In brief…

The future of the community is at risk. There is still hope that we will be able to continue as we are, but details of what is happening to Brithdir Mawr right now as we understand it are as follows:

The process has been started to sell Brithdir Mawr to an individual who has said that the housing cooperative (i.e. the community) will not be able to continue after the purchase. Our understanding is that this person intends to run a retreat business and to own the land privately instead of safeguarding the place for future generations by putting it in a trust or similar (which is our ultimate aim).

Earlier in 2023 the community set up a buyers group which had amassed the funds necessary to purchase Brithdir. Due to various reasons including unexpected ill health, the owner decided to continue the sale to the individual buyer rather than to the community. We do not know the current status of the sale (as of April 2024), but our offer to the owner still stands should he wish to accept.

If you want to be kept informed of updates, if you want to talk to us about any of this or if you can help us out in any way please do send an email to visit@brithdirmawr.co.uk

In more detail…

We’ve spent several months putting together four documents to communicate about what is happening to Brithdir. Some of the sections below are long and detailed; this is because there’s a lot to say. The most supportive thing you could do for us as a community and for this process as a whole at the moment would be to read what we have written.

[NB: The person known as RAM has asked for her name to not appear in these documents.]

We are forming a ‘Friends of Brithdir’ group that will meet every Tuesday evening at 7pm, at Brithdir Mawr.

Here are the documents, intended to be read together in the following order:

Click on the link at the end of each title to download a PDF version, or scroll down to read on.

1. Purpose and Values: the foundational document for the Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-op (BMHC), which gives some insight into our culture. PDF

2. Past, Present, Future: the physical world story of the current situation (who said what to who and when, who did what and went where) as best as we can tell it. PDF

3. How This Is For Us: lays out our story. PDF

4. Our Strategy: our responsibilities, intentions, and strategy going forward. PDF

Brithdir

By Jason Wood

From the muddle
Of our lives
Love emerges
Like a thirst quenching
Life restoring
Spring

We are the
Beautiful emergence
Of everything
That can not be repressed
That will not be suppressed.
Our love comes from the
Deepest source.

As we are
In all our imperfection
I tell you,
There is no place
More beautiful
More full of humanity,
More loved…
By a mountain
A river
And the trees.

Our Purpose

To encourage and allow to emerge a nourishing, mature and eco-centric human culture that fosters connection at every level: connection to each other, our human tribe, the land, the earth, those beings other-than-human, our own inner worlds, and the individual purposes and gifts that we bring to the world. For these rekindled connections to move us along a healing path for ourselves and for our planet.

To be a place of beauty and balance where we are willing and able to act in ways new, old or alternative that are radically different from the current dominant culture, but where we consciously value and appreciate those creations and aspects of modernity which do genuinely serve us.

To reconnect to the full value of the meaningful, purposeful work that we actively choose to do on and for this land: this land which provides us with so much, and for which we are deeply and sincerely grateful.

To provide secure and affordable housing and access to land, and opportunities to learn land-based skills.

To be a beacon of hope within a world in crisis. To share freely and with joy what we are creating with others, offering one vision of a different way of being. To trust that our way of life will speak to others, nourishing their spirits and empowering them to discover their own unique roles within the creation of a more beautiful future for all beings.

The Three Pillars

Brithdir Mawr Community has long been held and informed by the Three Pillars of SUSTAINABILITY, COMMUNITY and EDUCATION.

SUSTAINABILITY / CYNALIADWYEDD:

Brithdir Mawr Community is a community of individuals who aspire to live together in ways that are truly sustainable because they are also regenerative. We try to live in ways that have positive impacts for ourselves, those around us, and the planet, not only physically (in terms of our effects on the natural environment both close to home and further afield), but also emotionally and culturally.

COMMUNITY / CYMUNED:

Our community aspires to be a place of safety, peace, trust and harmony. We have a non-hierarchical power structure. We are an active part of the wider community, co-creating a more beautiful future with those around us and sharing what we have with others. In our connectedness and diversity, we are resilient. Within this human-scale community, there is a place for each to discover and offer their unique gifts.

EDUCATION / ADDYSG:

We aspire to continually travel on a path of life-long learning, both as individuals and as a community. We regularly invite others to share with us as we learn, and we teach the skills and knowledge that we have developed to others.

Our Values

As we work to fulfill our Purpose in the World, we aim to act in accordance with our shared Values. They underpin our day-to-day lives. We are compassionate with ourselves and recognise that we don’t always deal with situations perfectly, and our Values can also sometimes be in tension with each other. However, they can be a guide on the best way for us to proceed.  

  1. BALANCE / CYDBWYSEDD: We always try to find balance in what we do, giving ourselves permission to flow with the natural cycle of things. We value equally that which is internal and that which is external. We value work and rest, play and stillness.
  2. COMMUNICATION / CYFATHREBU: We communicate clearly and openly with one another. We offer prompt, caring and non-judgemental feedback when necessary. We listen to and hear feedback that is given to us, and value it as a source of growth and learning.
  3. GUARDIANSHIP / GWARCHODAETH: We act as guardians of the natural and built environment of Brithdir Mawr. We aim to safeguard and protect what is here, whilst also allowing and encouraging sustainable growth, regeneration and positive change.
  4. RESOURCES / ADNODDAU: We work in harmony with nature and the land to provide for our own needs as far as is practicable. When Brithdir Mawr Community needs to bring in resources that we cannot produce ourselves, we value that which is most in keeping with our Vision of helping our local community and the wider World to thrive.
  5. POWER / AWDURDOD: We do not hold power over one another, and we make decisions collectively whenever necessary. We aim to break down those hierarchies of power that are common in the dominant culture. We empower individuals and small groups to make decisions for the whole whenever possible and appropriate.
  6. GRATITUDE / DIOLCHGARWCH: We show gratitude. We show gratitude to ourselves and one another for who we are, what we do, and how we act. We show gratitude for the fact that we are in this community, on this land.
  7. LEARNING / DYSGU: We value learning, and we share what we have learnt with others. We take the time to reflect on what we have done. We experiment and try things out. We seek guidance from others, trusting their wisdom but also our own judgement.
  8. RESPONSIBILITY / CYFRIFOLDEB: We take responsibility for our actions. When we take on a task we either follow through, or we make it clear that we cannot, without fear of judgement. We abide by decisions made by the group. We recognise that our actions have consequences on others.
  9. TRUST / YMDDIRIED: In all of our interactions, we start from a position of trust.
  10. INCLUSIVITY / CYNWYSOLDEB: We aspire to inclusivity. In our diversity we are resilient. We recognise that we are a part of the dominant culture, a culture which marginalises a wide range of people based on certain characteristics. We aim to identify and address any of our unconscious prejudices or biases. We want people to feel welcome and able to thrive here. (NB: We are choosing not to attempt to list all marginalised groups here, because we feel it will not be possible to list them all and we do not wish to exclude. We recognise that this may not feel like the ideal way for all people.)
  11. HERITAGE / TREFTADAETH: We value and celebrate the deep culture of these lands. We particularly value the Welsh culture and language. We act in ways that develop trust and understanding between ourselves and those who have been here for longer than us.
  12. OTHER THAN HUMAN / BYWYDAU NAD YW’N DYNOL: We respect and value the lives of those that are other than human. This holds whether they are plant, animal or anything else. We recognise our place as a part of nature. When we take life, it is done with care, gratitude and humility.
  13. GENEROSITY / HAELIONI: We aspire to share freely and with joy what we are creating with others. We want to be open hearted and open-handed. We believe that if all people were connected through a web of generosity and gift-giving, this World would be a place of abundance. We aim to do our part in bringing this about.

