Visit to Springhill: Reflections of a cohousing ‘novice’

ELAINE HAWKINS

As a relatively new Cohousing Woodside member, I jumped at the opportunity to attend an Open afternoon at Spring Hill Cohousing in Stroud, Gloucestershire. On a cold wet late autumn day, I carefully followed the route from Stroud railway station. That said, it was impossible to resist a detour into Stroud farmers’ market where stalls, dripping with rain, were already evidence of a vibrant wider community where organic food, locally produced crafts and other creative enterprises were a regular feature in the town.

The tiny entry gate to Springhill itself was not a measure of the warm welcome I received as I found my way up to third floor of Springhill’s co-house.  We were a small group of visitors, initially met by three residents.  I had come wanting to learn more about the challenges and pleasures of being part of a cohousing community; their press cuttings and photographs not only told an intriguing story of Springhill’s development but also recorded some of the challenges of getting planning permission and of allaying the concerns of the wider community.

What Springhill was sharing affirmed what I was coming to understand about Cohousing Woodside’s development to date – cohousing project evolution was neither a quick nor a straightforward process.  It required patience and a willingness to be tolerant of times of huge uncertainty interspersed with a readiness to be pro-active when circumstances required. Springhill affirmed that this process can have clear and positive outcomes.

As we were treated by our guide to viewings of two houses and one flat, along with an opportunity to talk to their owners, I was inspired by how these homes were a direct representation of the cohousing ideal of providing individual dwellings within a sharing neighbourhood.  Each resident had developed the design of the inside of their home in line with their own needs, interests and vision. The co-house was a hub for regular eating together and the commitment to contribute to cooking once a month, as part of the opportunity to share an evening meal three times a week, seemed a well-established and welcome part of shared community living.

Springhill01

Over tea and cakes at the end of the afternoon – all home-made and brought to the co-house by different residents – I asked specifically about how each resident would express what they saw as one key challenge and one key pleasure of living in a cohousing community. I was then introduced to the three ‘p’s : parenting, parking and people! Living in community with other people, it was widely agreed, was the source of enormous pleasure but also, simultaneously, sometimes the source of challenge. That said, the Springhill residents I met were unequivocal in their commitment to finding the processes through which to address challenges and in their celebration of the mutual benefits of living in a Cohousing community. Their commitment was certainly infectious and I came away appreciative of the insights I had been given, and more aware of both the shared and different possibilities and challenges for Cohousing Woodside as we continue our journey towards establishing our Muswell Hill community.

If you wish to visit Springhill you are invited to contact their visitor coordinator at: visit@gl51tn.co.uk

 

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