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Community Pembrokeshire West Wales

An Uncertain Future for Brithdir Mawr

ONE OF THE best known off-grid ecological communities in the UK, Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-operative or the BMHC, is currently under threat due to a change of ownership of the land they live on.

In 2020 the community’s current landlord and co-founder, Julian Orbach, made the promise on national television in the BBC’s Save Our Ecovillage programme, that they would have until the end of 2025 to find the money to buy the land. However, due in part to his failing health, Mr Orbach now intends to sell to someone else even though the community now have the agreed-to money.

The potential new owner, who has asked to not be named, plans to remove the twelve adults and four children of the housing co-operative from their homes at the base of Carn Ingli, near Newport, Pembs, so that she can start her own spiritual retreat
community in their place.

William Cooke, one member of the non-hierarchically organised BMHC said: “We believe that the most beautiful route would be for everyone involved to come together to find a way forward that worked for all. Then we could pool all of our energy and resources and do something really amazing. But this person who’s attempting to buy is currently refusing to consider working with us. It feels like they don’t really understand anything about who we are.”

This year, the community will celebrate its 30th birthday. “As well as being a home, at a deeper level what we are really trying to do here is let a more ecologically-centred and connected culture come to life and take root.

We also host lots of others for long or short times, to give them a taste of how we live and hopefully inspire them to find their own ways of making change in the World. No one is in charge here: we do it all together. We think it’s a beautiful way to live.”

A community group has recently formed to support the housing co-operative through these tricky times. Called the Friends of Brithdir, this group is made up of local people, ex-members, people who have previously volunteered at Brithdir Mawr, and many others who have heard the call and have rallied round to help.

Heather Sanderson, a member of the group, said “I feel it is crucial to support the Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-operative, especially in the current housing crisis. Community is paramount, and in a world where many live a ‘copy and paste’ existence, this is a sanctuary for creativity, free from dogma or hierarchy. Witnessing 50 people gathering together to share why this place is or has been vital to them, is incredibly moving. We must protect places like this.”

The housing co-operative continues to feel positive. “We remain open and hopeful that we can all come together, in that spirit of radical collaboration which is a cornerstone of our existing community values,” said the community in a recent email to the potential new buyer.

“The community here is built on supporting our members to bring their different energies, gifts and callings to the land here. Our strength is in embracing that diversity.”

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“Nature and the universe in all its mystery is beautiful as a result of collaborative symbiosis. Let’s demonstrate that at Brithdir Mawr.”