INTRODUCTION

The intention of this document is to present the story of the ownership of Brithdir Mawr from 1994 to date from the perspective of us: the current members of the Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-operative (BMHC). We recognise that our story is not the only story, and that the stories held by the other people involved are likely to be just as true to them as ours is to us.

We are in what we would term a conflict with a number of others, many of whom are named within this story. We believe that it is OK to be in conflict; we believe conflict to be a natural and growthful part of life. We believe that conflict is a change wanting to happen. But, a conflict that remains unresolved is like an infected wound: it needs cleaning so that it can have a chance to heal properly. Conflict needs tending to, no matter how difficult that might feel. It is our experience that unless a conflict is engaged with by all of those involved, the energy contained within it will always return, and almost certainly intensify and deepen over time.

It seems likely to us that everyone involved in this situation is trying their hardest to do the best thing in complex circumstances. We are not trying to blame or shame any of the people involved. It is not our intention to cast judgement on anyone involved for any of their choices or actions. We trust that we will not be judged in turn. We are trying our hardest to choose the best route forward. We hope that the telling of our story might be a step on the road towards resolving this conflict for the highest good of all, not least the land of Brithdir Mawr.

This story deliberately leaves out almost all of our emotional response to all of this. We are a community of individuals; our emotional responses have been many and varied. In this first instance, we are trying to just lay out all of the pertinent ‘facts’ of the situation as best we can, as well as we can remember. We recognise that our memories are imperfect and created by ourselves and as such they will be different from the memories of others. It is not possible for any one individual to be in possession of the perfect and complete objective truth regarding what has happened here. That objective truth, if it can even be assumed to exist, will reside somewhere amongst all of the individual and subjective truths that each of us hold.

We are sharing this story more widely than just with those named within it. This is for a range of reasons. Firstly: because we are being frequently asked by many in our local community (and beyond) about what is happening at Brithdir Mawr. We wish to be able to answer clearly and fully and in a way which fits with our ethos of doing things collectively: we need to have our own internally agreed-to version. This is it.

Secondly, we are sharing this publicly because we feel that we owe it to our many previous members, volunteers, visitors, friends and supporters, all of whom have been integral parts of this community at one time or another. Thirdly, because we feel a sense of political and personal injustice and wish our voice to be heard, because it does not feel as if it is at the moment. And finally, because this conflict will affect many more people than just those directly involved: conflict ripples out in all directions, and resolved conflict can lead to healing for many more than those directly involved. It seems right that anyone who wants to know can know, because it may well affect them in some way, however this goes. We aim to be as transparent as possible.

We welcome hearing stories about the community at Brithdir Mawr from anyone who feels like telling them. Please send an email to brithdirmawrhc@gmail.com. This absolutely also goes for anyone whose understanding or memory is different from ours, or who feels that they have additional information to add.

We have started our story at the point at which Julian and Emma Orbach bought the land. We recognise that the stories of these lands and the farm of Brithdir Mawr go much, much deeper. We would very much welcome hearing any and all of those stories too. We recognise a disconnect between ourselves and the local Welsh community which we would love to address; any gifts of any stories that we were offered would be cherished.

We wish to extend our thanks to Emma and Julian Orbach for the initial purchase and renovation of Brithdir Mawr, and our deep gratitude to Julian for his many years of support as a completely hands-off landlord, charging us rents at well below the market rate and shouldering the burden of ownership of the land. We would not be here without them. We are grateful.

PAST

Up to 2002: The Birth and The Split

In 1994 the 160 acre farm of Brithdir Mawr is bought by Julian and Emma Orbach, and a community is formed which starts to renovate and develop the land and buildings. The intention of the early community is to work together harmoniously towards a life dedicated to the “Three S’s:” Sustainability, Simplicity and Spirit. The aim is to live a very simple, low-impact, earthright life, based on permaculture principles and developing a good relationship with the energies and earth spirits of this land, and for all this to be shared with volunteers and visitors.

In order to help with cash flow issues, seven acres of the land – now called Doug’s Wood – is sold to Doug, a member of the local community with many tree seedlings that he needs a home for.

In the early 2000s Julian and Emma separate and the community splits apart.

Emma takes ownership of 80 acres of the land and begins to live a life on that land with those members of the community for whom the third of the three S’s – Spirit – was key.

Julian takes ownership of the farm buildings and the other 80 acres of the land, and the land-based community of Brithdir Mawr continues to develop. This community reframe themselves around their “Three Pillars” of Sustainability, Community and Education. They retain the aim to be self-sufficient and continue to allow certain aspects of modernity (electric lighting, for example), but reject the explicitly spiritual aspects of the previous formation of the community. They also retain non-hierarchical consensus processes – where power is shared equally amongst all members – for decision-making.

Brithdir Mawr and Tir Ysbrydol

The splitting of the land and Emma’s decision to live permanently ‘down the hill’ can be seen as the start of the emergence of the spiritual community called Tir Ysbrydol. At the time of writing, Tir Ysbrydol retains a strong focus on Simplicity – there is no electricity beyond the occasional head torch allowed – but has less focus on self-sufficiency in terms of food or fuel. Brithdir Mawr, on the other hand, aims to produce as much food and fuel on site as possible: we have an integrated renewable energy system which involves restraint in its use and so, although we lead a life that is very simple by modern standards, we can choose to have electric lighting, as well as a shared washing machine and a freezer. Whilst mobile phones are certainly not allowed on the land of Tir Ysbrydol, many of the people currently staying in the community there come up the hill to Brithdir Mawr to access the internet on our wi-fi, check their phones, and charge their electricals.

There are two more fundamental differences between the two communities, however. One is the way in which power is held. At Tir Ysbrydol, power is held by Emma, with her being the human with responsibility for decisions regarding who is on the land and what happens there. At Brithdir Mawr, on the other hand, we follow communally agreed-to decision-making processes and structures, to ensure that everyone here is equally able to craft the way in which we lead our lives.

The second fundamental difference between the two communities is within how we each relate to Spirit – the key driver of the split in the first place. Tir Ysbrydol remains a place where the spiritual is absolutely central to the way of life. This contrasts with Brithdir Mawr where, whilst many of us both past and present recognise a deeply spiritual and soulful aspect to our land-based way of life, we do have a history of being a place where overt spirituality was explicitly rejected. It has taken a long time for our community to come to a place where just now, we are finally seeing the re-emergence of a communally held (but very definitely non-mandatory) ceremonial and spiritual culture.

We believe that the sibling communities of Brithdir Mawr and Tir Ysbrydol are both beautiful, magical and unique entities in their own rights. We do not believe one to be in any way superior to the other. We are fully in support of Emma and the community at Tir Ysbrydol. We recognise the value and importance of the work that is done there, and the transformative effect it has had on many of the people who have spent time there – some of whom now live at Brithdir Mawr. We have a sense of these two entities slowly softening to each other and nestling together over the many years since the trauma of the split. We hope for this healing process to continue.

