Trelay Cohousing is a vibrant community of twenty-two adults and nine children, established in 2007 at Trelay Farm.

The farm has thirty-two acres of land and is near Bude in North Cornwall in the United Kingdom, two miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

Trelay is a rural retrofit cohousing scheme and an educational facility welcoming hundreds of visitors. Our buildings include old stone buildings insulated and refurbished; and new buildings, built to a high standard.

The community aims to provide a rewarding and satisfying lifestyle to each of its members. We work hard but we also have fun.

We are becoming an inspiration to people who wish to live lightly on the planet as we learn to live together happily, co-sufficiently, in harmony with nature.

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.

Communal spaces

· 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.

Environmental sustainability

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.

Live-work life-styles

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.

· 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.

Trelay Produce

Our produce from the farm has included pork, beef, lamb, wool, chicken and duck eggs, milk, cream, yoghurt, cheese, honey, fish, many varieties of vegetables, tree fruit and nuts, soft fruit, timber, firewood, other forestry products, flowers, paintings, photographs and a wide variety of crafts – most of these in small quantities.

Trelay’s People Plan

Before I came here, I thought environmental sustainability was the most important issue. But now I realise that people must come first. Financial sustainability at Trelay is key, otherwise people are full of fear. Then social sustainability – good quality interpersonal relationships with everyone’s needs met. After those are in place, the community becomes naturally more environmentally sustainable: sharing transport, reducing waste, loving natural beauty and wildlife.”

Employees and volunteers

The Trelay Cohousing Community welcomes volunteers who work side-by-side with us and experience the joy of living on a small farm where we practice co-sufficiency.

When there are jobs to be done at Trelay which we expect to pay for, we try to employ Members of the Community, negotiating a rate of pay that is for the good of us all.

Community harmony

Since its inception, Trelay has worked to develop ways for its members to live together in harmony, with conflict resolution procedures, communication meetings and sharing circles. Currently we are working with an advisor on NVC (Non Violent Communication) and holding regular meetings to learn more about harmonious living.

Affordable homes

Trelay has developed a pioneering method to allow people with no money to join the community on an equal basis. Of the 22 people here, there are 5 who had considerable life savings or money from the sale of relatively expensive houses; 9 who had moderate amounts of capital; and 8 who had no capital. Our system allows the people with wealth to act, in effect, as mortgage guarantors, enabling the others to make mortgage commitments. Trelay encourages people to set up businesses at Trelay, enabling them to earn money to pay for their mortgage commitment without travelling off-site. This multi-generational method of sharing resources and working together to pay bills brings benefits to all. Affordable homes at Trelay are not only available at low prices, they enable people to develop their own step-up in life, gaining equity from a zero start.

Personal development opportunities

People who live at Trelay have many opportunities to learn new skills and to develop new ways of thinking and experiencing life. Members have learnt many things, from bee-keeping to milking a cow; from managing the accounts of a business to methods of insulating a building; from amazing recipes using our home-grown food to communication and meditation skills. Older parents support younger parents with practical help and ideas. Young people help to care for ill people. We have experienced the death of a loved Member together at Trelay.

Inevitably, some people choose to move on. The Community’s aims are to support the move in a way which brings benefits to the person leaving and those staying, so that friendships are maintained on into the future.

Vision weekends

Once a year, Members of the Trelay Community hold a weekend to reinforce and update our vision. Here is our summary from Nov. 2016:

Happy people

Mindful communication. Community Harmony Project. Buddy / mentor system. Trust; acceptance; individual communication needs.

Lovely Place

Sustainable/ low impact way of life – renewable energy and food production. Homes and farmhouse finished/ warm comfortable + leave no trace. Community garden – beautiful place.

Making it happen

Convenor groups system improved . Action super-heroes for projects! Money happiness – clarity.

Trelay’s Development Plan

Our mission is to demonstrate quality of life in a sustainable community

Our development plan has three strands:

Cosy homes

When we purchased Trelay 10 years ago, the old stone buildings were uninsulated and unheated. Over the years we have improved and extended the homes and we are continuing to do so. Most of this work has been done using private funds.

Our development plan for the next 5 years includes four significant cosy home projects as shown in the table on the next page.


During 2016 we invested £36,000 in a ground source heat pump project, funded by private loans.

Our development plan for the next 5 years includes extending good quality heating as well as the development of an animal centre and the build of a new sustainable sewage system.

