We are in the 40+ age bracket and we come from different walks of life and have diverse interests. As a group we have a wide range of experience, be it professional or personal, with a shared desire to further our exploration of life as individuals and as a group.
What binds us are shared values and aims and a desire to control our futures. Developing the scheme has been difficult but has helped unite the group.
We chose the Cannock Mill site in Colchester because this vibrant town met our most important criteria for location: good local facilities and a lively community while still being within easy reach of London. Colchester is a town rich in history and culture and with good services. It is surrounded by beautiful countryside, with the added benefit of fast rail services to London (fastest 46 minutes). Cannock Mill is on several bus routes – 10 minutes into town and 20 to the main station. Since acquiring Cannock Mill as our site we have welcomed new members from Colchester and from further afield, broadening our group from its original London roots. Our members are involved in a wide range of activities and groups, such as book clubs, choirs, walking groups, language classes, yoga classes and more. We aim to continue just the same when we are living at Cannock Mill and so become part of the local community.
We are looking ahead and have set up an ‘ever after’ subgroup to be creative about the future management of the project and have already agreed some of the long-term matters, for example:
- We will prepare and share meals in the common house on a regular basis.
- Those of us who enjoy gardening will be able to indulge that passion in the communal gardens and we all look forward to enjoying any crops.
- Our site in the Old Heath area has good public transport and we have agreed to minimise car use, in line with our eco aspirations. We are planning to run a car-pooling scheme to encourage people to dispense with a private car, which will have the added benefit of reducing the need for unsightly parking on the site. We have several members who have already dispensed with the car, but not the bicycle, so we also plan to host a bike ‘repair cafe’ for the cyclists among us and in the local neighbourhood.
We have not yet resolved to have a wine cellar, to buy things in bulk or to watch classic films in black and white, but these and all other possibilities are up for discussion in our ‘ever after’ subgroup.
Buildings for our community
We have planning permission to develop our site with 23 new homes, a mixture of one and two bed flats and 17 houses with up to three bedrooms with garages. We love the architectural and ecological quality of the designs and are confident that when built it will be a beacon for future developments. Our new buildings are designed to achieve Passivhaus standards for very high energy efficiency and very low running costs. They are designed to Lifetime Homes standards too, to provide accessible and adaptable homes for the future.
Current proposals are that the homes should be built in timber frame cassettes with recycled newspaper insulation. They will be finished with ‘self-coloured’ lime render in different natural mineral colours and all have triple glazed windows and doors to meet Passivhaus certification.
The physical focus for our cohousing project is the common house. In Cannock Mill itself we have a fantastic existing base for all our common house activities.
Its renovation will give us well thought-out spaces: a professionally planned kitchen opening into a flexible dining room / meeting room; a comfortable sitting room / library (with a wood burning stove) which might get cleared for dancing! On the ground floor will be guest bedrooms (helpful for those who are downsizing but still need extra space for visitors) and workshops. Some of our members are even looking forward to the restored mill pond being suitable for ‘wild swimming’.