From 2002: Legal Formation of the Housing Co-op – Many Years Pass – and a Major Shift in Membership

In 2002, Julian leaves the community.

With the intention of ensuring that the community remains outward-looking and engaged in the wider local community, Julian asks the community to pay him a monthly rent for the land.

The community works to develop new legal structures and formal principles, work which is completed by the end of 2004 with the creation of two legal entities: Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-op (BMHC), which provides members with housing; and Antur Cymuned BMC, a Limited Company which deals with the business of the farm. [These legal entities remain extant at the time of writing.]

Julian gives the community a 15 year Agricultural Tenancy to run from 1st January 2005 to 31st December 2019. At this time Doug also sells the seven acres of Doug’s Wood to the BMHC.

Time passes.

At the end of 2015 Julian tells the community that he will not renew the lease when it comes to an end in four years time, and that he wishes to sell and move on. He is keen for the community to find the funds to buy Brithdir Mawr, and offers the community first refusal on the purchase when he comes to sell.

Julian initially suggests a price £1M, but as the result of a detailed valuation with local land surveyors Edward Perkins, the price is set at £750 000.

The loss of perceived long-term security for the community leads to upset within the membership, and is a significant motivator for a major shift in the membership of the community: over the next four years all but one of the members leave and are replaced by a new generation. [It is this new generation who form the core of our current membership.]

Although the new members are aware of the future uncertainty from the outset of their membership, it takes a long time for a group to emerge that is secure enough to make a serious attempt at the task of bringing together the money to buy the land.

The only member not to leave during this period is Tony Haigh, who has been a member since 1998.

What About The Trust?

When Tony Haigh joined Brithdir Mawr, it was as something of a refugee from the collapse of Glaneirw, another nearby housing co-op which had fallen apart in shocking circumstances.

Our understanding is: Glaneirw had been on the verge of paying off its mortgage and becoming self-owned when a conflict erupted, centred around (and possibly deliberately initiated by) a particular family. This conflict developed to the point where all members of the community – with the exception of the family – left. This family thus effectively inherited the house and lands, selling them and benefiting financially. The following should thus be read in the context of the intense hurt felt by Tony over the collapse of Glaneirw.

In 2017, Tony Haigh wrote a letter to Julian to express his very deep disappointment that Julian was going to be selling Brithdir Mawr, leaving the community with what Tony saw as the insurmountable task of raising the money in too short a period of time. From Tony’s perspective and as detailed in his letter, this was – as far as he was concerned – the third time there had been what he described as a “breach of promise” by Julian.

For Tony, at the core of his decision to move to Brithdir Mawr in the first place was his understanding that the land was to be placed in trust, and so protected from the open market (and the fate that befell Glaneirw) in perpetuity. The first breach of promise came when, shortly after the split happened and Tir Ysbrydol did become a trust, the same did not happen at Brithdir Mawr. In Tony’s mind a second promise was then broken when Julian started charging rent: something Tony felt had been promised would never happen. As far as Tony was concerned, the third breach of promise by Julian – the decision to sell Brithdir Mawr – was the final going back on what he felt was a clear commitment by Julian to safeguard the community indefinitely.

However, differing stories exist. Another early member of the community, KM, has told us that in the period between 2005 and 2015 several attempts were made to raise the money to buy the land, but that these attempts came to nothing. For such attempts to have been made, the community must at least have been aware that Julian had a desire to sell the land to them during this period. In KM’s memory, when the 2005 Tenancy was agreed, Julian made it clear that he did not want to be the owner of Brithdir Mawr indefinitely. KM does not remember Julian making any commitments to safeguard the community indefinitely..

These two different stories may or may not be in conflict. It seems to us entirely possible for Julian to have made both some commitment to safeguard the community indefinitely and to have stated his desire to sell the land. We would love to know Julian’s story of these times.

It remains the intention of the current community for the land to be held in trust.

RAM Meets the Community

In 2017, RAM is introduced to Emma via a mutual friend – Bungo – who is also a member of Brithdir Mawr community. RAM is already aware of Emma through things she has seen on the internet, but it is through a piece of synchronicity facilitated by Facebook that she discovers that Emma is the next-door neighbour of Bungo.

Over the next year, RAM spends time with Emma at Tir Ysbrydol, and becomes aware of the need for BMHC to find the money to buy the land which they live on.

In 2019 RAM meets the community to talk about her interest in investing. RAM’s key motivation in this offer is understood to be ensuring that Brithdir Mawr does not get sold on the open market, potentially to someone with no interest in supporting Emma’s work, where it could become a barrier between the linked sacred spaces of Carn Ingli and Tir Ysbrydol. RAM states that in her opinion, it would be better for the community to raise the funds independently, but that she will act as a ‘backstop’ in the case that they are unable to do so. It is the community’s understanding that in saying this, she is offering to support the community with an investment from her to enable the community to continue.

Granting More Time

At the end of December 2019 the lease expires. Julian chooses to not sell immediately, and allows the Agricultural Tenancy to automatically renew, granting the community another year to find the money.

In 2020 a BBC documentary called “Saving Our Eco-Village” is filmed with the involvement of BMHC and Julian. The film focuses on the work that BMHC is doing to create a Community Benefit Society (CBS) and put out a Community Share Offer to raise the funds to buy Brithdir Mawr.

As a result of the creation of this plan, Julian grants the BMHC an additional 5 years to find the money to buy the land, reaffirming his desire that the land be bought by the community. Although this agreement is clearly stated in the documentary and later within email correspondence between Julian and the community, it is never formalised with the issuance of a new lease. Instead, the existing Agricultural Tenancy is allowed to automatically renew year-to-year.

The community is left with the clear belief that they have until 31st December 2025 to find the funds to buy the land. The asking price for the land remains unchanged, at £750 000.

CBS Plan to Buy BM (2019-2020)

Members of BMHC work to develop the CBS plan.

This work is shelved when the main individual driving the plan leaves in very difficult circumstances.

The work is never restarted because on reflection, it is recognised that the plan is actually not realistic. The CBS plan would require the community – made up of individuals already working at full capacity doing the good work that we do here and without any previous business experience – to develop several new businesses on site within a short timeframe. It is these businesses which would finance the interest on the loans from a Community Share Offer (CSO), the CSO being the source of the money necessary to buy the land. At the time there is simply not the capacity available in the community to do the enormous amount of work necessary. Indeed, it is in large part the attempts to find the necessary capacity by short-cutting our decision-making processes and the resulting erosion of our culture that triggers the deep and intense conflict which causes the person driving the CBS plan to leave.

The Death of Tony Haigh

During the spring of 2020, Tony Haigh – the only person still remaining from before the major shift in membership – is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He dies almost a year later, late at night on 27th February 2021. During this time he is cared for in his home at Brithdir Mawr entirely by members of the community. He is buried by the community three days later, amongst his hazel trees, in the coppice to which he’d dedicated so much time and energy. By the time of his death, Tony has been a member of the community for 23 years.

