Crabapple community is looking for new members

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Crabapple Community is a thriving housing co-op of 10 adults and 4 children (mainly teenagers) aiming to live as sustainably as possible in our large Georgian house and 20 acres of land, 5 miles south-east of Shrewsbury. Crabapple Community was founded in 1975 and moved here to Berrington Hall two years later.

We are currently seeking new members! We would like the community to be diverse with a mix of ages, genders, cultures and skills. Currently, 5 of us are aged 50+, so we’d particularly like some younger adults to join us! We’re also keen to find a family, ideally with young children. However, anyone is welcome to apply.

We’re looking for practical/resourceful people who are child-friendly and able to commit at least 2 days work per week in areas such as eco-renovating the house and outbuildings, managing our woodland, growing and processing fruit and vegetables, running our community-supported market garden, increasing our sustainability and supporting social/environmental movements through hosting events.

The general running of the community is organised through a flexible rota system – everyone takes a turn at cooking the evening meal & clearing-up afterwards, cleaning communal areas and loading the log-boiler (in winter).

We have meetings every Monday evening to discuss domestic matters and current and future plans. We also have community work days once or twice a month to tackle specific projects.

We welcome volunteers through the WWOOF scheme (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) on a regular basis – starting with an initial visit of 1 to 2 weeks.

You don’t need capital to join – we are tenants and pay rent (at a rate accessible to those on income support). We share communal evening meals which are vegan/vegetarian, and we share food and fuel bills. There’s also a separate kitchen for those wanting occasional meat/fish meals or personal meals.

We also aim to create a harmonious and supportive environment for those of us who live here, and those who come to visit.

The land

The house is set in approx 20 acres of woodland, meadows and growing areas. We have a 2 acre walled fruit and vegetable garden, a community-supported market garden, several polytunnels, an orchard, a willow plantation, herb and flower gardens plus 2 large camping fields. There’s also numerous nooks and crannies!

We aim to live as sustainably as we can and to be self sufficient in produce for at least some of the year. We grow everything organically and within this broad framework, we have a diversity of approaches – some of us drawing inspiration from permaculture, others experimenting with a vegan-organic approach.

Most of the woodland was planted by the community over the last three decades. Over the last couple of years we have put together and are starting to carry out a woodland management plan. However our member with the most woodland management knowledge has moved on to pastures new so we would definitely appreciate any knowledge you could bring around that.

The fields are managed for a mixture of hay for composting and mulching and as a venue for gatherings in the summer.

We also have a wonderful community of wildlife living with us on the land – including grass snakes, newts, owls and woodpeckers. We definitely take their wellbeing into consideration when managing the land and are hoping to increase the biodiversity on site.

For more than a decade, the community has not kept livestock (other than a few rescue chickens and bees) and we are not currently intending to go down this route.

You can read more about the food growing and wildlife side of Crabapple on our blog www.crabapplecommunity.wordpress.com

The house

Berrington Hall was built in 1805 by the first Earl of Berwick who owned Attingham Park (a nearby National Trust property) for his third son who was the rector of the local parish. He lived here with his wife and 8 children and 23 servants until a new rector took over the parish and inherited the house. It may have become a burden to subsequent vicars who didn’t have aristocratic fathers supporting them in the upkeep of the house. It was sold in the 1920s when the church decided it could no longer afford it, and a new rectory was built in Berrington village.

Much has changed since then, but the pre-occupation with maintaining the building remains a constant.

The house has two distinct sections, the front half has very high ceilings and large rooms, convenient for fitting a whole community in for dinner. The back half is the old servant quarters with three floors and lower ceilings. There are beautiful big sash windows throughout and lots of interesting features and quirks from all through its interesting history. In terms of communal spaces we have the main (vegetarian) kitchen and the huge dining room, a large library/sitting room, the events room (used for events, table tennis and temporary storage), the back kitchen (for private cooking including meat/fish), a dry food store, two utility rooms (for laundry/freezers/vegetable storage), the office, bathroom, shower room, three toilets, cellar and the boiler room.

