What is Trelay?
The main features of cohousing communities are:
· They are set up and run by their members for mutual benefit.
· Members are consciously committed to living as a community.
· Developments are designed to encourage social contact and a sense of neighbourhood among members.
· Common space facilities, activities like community meals, and amenities like laundries, are shared.
Like other cohousing communities, Trelay has a range of private living spaces where people live behind their own front doors, as well as several communal buildings. It is like a small hamlet.
· We meet regularly and often in the farmhouse kitchen and dining room for communal meals and to undertake project work.
· We have developed the Green Barn into workshop, storage and craft units with a small farm shop. Our communal washing machine room, tool-store, log-shed and games room, children’s play areas and community gardens will be improved, aiming for a well-kept and beautiful site.
· We plan to build a Cohousing Community and Conference Centre to support our educational work.
Social and financial sustainability
Trelay community members work hard at positive communication and good social structures.
· We believe that people living in a group that cares and shares will be happier and have a greater sense of well-being. Diversity is welcomed.
· Every member of the community is treated on an equal basis regardless of their financial contribution or their education or skills level.
· We have regular learning-together sessions on subjects such as non-violent communication and permaculture. We all value our children.
· We have pioneering ideas on affordable housing. Members commit to licences under a Mutual Home Ownership scheme, which enables everyone to gain equity in their living space.
· Social interactions with the wider community are extensive; Trelay members are involved in the Parish Council, local churches, choirs, the Horticultural Show, the Gazette (the local newsletter) and sports clubs.
The people living in the Trelay cohousing community make conscious efforts to live lightly on the Earth. Examples of our sustainability efforts are:
· Community members try to reduce the use of cars by sharing cars, carrying out errands for each other, using buses and trains and giving each other lifts to public transport. We have an electric car charging point.
· Community members keep our use of electricity and heating low by sharing a wood-stove in the communal lounge, for example. We have a large PV system and a ground source heat pump system. We are working towards better insulation of our houses and more renewable energy, and a new central community building.
· We produce nearly all our own meat and eggs, and aim to grow a considerable proportion of our own vegetables without using chemical fertilisers. We plan to create a milking parlour and a dairy where we will process our milk making cheese, yoghurt and even clotted cream
· Members reduce their needs for environmentally-damaging material goods by sharing many items. We try to produce very little landfill waste and we compost our garden waste.
Trelay energy and water projects
· 20kW peak PV system on the Green Barn.
· Ground source heat pumps (16kW + 6kW) and a pellet boiler scheme providing heat and hot water to most houses.
· Interseasonal heat store; solar hot water system; better insulation of our old properties.
· Coppicing, hedgelaying and sustainable timber providing heat from biomass.
· Reed-beds, a private water system, small wind turbines and an innovative wind fence are part of our long-term plan.
Eventually we shall have up to 30 adults producing a large part of our food and energy from our own land and working on rural businesses for income generation:
· A centre of learning connected to rural retrofit cohousing, including affordable housing solutions.
· Sustainable tourism and eco-retreats: we have built our first cabin, one of four with planning permission. www.facebook.com/tamariskholidays
· Training courses based on our farm production methods and sustainable lifestyles.
· Craft production of value-added items sold through our farm shop.
A model for the future
For ten years, the people at Trelay have been developing a resilient, long-term, sustainable model of living together in a rural setting. Diversity adds to our quality of life and the model includes people with little money, children, and people with declining energy due to age as part of the enlivening mix that benefits all who live at Trelay. Our farm has become a rich and diverse environment with many different farm animals, building types and habitats for wildlife; and a centre for discussion and ideas.
More than 60 people have lived here during the past 10 years, with many people using Trelay as a stepping-stone to a new life-style. As well as benefitting its members, Trelay Cohousing Community benefits hundreds of people who visit each year and thousands who read about our lifestyle and learn new ideas from us.
South West England Sustainable Enterprises (SWESE) Trelay Ltd.