Group Dynamics Project (2021)

In the wake of the collapse of the CBS plan and the death of Tony, and during the second half of the Covid pandemic, the community dedicates a lot of much needed time and energy to its inner workings. They create the Vision and Values (a foundational document which revisits and expands upon the Three Pillars, the development of which allows the community to see what it is that brings them together), as well as a new conflict engagement policy, more clear decision-making processes, more structured division of responsibilities and power, and a more efficient meeting culture. The result of this work is that ongoingly the community is able to make each of its many smaller but equally important day-to-day decisions in a timely manner with refocussed commitment to the consensus process and the need to find ways forward which work for all.

RH (December 2021 – May 2022)

The community is approached by a potential investor called RH.

In large part as a result of the Group Dynamics Project, RH is willing to make an offer to invest £800 000 to buy the land. It is our understanding that this offer would be acceptable to Julian.

After lengthy negotiations, BMHC chooses to refuse the offer, as its terms would have been to the long-term detriment of the land and the community.

Why Not RH?

RH valued the Brithdir Mawr community for who we are. But/and he also had the (well-intentioned) desire to make his investment in us make financial sense within the current money system. He wanted to do this in order that others like him might then choose to invest in other communities elsewhere, such that a wider change might happen. For us, however, this would have looked like the community’s rents increasing to market values over a small number of years, and the community again needing to create businesses on site in the same way as was necessary for the CBS plan. This would still not be viable in our context: our members are still already working at full capacity, and it was clear to us after the collapse of the CBS plan that attempting to create such businesses and driving ourselves to become something that we weren’t would lead to conflict within the community. Acting as guardians for the land and for the community remain fundamental to our purpose, and this is at odds with attempts to make money for the sake of making money.

For the community, this can be seen as us becoming confident in the rightness and value of what we were doing for its own sake, and holding boundaries – acting as guardians for the long-term health of the land and the community – even though it meant refusing something which in the short or medium term would have given us the illusion of security.

Very regretfully, we did not communicate with Julian about our feelings and reasoning at this stage in the process. This lack of communication was – in hindsight – clearly not at all considerate of Julian and very definitely a long way less than ideal. However, it also demonstrates the depth of trust that we had in Julian’s commitment to give the community until the end of 2025 to raise the money to buy the land, and our trust in his trust of us to be able to do that. At this stage in the process, we had no idea of how deeply Julian wished to be clear of the burden of ownership of the land. Maybe this indicates a lack of imagination on our parts, maybe an indication of how busy our lives here are, maybe a lack of communication in both directions. Probably all of these things and more besides.

It is our understanding from others in his family that our refusal of the offer from RH was a breaking point in Julian’s faith in the community, and became a major factor in his decision-making after this point.

For us at this stage, we were resting after the work with RH, and prior to starting the search for other investors who would see the value of who we were for our own sake. We were still very much committed to the task of finding the money with the 2.5 years left when…

RAM, RS and Agnes Orbach (July 2022 – January 2023)

In July 2022, a group made up of RAM (who had offered in 2019 to act as our ‘backstop’), RS (a regular visitor to Tir Ysbrydol) and Agnes Orbach (the youngest daughter of Emma and Julian) offers to buy the land from Julian.

Without first communicating with the community, Julian agrees to sell Brithdir Mawr to RAM, RS and Agnes (RRA), breaking the agreement that he had made with the community regarding the end of 2025 deadline.

Julian informs the community of his decision.

RR&A contact the community by email, stating “We don’t intend to move to Brithdir until Spring Equinox – 21 March 2023.  Between now and then, we envisage that you would have the time and space to feel into your involvement with the new chapter at Brithdir and for those who don’t feel aligned, it gives eight months to transition. We can’t guarantee accommodation at this stage either and, depending on how many people feel aligned with the vision and wish to be part of this next chapter, we will explore available accommodation options at Brithdir.”

At this stage there are 14 people living at Brithdir Mawr. Our longest-standing members have been resident for over 8 years, and the housing co-op itself is 18 years old.

In a Zoom meeting with members of BMHC Julian states that he will not sell to this group unless they enter into negotiations with the housing co-op, and that it is his understanding that the group intends to place the land in trust.

[Having the land protected from sale on the open market by placing it in trust has remained a primary objective for the community since we learnt that we would need to buy.]

We choose to go along with this new plan at this stage because:

  • Agnes, who we know and trust (and still know and trust), is involved.
  • The buyers are a group, and each will be investing the same amount and so (we assume) taking power equally. Non-hierarchical group process is how we operate to make decisions; we recognise its value in ensuring that high-quality and well considered decisions are made which tend to the needs of all, and Agnes’ involvement leads to us feeling confident that our needs will be represented.
  • The land was to be placed in Trust by the end of the process.
  • Julian had reassured us that the group of buyers would have to negotiate with us.
  • We recognised and respected Julian’s desire to not be a landlord and wished to help him be released from this burden as soon as possible.
  • We welcomed the sense of security; the idea that we would be released from the burden of trying to find the money, a task which had weighed heavily on the community for the last 7 years.

In August 2022 we meet with RR&A. There is a desire from us to understand what this group sees as the new vision for the future of Brithdir Mawr. This does not happen; it seems to us that there is no consensus within the RR&A group as to what the new vision will be. The meeting is considered to be unsuccessful by all of the participants, both BMHC and RR&A.

All of the members of RR&A are invited to come and spend time with the community to get to know us and the work that we do. (At this stage, neither RAM nor RS had ever stayed at Brithdir Mawr for longer than a few hours, and although Agnes grew up in large part at Brithdir Mawr, her involvement with the community has been minimal during the last 7 years: a period of very major change for the community.)

Due in large part to a bereavement in RS’s family, no further communications happen between anyone in BMHC and RR&A until December 2022.

RAM

By the beginning of February 2023, RS and Agnes Orbach have dropped out of the RR&A group, leaving RAM as sole buyer.

Early 2023: RAM receives confirmation from Julian that he will sell to her as an individual. Shortly afterwards, Julian has a massive heart attack. From this point onwards, Julian’s three children – Agnes, Martha and Reuben – begin acting on behalf of Julian with regards to the sale due to Julian’s ill health. It is our understanding that RAM’s offer to Julian is for £1M, in excess of the £750 000 offered to the community.

March 2023: RAM provides us with a document containing a sketch of her individual vision, and informs the community by email that “this new part of the journey of Brithdir will not include the housing co-operative as a collective.” Her vision also contains no commitment to the land being held In Trust after the sale.

It is the position of BMHC that RAM’s vision and the current work of the housing co-op are, in fact, very closely aligned, and that it would be very possible for a collaboration to occur. However, the community would have clear red lines regarding power being held equally by all. We let her know this in an online meeting between members of BMHC, herself, and Mike Kear: a previous volunteer with Brithdir Mawr who has met RAM separately and is exploring the possibilities of working with RAM and the community to secure the future of Brithdir Mawr.

RAM is unwilling to enter into negotiations with BMHC at this stage.

For the community, RAM’s intention to take power over us and bring an end to the housing co-op, having made almost no attempt to learn about us or the work that we do and using a power rooted in money, is a direct threat to the community of which we are guardians.

