their skills and experience to help everyone move towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

A co-operative community

Many people have come and gone over the years, some staying for just a short time, some for as long as 20 years. During this time the community has welcomed many hundreds of visitors including friends and family, volunteers, course participants, event attendees and students.

The co-op is run based on the principles of sustainability, collective living and education and most who have stayed there, have left with very fond memories and having learnt something new about sustainable living, reducing their carbon footprint or growing food.

Want to start a similar housing scheme? Get in touch.

co-op.housing@wales.coop

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