There is the possibility that we may be able to develop more infrastructure projects using private money as well. For example, we are exploring the possibility of a small wind turbine and the development of a private wire system linked to battery storage; and a sustainable water system with a borehole and rainwater collection. We would like to demonstrate a pioneering wind fence.

Business development

Our company (SWESE (Trelay) Ltd) is a not-for-profit company which does not undertake business activities, but seeks to provide the facilities for members of the Trelay Cohousing Community to do so.

During 2016, a holiday cabin business was started by a company called Tamarisk Ltd, which is run by Trelay people. The first cabin was built in 2016, funded by a private loan. A second is under construction with 2 more planned.

Members are currently setting up two more businesses: a camping business and a farm shop business.

Our most ambitious plan is for a Cohousing Community and Conference Centre for which we received outline planning permission in September 2016.

We will not build this until we have raised sufficient money from grants and private gifts or loans.

More information about the projects in our development plan

Cosy homes

1. Penwarne extension – extra living space for the Cooper family. Applying for planning permission; if not will build smaller extension under permitted development. Private funds available. Build expected 2017 – 2018.

2. Chylosen extension – extra bedroom/ guest bedroom. Permitted development. Mortgage loan paid for from Roger’s pension. Build expected 2017 – 2018.

3. Loft conversion – living space for Kathy. Applying for planning permission and bat licence. Private funds available. Build expected 2017 – 2018.

4. Octagonal summerhouse – being built by Christine. Completion expected 2017 – 2018.


5. Animal centre – an important part of our farm infrastructure to allow small-scale farming of animals for meat and milk. Permitted development. Private funds available from Sally. Build expected 2017 – 2018.

6. Sustainable sewage system – an important part of our community infrastructure to allow us to deal with our increased sewage from expected visitors in a responsible way. Mortgage loan paid for from service charge.

7. Extended heating system – two extensions are planned: a pellet boiler system for three living spaces (using a mortgage loan paid for from service charge, build planned 2017) and an extension to our ground source heat pump system (fund-raising required to build this in the future).

8. Community garden – central community area for relaxation and play being developed in 2017 using money from a legacy from Helen Pinder, a Trelay member who died at Trelay.

9. Polytunnel B – a new facility to allow us to grow more food, including raising plants for the vegetable patch, and also plants for selling in the Farm Shop. Private funding available from Jackie.

10. Wind turbine – will soon be submitting a pre-application enquiry followed by a planning application and fund-raising. A private wire system will be included in this project and it will be linked to a battery storage system (13.) Private funding expected. Build in 2019 or 2020.

11. Wind fence – a novel system under development. We hope to be a pioneering site. Possible build in 2020.

12. Borehole, rainwater collection and water storage system. Later in the 5-year plan.

13. Battery storage, large enough so the Trelay Cohousing Community can be off-grid. Later in the 5-year plan.

14. Solar hot water + kitchen refurbishment – private funding available; work planned for 2018 – 2019.

Business development

15. Holiday cabins – this Trelay-related business has borrowed private money and will have a loan linked to our mortgage. The first cabin has been generating income since September 2016, and the second one is expected to welcome its first guests in September 2017. The 3rd and 4th are expected to be built in 2018 – 2019.

16. Camping business – the infrastructure has been developed using private funding. This new business was launched 1st August 2017.

17. Farm shop – planning permission has been granted. Build of shop has started, using private funding. Shop will open in 2018, selling Trelay fruit, veg, sausages, craft items and plants.

18. Conference centre – outline planning permission has been granted. Details currently being developed. Private money of £30,000 has been allocated to the first phase. Fund-raising phase including sufficient money to tarmac the central road. Build expected 2018 – 2021.

Looking to our Financial Future

Trelay Cohousing Community is run by a not-for-profit company called South West England Sustainable Enterprises (Trelay) Ltd (the Company), which owns Trelay Farm and the buildings and infrastructure. The Members of Trelay Cohousing Community purchase equity in their living spaces under the Trelay Mutual Home Ownership Scheme, but the Company takes responsibility for the mortgage on the property. Members pay an amount to the Company to cover any share of the mortgage they may have, and also a Service Charge to cover bills and other expenses. The Company can adjust the Service Charge up or down so that the Company covers its cost but does not make a profit and so pays no tax.

Looking to the future, the Company foresees no problems in being able to continue to meet its targets. We have 22 residents and spaces for 4 more adults after our building work is complete, who between them will be able to pay the mortgage costs and other costs between them into the foreseeable future.