‘Buyers Group’ process (March and April 2023)

In response to RAM’s email and with the full and explicit agreement of the housing co-op, one member of BMHC forms the Buyers Group: a collective of individuals plus the BMHC, all willing to invest in Brithdir Mawr on the understanding that a non-hierarchical process will occur that will find a way forward that works for all. This group has the potential of putting close to £1M on the table and includes as potential investors RH (the possible investor from the year before, though at a smaller scale than before), and Mike Kear, who is keen to work with the community and is open to collaboration with all those who wish the heritage of the community to continue as a part of the future vision of Brithdir Mawr. [At the time of writing, Mike is in the process of becoming a member of BMHC.]

RAM is invited to join the Buyers Group, meaning that together, a possible £2M for the purchase and renewal of Brithdir Mawr would be on the table.

A 48 hour process is held to begin the negotiations. At the end of this initial meeting RAM states that she “trusts the process.”

It is the commonly held understanding of all members of the community, those other members of the Buyers Group present at the meeting, and Justine Rees from Fachongle who was present to help with facilitation, that negotiations will continue.

Two weeks later at the second – online – meeting of the Buyers Group, RAM unexpectedly pulls out of negotiations stating that her “…vision is too important to be put through a consensus process.” She is unable or unwilling to respond when asked why her vision should take precidence over others’.

RAM finalises the sale of her house in London. It is our understanding that this is done in order that she can become a cash buyer of Brithdir Mawr and speed up the process of the sale to her, ostensibly for the sake of releasing Julian from the burden of ownership.

April to December 2023

RAM moves to rented accommodation in Cilgwyn.

She invites all members of BMHC to meet with her one-to-one. Her stated intention for these meetings is to explore whether there is alignment between each of us and the ‘new vision,’ such that where alignment is found between a current member and the new vision, we can be invited to stay on at Brithdir Mawr after the change in ownership. If alignment is not found, those individuals will be required to leave.

All but one member of the current community meets with RAM one-to-one. We individually express our unwillingness to be a part of the new vision if it does not exist in harmony with what the current community does, and offer her a range of feedback as to why.

On 13th June 2023 we ask the Orbachs to reconsider their plan to sell to RAM. We make a firm offer of £800 000 for the land: £50 000 more than we were expecting to pay, and two-and-a-half years ahead of the agreed deadline. [This offer is less than the £1M we believe was offered by RAM.] We highlight our sense of injustice regarding Julian not upholding his previous agreements with us: either the initial December 2025 end date, or the later agreements regarding the RR&A group (the need for negotiations, and for the land to be held in trust at the end of the process).

On 17th July 2023 we are told that it would be “plainly unethical” to not sell to RAM at this stage, due to her having sold her house in London.

In October, RAM leaves Wales to spend the winter in her house in Greece.

In November, the BMHC receives Notice To Quit Brithdir Mawr, meaning that our legal tenancy will end on 31st December 2024. This notice comes via the Orbach’s solicitor. We respond in kind, highlighting the broken commitments, requesting formal access rights to Doug’s Wood, and reiterating our willingness to engage in talks to find a mutually positive way forward.

CURRENT POSITION

Recently – late February 2024 – we were told that we would need to give access to RAM, her parents, and various architects and surveyors to come to look around Brithdir Mawr. We initially agreed, but then on reflection asked for a postponement: one of our members was expecting to give birth at home here, with the due date less than a week away from the visit date. Also, at that point we were yet to receive a response from the solicitor’s letter we had sent in November 2023 in response to the Notice To Quit. The visit has now been rearranged, but neither RAM nor her parents will be present.

The Orbach’s have most recently said that they now see direct communications as problematic due to the involvement of solictors.

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We have been expecting the sale to RAM to finalise any time since April 2023, but it has still not happened. The uncertainty around this has been very challenging. It was our understanding that there was urgency felt by both Julian and RAM to complete the sale, and that RAM is a cash buyer. We now understand the delay to be because RAM has been wanting to take vacant possession, leaving Julian with the task of ensuring that the community vacates.

We are expecting to soon bring together a second firm cash offer that will be equal to the £1M being put forward by RAM; we believe that we will be able to do this within the next few months, if not weeks. Were we to become the preferred buyers, we would be willing to follow the most direct, most expedient route to completion of the sale. We are very aware of Julian’s desire for a quick sale, and we know – intimately – what we would be buying: we would feel no need for any surveys or the like. Although we feel very uncertain that the Orbachs would be willing to change to us as their preferred buyer were we to make this offer, it nevertheless seems to be the right thing for us to do at this stage.

The BMHC remains the legal owner of the 7 acres of Doug’s Wood, located right in the heart of the land here.

Our future feels very uncertain. We do not know what will happen over the next year. It feels difficult to not be in the loop regarding the progress of the sale. It feels difficult to not be in contact with Julian, someone with whom we thought we had a really good relationship up until a relatively short time ago. It feels difficult to feel threatened by RAM, whom we feel has made no real effort to get to know us or understand our lives.

Other than the deep sense of uncertainty in our future, we are thriving: the community goes from strength to strength, growing in membership and tending to the land in ever more diverse and beautiful ways. A baby was born here just a couple of weeks ago! We are growing wheat now; the first cuts of the mixed coppice planted over 20 years ago will be happening next year; our gardens continue to produce around 90% of all that we need to eat here, our woods and off-grid electricity systems produce about 90% of all of the energy that we use. Living here we have 12 adult members, (now!) 4 young members, and at any time between 2 and 4 long-term volunteers. We run nine Volunteer Weeks each year, hosting 8 additional volunteers during these weeks to give them a taste of our way of life and because we love to share what we have with others; these “life changing” events continue to be oversubscribed and completely free. The Natural Academy visit us for 10 days in September to hold their Vision Quests, an important stage in their 2 year long ecopsychology course. We host weekly language courses in Welsh, Cornish and Irish. We hold and attend various other community events. We continue to live our lives of service here on this beautiful land.

We remain committed to the idea that a way forward can be found that will work for all, if RAM were willing to come to the table and negotiate with us from a position of genuine commitment to non-hierarchical process. We wish to break down the sense of “us” and “them,” and become an “all of us,” where we can each bring our unique gifts to the table and be valued and appreciated for them, whether those gifts are in the form of money or anything else. We remain always committed to the willingness to collaborate to find the most beautiful solution possible for all.

FUTURE

We do not know what the future holds; we continue to feel our way through this process from moment to moment, trusting in an outcome that will be for the highest good of all.

We are aware of the rumour mill. We are aware that there is a rumour doing the rounds that we have made the decision to fight for our future on the land here, and to refuse to leave at the end of 2024 when required to do so according to the law. We want to state now that this is categorically not the case. Although it is true that all options remain on the table, no decisions have been made. We are resolutely non-hierarchical in our decision-making; no one is in charge here and there remains a very broad spectrum of opinion amongst our membership regarding what the future holds. We hold regular meetings where we bring our views and consider the next steps as we move forwards. The time for decisions regarding our future course of action remains very much in the future. We do not know what it will look like, but we will continue to act from each moment in the ways which seem the most beautiful to us.

