Gay’s introduction to the group
While living and working in Cambridge I had become part of a Cohousing Group called Enlinca (Environmental Living in Cambridge). A part of our brief was information gathering about other groups, and this is how I heard about the Village Forest Project initiated by Alan Heeks. (This was a vision of an eco-village with eco-hotel, wholefood shop, complementary health centre and eco-housing. Having worked in both the world of wholefoods and complementary health, the ideas appealed to me.)
I went to a couple of meetings, one held in Hazel Hill Wood – which was another of Alan’s past projects. It was at one of these meetings I learned that he was anticipating the eco-village idea to be manifested in Dorset. This interested me as I had been spending some time with friends in Dorset and had begun to fall in love with the gently undulating countryside (having lived in the flat desert of East Anglia.)
However, I lost interest when I learned he wanted to set up an interim community before the main project. Having lived in the same place for 30 years I did not relish moving twice in a short space of time – until I fell off my bike, fractured my elbow and thought ‘if not now- when?’ So I continued to make whatever meetings in Dorset I could with metal pins in my arm and the help of friends, and committed to the group.
Looking at properties
In the summer of 2004 a diverse group of people, holding a vision of co-housing, received a blow when the property they had set their hearts on in Walditch, West Dorset, was sold from under their noses.
The property was an old farmhouse with one cottage and various barns which could be converted into residential units – given the appropriate planning permission.
This group, (that had started with about a dozen people, and had now become eight) held a very important meeting when the decision had to be taken to carry on or disperse.
Well, we decided to carry on regardless. Whole weekends were devoted to a combination of business meetings, viewing properties and spending time getting to know each other and ‘bonding’.
Within a very short space of time another property was discovered, as on July 5th an email came round from Jane saying:
"I have just received details of Cole Street Farm, which is half a mile from Gillingham (details of the property follow)…the units are holiday units but given North Dorset’s greater flexibility, and that there is enough space to present it as a genuine mixed use business and residential development, it might be possible. If anyone thinks it is worth a look, let me know and I will book a viewing"
So began the story of Cole Street Farm Cohousing Community and the Threshold Centre.