Our profit and loss projections show little income from businesses, because they are being set up principally to support individuals to enable them to live here. As the businesses become established, more income to the community can be expected.

In future, additional sustainable businesses are expected to flourish, such as eco-weddings, conferences, and educational events promoting cohousing and local food and energy.

Capital income

The table above does not show the capital that may be put into the Company from time to time. Some Trelay Members and associates have private sources of capital and they may choose to contribute to projects in our development plan. We also have a fund-raising team that will seek capital contributions for projects that are for the public good.

Risk analysis

We have undertaken a risk analysis to consider the way forward if Members leave and if mortgage interest rates go up. If people leave, either their equity will be sold on to new people, or the Company will be able to rent out the empty houses to raise money to pay the mortgage and bills. If interest rates go up, our investment in infrastructure to reduce our costs will make us robust and our infrastructure to enable new businesses will increase our income.

The new projects planned which require capital will only be started after the capital has been raised.

We conclude that there is a low financial risk to our development plan.

Trelay Covenant & Vision Poem

Trelay Covenant – to be signed by each community member

I am committed to living by the Trelay Community Values

We aim to care for each other, our home, our animals, our plants and our land.

We are committed to supporting each other through all challenges and difficulties.

We believe in a healthy balance between individual and community needs.

We are committed to learning how to trust, communicate and learn from each other.

We believe in arriving at consensual decisions through listening to everyone.

We wish to play a positive part within the wider community of North Cornwall.

We aim to make Trelay a good example of how to live more lightly upon the Earth.

From our Highest Vision for Trelay:

Trelay Is a Place . . . . .

Trelay is a place of patience, beauty and harmony.

Where we have compassion to self and others, where we grow and thrive as a community.

It is a home, a place of safety, and a place to grow and thrive.

Home and Peace.

At Trelay we live in beauty and harmony.

Secure people and a beautiful place.

Where everyone feels love, safe, respected and cherished for being themselves.

Love, Respect and Happiness

Stronger Together!

At Trelay we have happy animals and happy people.

We have warm and cosy houses.

At Trelay we live in harmony with nature and wildlife.

We have an abundant veggie patch and abundant cake!!

At Trelay we are giving up ego for the greater good.

Feeling happy and secure, personal growth.

Love and hugs relaxing into Being.

Trelay is a place where personal growth leads to harmony,

harmony leads to communal growth.

Happy people who are co-sufficient and an example for others.

A shining example reaching out and empowering other groups.

Trelay is an inspired vision to help save the world.

Put together by Debbie, Vision Weekend 20th November 2016


Trelay – Working for Good

Trelay is not just a home for the member of the Trelay Cohousing Community. SWESE (Trelay) Ltd is a non-profit organisation seeking to do good for others – to help “Save the Planet” by teaching and acting as a replicable example. Before the end of this 5-year development plan, Trelay will be:

An educational facility

offering courses; conferences; spiritual retreats; yoga; one, two or three-day events; open to visitors who will come as volunteers, holiday-makers, or people inspired to discuss and learn.

An all-age community with all ages benefitting

offering home-schooling as an option; child-care; care of the ill and elderly; support for people with small incomes; an ethical place to make use of savings; spiritual support encompassing all beliefs and none.

Affordable housing – a unique model

Each Member can invest capital or commit to a mortgage share; no renting – everyone owns or gains equity; non-profit so no exploitation in order to gain money.

Knowledge centre

Cohousing as a concept; permaculture methods of growing veg and fruit; sustainable milk and meat; food processing and preservation; sustainable building methods; crafts using local materials; renewable energy; sustainable water management; ways to develop community harmony.

Eco-village with a reducing footprint

Car-share, sharing of tools, washing machines etc so we buy less stuff; co-sufficiency as we share the food we have grown, meals and skills; energy and water management.

Sustainable synergistic businesses

Holiday cabins; camping; shop selling Trelay produce to our holiday guests; eco-weddings; educational courses with students using the accommodation; small-scale organic produce with surplus sold in the shop . . .

Possibly the best UK example of rural retrofit cohousing?

We bought a farm in 2007 with some stone holiday cottages and a few acres, upcycling the old stone houses to save building all new-build, developing the barns to new uses, improving the soil organically. We now aspire to become the regional hub for community led housing for the South West.

Actions for You!

Join Friends of Trelay

Write to us about investment opportunities, including ethical gifting, crowd-funding and interest-bearing loans

Arrange to visit us?

Contact Jackie Carpenter, our fund-raising convenor, for more information: jackie