INTRODUCTION

At the start of this, we want to reiterate: we believe that everyone involved in the process of the changing ownership of Brithdir Mawr – the Orbachs, RAM, the BMHC, and any others – is trying their hardest to do the right thing. We are all complex and unique individuals, acting from a whole blend of motivations, both conscious and unconscious. We are also all part of the more complex whole from which this process is emerging, and any sense of individual control we may have is probably poorly founded.

Right at the core of who we are is openness and honesty. We do not feel listened to. We feel we are being forgotten or even ignored. And so, whilst recognising that this act is likely to have consequences and without a clear understanding of what those consequences will be, we are choosing to speak out publicly about how we feel.

The aim of the document you are reading now is to draw together the threads laid out in the previous two, combine them with some others, and weave them together to describe more fully how this situation is landing with us. Once again, we want to be absolutely clear that we recognise that as many stories about this situation will exist, as there are people involved. This document lays out our story. We own it. We appreciate others have theirs and we are open to hearing them.

WAYS OF KNOWING

We recognise the four ways of knowing as thinking, feeling, sensing and imagining. As we search for the most beautiful ways forward, we engage with each of these ways of knowing, aided by our non-hierarchical process: for different people here, different ways of knowing are more natural. We each carry a part of the whole, bringing forward what seems important to each of us. As we work collaboratively to find the route that best works for us all, we integrate these different ways of knowing into our decisions and actions.

The dominant culture massively over-emphasises the use of thinking over the others. We choose to value them all equally, and will use them all to help us weave together the threads.

WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON?

The Past, Present, Future document gives a full account of the history of the situation. We encourage you to read it. However, to help you get your bearings, here is a summary:

  • In 1994 Brithdir Mawr is purchased by Emma and Julian, and a community starts.
  • In the early 2000’s a split occurs: Emma and Julian separate, and the community and land divide.
  • Julian becomes the sole owner of the part of the land which retains the name Brithdir Mawr.
  • Shortly afterwards Julian leaves and becomes the landlord of the newly formed Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-operative (BMHC).
  • In 2015 Julian tells BMHC that he wishes to sell, giving the community 4 years to buy the land.
  • BMHC fails to find the money.
  • Julian chooses to not sell at this point, and the lease is allowed to automatically extend for another year.
  • BMHC creates the ‘CBS plan’ to find the money.
  • In 2020 Julian makes a final promise to BMHC to give us until the end of 2025 to raise the money.
  • The CBS plan fails.
  • In early 2022 the BMHC enters negotiations with a single potential investor – RH – but chooses to turn down the eventual offer from RH as accepting it would be at odds with our responsibilities to act as guardians for the land and our community. [For a more full explanation of this, please see the Past, Present, Future document.]
  • BMHC does not communicate with Julian regarding our reasons for turning down the offer.
  • In July 2022 Julian chooses to accept an offer from a group of potential new investors without informing BMHC, in effect starting the process of breaking the promise that he had made to us.
  • Julian tells the BMHC that he will only sell to the group if they negotiate with BMHC, and commit to the land being held in Trust by the end of the process.
  • The group meets with BMHC. The meeting is deemed unsuccessful by all participants.
  • BMHC invites all members of the group to get to know us better: to visit, join in on a volunteer week, come for tea, talk with us and learn about our lives. Only one member of the group – Agnes, Julian’s daughter – does any of this.
  • The group of potential investors becomes a single individual: RAM.
  • Julian gives RAM a commitment that he will sell to her as an individual.
  • Julian’s health sharply deteriorates, and his children (‘the Orbachs’) take over the process of communications with BMHC.
  • RAM tells the BMHC that she intends to remove the housing co-op from Brithdir Mawr, and drops any commitment to the land being held in Trust.
  • A viable and workable route to raising the money opens up at last for BMHC. 
  • BMHC invites RAM to join them to pool resources and find a way forward that works for all.
  • There is a two day conference – described by all at the time as highly successful – to begin the process of negotiations.
  • Two weeks later RAM unexpectedly withdraws from the process.
  • RAM invites members of BMHC to meet with her individually to offer them the chance to remain if she feels alignment between them and her ‘new vision’.
  • Members of BMHC meet with RAM to talk with her and let her know their reasons for not joining with her.
  • In June 2023 BMHC make a firm offer of £800 000 to the Orbachs, an offer in excess of the agreed-to price and two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule. They are told it would not be ethical to sell to them instead of RAM.
  • In November 2023 the BMHC is given Notice To Quit Brithdir Mawr, inferring that their legal tenancy will end on 31st December 2024, a year before the agreed-to deadline for finding the money to buy the land.

WHY WHAT IS HAPPENING IS NOT OK FOR US

This situation feels at times incredibly painful to us. We have a deep sense of injustice, at both the wider societal and political levels, and also at a personal level. What is here already is too important to be cast aside, and the envisaged way forward is wastefully missing opportunities for more beautiful ways of being and acting.

Home

This is our home.

But it is even more than that. We have all chosen to be in this place where we pour ourselves body and soul into trying our utmost to discover a way of life which will be a force for deep, positive change in the World. But first and foremost this is our home. We have buried our dead on these lands. We have birthed our children on these lands. We are here. We have each spent thirteen months or more in the initiation of our Joining Process. We are family. We are complex. We care so, so much about and for this place and this community. Our love is as rich and vibrant as the soil in which we grow our food. Sometimes we argue. It is OK. We learn about each other by discovering where our boundaries are. We become ever closer.

Each week, we meet to craft our collective life together. We gather together all of the pieces that each of us bring. We give each of them the utmost care and open-hearted attention. We find how they fit together, no matter how difficult or complicated. We make sure that every single aspect is cared for.

Sometimes it is easy.

And we – the changing but constant community at Brithdir Mawr – have been doing this for twenty-five years and more. Twenty-five years of unbroken non-hierarchical decision-making. Through thick and thin. Through very thick and very thin. (The experience of conflict in a place where no one is in charge, and its eventual resolution with the depth of personal change and understanding which can emerge, is to experience some of the true lows and highs of community.) This is a golden thread unbelievably rare and precious in a World where so many people seem to need to be in control. It is who we are. It is the soul of this community. And it is woven in, around, and through this land and these buildings. It is in everything we do. It is the way in which we queue for dinner. It is the horn and the clanger. It is the goats, the coppice, Tony’s grave, and the flowers growing out of the walls. It is the gardens. It is the wheat and the woodlands. It is the folders and folders of minutes, decisions, policies and processes, and the cobwebs that cover everything. It is the laughter and tears, the shouts and the dancing, and all those people who have come and gone, and come and gone again. It is our deep and many connections to the local community which surrounds us, those parts both human and other than human.

It has been suggested that we should just pick ourselves up and move elsewhere; buy a different piece of land, somewhere where we won’t be in the way. But the incredibly complex living organism that is our community will not transplant, any more than an oak tree could.

This is our home. It is where our heart is.

Colonialism

Also:

There is a broader context to all of this.

We have each (all but one) spoken at length with RAM regarding her aspirations here. We recognise that she absolutely believes that she is doing the right thing. But the way we see what she is intending is radically different from the way she sees it.