We have a huge (120kW) log-boiler which supplies our central heating system and hot water for about 5 – 6 months a year. The rest of the year our ‘Stanley’ cooking range and solar thermal array provide our hot water. We also have a 4kW photovoltaic array which supplies a decent amount of our electricity and we’re in the process of setting up a biodigester to supply some of our gas for cooking. A future project is to build solar-thermal or compost-heated showers in the camping field.

One thing we’re entirely off-grid for is sewage. All the flush toilets are connected to our very own 1920’s sewage works (in the aptly-named Sewage Woods), and outside the house we have two sets of “tree bog” style compost loos.

We have a whole array of outbuildings, including a former stable block. We are planning to bring these into more productive use in the near future, as accommodation and workshops.

We also own a shop premises in town, originally supplied by the community and known as Crabapple Wholefoods. Currently we rent it out to a greengrocer (Pomona), but we are in the process of considering how we would like to make the most of this asset in the future.

Available rooms

Currently there are a few rooms available in different parts of the house, including:

  • The entire top floor of the back of the house – which consists of 2 large rooms, 1 medium-sized room, a small landing-area and a large storage cupboard (which we are intending to convert to a shower). Previously, a couple with 3 young children lived on this floor quite happily!
  • A large room on the first floor at the front of the house, adjacent to a shared bathroom and opposite the large bunkroom (where wwoofers sometimes stay). This room would be suitable for a couple or a single person.
  • A small/medium room on the first floor at the back of the house, next to another bedroom and a shared toilet. This room would be suitable for a single person.

Next steps

First have a look at this “compatibility” checklist to ensure that there’s nothing about life here that would deter you!

  • I am happy eating vegetarian/vegan meals on a daily basis (we have a communal evening meal virtually every evening, but sort out our own breakfasts and lunches).
  • I am happy cooking or learning to cook vegetarian/vegan meals for 8-12 people (roughly once a week).
  • I am happy sharing kitchens, bathrooms and toilets.
  • I am happy living with children including teenagers.
  • I can spend an average of 2 days a week doing work for the community (e.g. gardening, house maintenance, community admin, cooking the evening meal, cleaning communal areas etc).
  • I am happy living in a place which actively supports groups involved in campaigning/nonviolent activism towards a more just, peaceful and sustainable world (e.g. climate action, home education, anti-militarist/radical peace groups etc).

If you can say “yes” to these six statements, then the next step is to get in touch with us via crabapplecom@hotmail.com and tell us a bit about yourself including:

  • Who you are as a person and what you are passionate about.
  • Why are you interested in joining us?
  • How would you expect to spend your time while living here (don’t be shy about listing traditionally under-valued occupations, unpaid work, hobbies etc).
  • What could you contribute to the community?
  • How would you intend to cover your rent and housekeeping whilst living here?
  • If we think you might fit into community life here, then we’ll invite you to visit for a day or two.

Once we’ve reviewed applications at a meeting the next step will be to arrange a mutually convenient time for you to visit, generally either on a Tuesday to coincide with our community gardening day or on a community workday scheduled around community members availability each month.

We ask that people contribute £4 per adult per day (and lower rates for children) to cover food & other housekeeping costs during your stay, alternatively it is possible to volunteer through the Willing Workers on Organic Farms scheme, however you must be a WWOOF member to do this.

Please note

Be aware that the membership process can take up to 6 months.

We want to make sure that this is the right move both for you and for us before offering you a place.

After your first visit, please let us know whether you’d like to continue the membership process. If we think you might fit into community life here, then we’ll ask you back for further visits to try out being here, ideally for a weekend and then a full week. Then if everyone is happy and we still have a vacancy, you can move in.

Please note that If we have several people interested and visiting at once, the process is more logistically complicated as we need to find combinations of new members that fit the available rooms and who also all get on with each other.