Once upon a time there was a farm on the slopes of Carn Ingli in the Preseli mountains of Pembrokeshire. For many years it was inhabited by three elderly siblings who managed as best they could in the rambling, dilapidated farmhouse and left the land and buildings largely unmanaged. The farm was bought in 1994 by Julian and Emma Orbach, who set about renovating the buildings, establishing gardens and raising their family. People came and joined them, often just passing through. Others stayed for longer, established homes for themselves, and a community was born. Meals were shared, seasons were celebrated and meetings were held to organise all the work that needed doing. The ideal was to embrace the principles of sustainability, simplicity and spirit; to find the simplest solution, favouring bowsaws over chainsaws, pen and paper over laptops; to use no more than our 'fair share' of resources, developing reliance on wholly renewable resources wherever possible; and to maintain contact with the spiritual in our everyday lives, celebrating the seasons with an awareness of the contribution of our thoughts and actions to the smooth running of all that is.
Eco-buildings were built and eventually found by the authorities; most famously, the roundhouse Jane Faith and Tony Wrench built (see www.thatroundhouse.info for the whole story), which turned the community into an international media fest. Brithdir Mawr was the home of the 'Lost Tribe of Wales'; living in obscurity on the side of a remote mountain in Wales. For a short while the world - as far away as Hong Kong- was fascinated by a bunch of visionary hippies trying to lead life in a different, gentler way. Since then a huge storm has blown over the Roundhouse. It has certainly challenged the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park's definitions of sustainability and appropriate housing and has opened the door for serious debate. The Roundhouse story has contributed to the inclusion of a Low Impact Development policy into the Joint Unitary Development Plan; a document outlining planning policy for the whole of Pembrokeshire.
Beyond this, life continued. People came and went, relationships ebbed and flowed. Eventually it became apparent that the aims of sustainability and spirit could be interpreted in many different ways. It was clear that it would be more fruitful and less painful to establish another circle within the community rather than stretching the continuum of ideals beyond reasonable limits. On a more secluded part of the farm, away from the yard and buildings, more low impact straw bale huts were built, a new garden was created and Tir Ysbrydol was established.
Around the same time as this, Emma and Julian decided to divorce which meant that the farm would be divided. Tir Ysbrydol adopted half of the land and woods, the land surrounding the Roundhouse became the Roundhouse Trust and the farm buildings and about 80 acres of pasture and wood remained with the community - all those living in and around the farm yard.
Before long, in 2002, Julian found that it was his time to leave. Six members were then left to decide how Brithdir Mawr should continue. Without its founding members, the community was, for a while, adrift. However, it was soon discovered that six was a good place to start. Decisions were made that boosted confidence and allowed us to see what Brithdir Mawr Community should be; separate from Tir Ysbrydol and The Roundhouse; fully able to stand alone. A period of re-invention and re-visioning ensued. The Housing Co-operative was formed in order to collect the rent to pay to Julian and to hold the fifteen year tenancy. A Company limited by guarantee was incorporated to deal with the farming and business side of things and hold insurance for the site. This formality was quite a different feel to the community in the early days, but forming both bodies eventually made it more straightforward to deal with officialdom and the outside world.
Four years on and
Brithdir Mawr Community is everything you find on this website. A lot remains
the same, a lot has changed and a lot remains open to debate and clarification.
It has been an exciting process to come this far, and the prospect of taking Brithdir Mawr even further even more so.
Part of the Brithdir Mawr Community website at www.brithdirmawr.co.uk