One way of telling the story is this:

An individual from the centre of power and money – London – and using the power that comes with money – a power only ever finally rooted in the willingness of the state to do violence on behalf of the money – is trying to take control of a piece of land. Trying to take control because this person absolutely believes that Spirit – the Angel of the Mountain – has called on them to act in this way. Spirit has told this person that they need to fulfil a particular purpose on this land, and that this purpose, when fulfilled, will be for the highest good.

But there already exists on the land a group of people and a particular culture which doesn’t entirely fit with the new spiritual vision. The group has offered this person the chance for everyone to come together to find a way forward which works for all, but it’s not what the person with money wants: Spirit has told them what is necessary, and Spirit would not have given them the ability to act in this way if it were not for the highest good. The vision is too important, and cannot be watered down by this non-hierarchical process. Collaboration is always compromise. To do something beautiful there needs to be someone in charge, and so the power that is given by the money is necessary.

Besides, this person has offered each individual who currently lives on the land the chance to remain. They really appreciate all of the work that has gone into tending the land. But there’s a lot of potential here which this group has been unable or unwilling to realise. All that anyone who wants to stay needs to do is to work in alignment with the beautiful new vision, let go of the slow and wasteful non-hierarchical process, recognise that an inevitable change is coming, and submit to the power held by this person with money. Those that remain will be allowed to act however they like in those areas reserved for them within the new vision. Unfortunately, there won’t be room for everyone, because space needs to be made for a whole group of new people to arrive. But everyone will be given a fair chance to demonstrate that they are in line with the new vision, and if they are not judged to be in alignment and have to leave, then this is obviously what is necessary for their highest good: Spirit has said what needs to happen, and so all things are permissible.

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For us, what is happening here is very strongly resonant with the old story of colonialism. These are some of the same energies and justifications that carried our wave of violence and repression all over the World. This was never an OK way to act. Power taken over others is always only ever finally rooted in violence. The ends – no matter how beautiful they are intended to be – will not justify the means. The ends will be created by and defined by the means.

Our sense is that RAM is genuinely both surprised and confused that we have not welcomed her intervention, that we are not glad that she has rescued the land from the danger of being sold on the open market – something she correctly realises is of highest priority for us – and that we are not overjoyed that she has come to save us with her strong and beautiful new vision. This mindset – if we are sensing it correctly – is itself deeply resonant with colonialism: it feels to us to be at one with the idea of the ‘great white saviour,’ coming to rescue the ‘savages’ from their (perceived) low and ungodly ways, whether or not they want it, without making any real effort to know or understand, and certainly without asking for consent.

To be clear, though: RAM is acting in a completely normal way. She is behaving in the way that is expected within the dominant political and monetary system. We believe that what is happening here highlights not some brokenness within RAM, but instead the deep brokenness within the system as a whole. We have all been conditioned by our whole society to thinking in these ways since birth. We believe that RAM’s (probably) completely unconscious use of divide and conquer – her one-to-one meetings with us, where we were each offered the opportunity to stay if we would behave as requested and tacitly allow others of us to be evicted – is a clear example of this way of being in the world coming to the surface and showing itself. To break free of our conditioning is necessary but intensely difficult work. We are absolutely not making RAM – in herself – wrong. We have all acted in ways that are less than ideal because they seemed right at the time.

We believe that the attempt to take power over and uproot our community from our home by bringing to bear upon this land the energy and violence of the dominant, colonialist, power-over culture is not only threatening to the foundations of our own culture, but also deeply disrespectful to the land.

Promises

We once again want to reiterate our deep gratitude to Julian for his many years of service as a hands-off landlord – a landlord charging us affordable rates of rent, as opposed to those which he could have within the oppressive and dominating market system. We recognise that for many years, a very considerable sum of Julian’s money has been tied up in Brithdir Mawr. We recognise that we are living in a lovely big farm house on a large piece of land in Wales, whilst Julian’s own living situation restricts the amount of time he can spend with his grandchildren. We absolutely recognise that Julian has given us a very generous amount of time to complete the task of raising the money to buy the land. We are deeply, deeply grateful for all of this.

But: Julian made us a promise. This promise was made publicly, on the television, and later in writing. We were promised that we would have until the end of 2025 to raise the money. We absolutely trusted in this promise, and acted accordingly. We were fully aware that this was the last time any extension to the lease would be granted. We were working incredibly hard to bring the money together: an exceptionally complex and deep challenge, working at cross purposes to the entire monetary system. What we are doing here makes no financial sense. We are proud that it makes no financial sense, because if it did we would be more deeply complicit in a system we believe to be corrupt. This is a place where we aim to reduce the importance of money as much as possible. We aspire to be part of a network of gratitude and gift-giving.

It is because we could not make the financial sense needed by RH whilst at the same time safeguarding both our culture and the land here that we could not accept his offer. We very much regret not communicating with Julian at this point; to not let him know our position was utterly inconsiderate of his feelings. But this lack of communication goes both ways: Julian made no attempt to communicate with us at this juncture either. The breaking of the promise to give us until the end of 2025 was made without any warning. We were informed of his change of position by email as a done deal.

This was – and remains – shocking. We are still reeling from what was – for us – the completely unexpected breakdown in our relationship with Julian, someone with whom we thought we had a good and trusting connection. We are finding it incredibly difficult not being able to directly correspond with him. We have been told by a solicitor friend that there is a good chance that we would be able to use one of either promissory or proprietary estoppel – legal principles that prevent people from going back on their word – in this situation. We are choosing not to make such a move; not to engage the legal system to attack Julian. We do not wish for the energy of the legal system – another highly problematic emergence of the dominant, competition-based culture of which we are all a part – to be brought to bear here. These are exactly the energies from which we want to protect our culture and these lands.

In our arrogance and possibly naive optimism, we still hold to the belief that we are actually acting for the outcome his heart most truly desires: the way which is most likely to lead to the continuation of this enduring community, the community which he himself birthed and helped to hold through the trauma of the split, the community that he has steadfastly supported through so many years of holding the burden of ownership of the land. The community that still loves and respects him for his big heart and open generosity.

Healing

None of us were here when the community split in the early 2000s. We cannot know what it was like. But it is our understanding that it occurred – at least on the surface – due to disagreements about how centrally the spiritual side of life was to be expressed within the community, what this would look like, and whether non-expression or non-belief in spirituality was acceptable on the lands of Brithdir Mawr.

It is our experience that conflict unresolved always reemerges, usually intensified and deepened. Some of us sense that the disagreements and stories present during this splitting may be reemerging here now, and contributing to the situation as a whole.

We understand that RAM is acting in large part from a desire to support Emma in the work that Emma does. We understand from conversations with Emma that Emma believes that everyone who is here at Brithdir Mawr should be actively engaging with the work that she does at the Mystery School of Tir Ysbrydol. We understand that it is because not enough of us are engaged deeply enough with Tir Ysbrydol that Emma feels under-supported by BMHC. And we understand that it is in part because of this perceived lack of support for Emma that RAM feels justified in acting as she is in attempting to remove the community from the land.

Our point of view is different. We see ourselves as willingly and strongly in support of Emma and Tir Ysbrydol. Much of our support is within the physical: we cut the hay, we provide a space for their members to use the internet and any electrical equipment that isn’t welcome at Tir Ysbrydol, we maintain the driveway and carpark which we share with them, we maintain our shared water supply, we manage their post, we maintain their phone line, we host permaculture groups and share their labour with Emma, we make available a tractor and driver when requested, we gift materials from the coppice for building projects. When we are asked, we support as well as we are able. We introduce our volunteers to Tir Ysbrydol; at time of writing a majority of the people living at Tir Ysbrydol met the place through us. (RAM says that she wants Brithdir to become a gateway to Tir Ysbrydol; we believe that we already are.)

It is our sense that the relationship between ourselves and Tir Ysbrydol has been gently evolving and softening over the past ten years, the period of time our longest-standing current members have been here. Until very recently, we believed that our relationship was felt by all to be mutually supportive. This now feels less certain. We do not know whether this change is the cause or result of the current situation; it is potentially (or likely) to be both.

It is unclear to us what it would look like for us to be acting in the ways that Emma wants; we don’t know how much engagement in Tir Ysbrydol from us would be enough, how deep our belief in Emma’s way of seeing the world would need to be, or how we could express this in a way which could be seen. We love having Tir Ysbrydol as our neighbour: our sibling community with Emma at the centre, and the sacred energies they hold, are completely entwined with and absolutely vital to the unique, rich and profoundly special life in the Cwm Clydach.

Alongside Tone and Faith at the Roundhouse and all of our other friends and neighbours, this beautiful valley and its surroundings hold a way of being that is radically different from the mainstream and often utterly transformative for those that stay here. In this small Welsh crucible for change there exist, nestling against each other, three distinctive and very special communal entities: Fachongle, Tir Ysbrydol and Brithdir Mawr. This is a completely unique and beautiful emergence. Whilst these three communities are very different in the ways in which they express themselves in the World, they all share something mysterious in common at the deepest level, and each has a vital role to play in supporting the other two. In our diversity we are resilient. No one way of being is more necessary or important than the others. What is happening here is healing for the entire World: this is a belief that is regularly expressed at all three of these places. It is not a mistake that Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-operative exists on these lands.

We pray for healing for the wounds caused by the splitting of the land and the early community.

We pray for healing in the relationship between ourselves and the Mystery School of Tir Ysbrydol.

We pray for healing for all beings in need of it, both visible and invisible.

The land knows no boundaries.

CONCLUSION

We believe that BMHC is without question a force for good in the World. We believe that entities like BMHC are more needed now than ever before. We do not believe it would be possible for this community to simply pick itself up and move elsewhere. We are absolutely rooted in place.

To attempt to evict the current community such that a new one can be started in its place is an act that feels to us to be reckless, foolish and wasteful. The intended spiritual community would forever more have, within its conception, an act of violence. Many acts of violence and repression have been done in the name of God. This would be a similar act in the name of The Goddess, with the appalling irony that it would have used the tools and processes of the dominant and patriarchal culture to do so. Even if it survived within the community ecosystem so brutally disrupted by its creation – well over 90% of all attempts to start communities fail – this taint would last forever, and the energy of the split would remain still unresolved, waiting to reappear further deepened and intensified later on. It would not be cast out with BMHC.

Collapse and failure of the new community would remain the statistically likely outcome. This is another thing which we would not want to happen but, if it did, the land would be left in the private hands of a single individual and so once again at risk of sale on the open market. The current community has survived through thick and thin. We know what it is to live this way; we have a proven track record of doing this extraordinarily complex thing. We know what we are doing, and we do it very well. To uproot us and in doing so put the land at risk feels both naive and irresponsible.

We also recognise that the process that is occurring here is certainly not all bad. This is an initiation for us as a community. We are becoming ever stronger and more aligned because of it. It has helped us to realise the depth of support we have in the local community and beyond. Individually and collectively, we are being forced to confront our stuff. A spiritual and ceremonial culture is in the process of being birthed here. Some of us even feel grateful to RAM for being this agent of change. Who knows what would have happened in the other realities, if RAM hadn’t moved to buy the land until after the end of 2025, or if we and Julian had been a bit better at communicating with each other. You can play with counterfactuals all day if you like; they can even be a good source of learning and so might affect the present in some way, but fundamentally: it is what it is. We are here, it is now, all we can do is act from here and now in the ways which seem best.

There is still a chance. Still a chance for us to all come together to truly resolve this thing for the highest good of all. It feels a long way off just at the moment, but stranger things have happened.

With love and trust,

The Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-operative

The aim of this document is to frame our current strategy for engaging with the process of the change of ownership of Brithdir Mawr.

OUR RESPONSIBILITIES

We believe that we – the current members of the Brithdir Mawr Housing Co-operative – have two enmeshed responsibilities to fulfil in regards to the current situation. They are:

  1. To act as guardians for the land of Brithdir Mawr.
  2. To act as guardians for our culture.

To hold these responsibilities is an act of service to these two communities, both greater than any one of us as individuals.

OUR INTENTIONS GOING FORWARD

In order to act as guardians for both our culture and the land of Brithdir Mawr, our actions going forward in respect to this process will have at their heart one or more of the following intentions:

  • To tend to the current process of change, encouraging it to emerge in the most beautiful way possible and being open to being changed and affected by it as it does so.
  • To strongly hold our boundaries, and insist that our views are taken into account in  decisions that affect our future.
  • To communicate openly and clearly with all about what we are doing and why.
  • To carry on living our lives here, in accordance with our shared purpose and values.
  • To secure the land for future generations in a Trust (or similar), thus protecting it from sale on the open market.

OUR CURRENT STRATEGY

The intentions outlined above will be expressed primarily through our strategy. Our strategy currently consists of:

  • Talking publicly and openly about what we see occurring here.
  • Mindfully protesting all aspects of the progress of the sale to RAM as it currently stands.
  • Concluding the work of gathering the money and creating the legal structures necessary to purchase the land ourselves.
  • Reaching out to all of the people involved in the process.
  • Preparing for a wide range of possible future courses of action.
  • Doing all of this in addition to the work that we do as a part of our ongoing lives.
  • Organising the mechanisms – e.g. creating a Friends Of Brithdir Mawr group – by which we can accept help offered to us.

We recognise that we cannot tell the future and we do not know the whole picture. Our strategy may need to change, possibly radically. All possible future courses of action remain very much on the table.

WHAT WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE HAPPENING NEXT

We have three immediate requests to make of the others involved in this situation:

  • We are asking for a pause on the sale to RAM to allow us the time and space to complete the task of gathering together the rest of the £1M and creating the legal structures necessary to purchase Brithdir Mawr. (We expect to be able to complete this within a few months.)
  • We are asking for the promises made to the community to be upheld: that the community would be given until the end of 2025 to raise the money.
  • We are asking for all parties – BMHC, the Orbach family, Emma, RAM, and any others that are felt by any party to also be necessary for the process – to come together to resolve this conflict in service to the highest good, giving this process as much time and space as necessary.

There is an opportunity here for doing things in ways profoundly different to the mainstream. There is an opportunity here for us to all come together and resolve our differences without recourse to power-over and dominance, and without fighting. There is an opportunity here for renewal and change. The actions that are taken here will reverberate.

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© Brithdir Mawr, Cilgwyn Road, Newport. SA42 0QJ