It is Monday in the week before Christmas and I'm in my flat with U3A film crew making a film about our community as we are now in our 18th month of living together.
'How's it going?' - this is the big question and I have to say it's everything I wanted it to be and more. The events of last week tested our spirits and resilience as a community. Some of us had spent many days and weeks door knocking, some singing songs of cheer and rebellion and some building a chicken shack in the garden for our 3 new hens! On Thursday evening our world was turned upside down by the landslide to Brexit and the devastation of a huge Labour defection. On Friday we grouped together to talk about our feelings and fears and then we rallied to prepare to welcome our newest members of OTB, a family of five arriving from Newcastle.
Our communal Friday night meal was special with nearly all our community round the table, the joy of children excited to meet new friends and adults exploring each others histories and tastes. Playing music and having fun into the evening.
I take reference from Africa; it takes a whole village to raise a child and today it feels like we are a village. Things fall apart but we will regroup and hold together. For me Cohousing is my glue; it is why I am here to live together through the hard times and to share and protect our love for humanity.
Stained glass seems to be an important feature of Brincliffe House. When the first OTB members looked round in 2015 the magnificent stained glass window above the back door was one of the most attractive features of the house.
And in the front lobby the NHS had mounted a couple of original art deco windows.
And after we bought the house, as we explored the attic and cellars we came across more stored stained glass. Some of it was in a terrible state.
Kate, Paul and Charlotte restored these pieces and we are now looking for a place to exhibit the finished piece.
It is not always clear where the stored glass has come from. A rectangular piece has now been reshaped and fitted to the back door where it seems at home.
Quite a few On the Brink members have become interested in learning about stained glass making and have created some new designs for the doors of Brincliffe House. here are a few examples
Bird box making and decorating proved to be popular
We have tried to put the different designs of boxes in places where we have already observed that species... It appears that different birds will only nest in boxes where the opening holes are of their particular chosen size. Who would have thought birds were so picky!
Hey how did that one get so high up in the cedar? It's for owls. It seems unlikely that owls would ever nest in a structure like that... but it's what it says in the books. The young owls, apparently, leave the nest before learning to fly. They spend quite a time crawling round in the foliage being fed by their parents and going back into the nest (big box), at night.
Here are the owl boxes during the construction process. And below here are the bat boxes in situ...
Our wonderful Project Manager, Oliver Chamberlain, has retired (sort of). He’ll still be our guide and mentor, but we need a new Project Manager to take us through all the steps involved in building four new living units here at Brincliffe House. Please think about people who may be able to do this job for us. Share with other networks if you can.
Here are some of the job details:
On the Brink Cohousing Community Ltd (OTB) wishes to contract a Project Manager (PM) to assist in its second phase new build cohousing development at Brincliffe House, Osborne Road, Sheffield. The first phase involved the refurbishment of Brincliffe House and the building of a new Coach House totalling 12 new living units. The current proposed new build programme is for a further four new build living units over the next 2 years. More information about the organisation can be found here: https://onthebrink.community/
To view the current planning application on Sheffield City Council planning portal follow this link: https://bit.ly/2U5Mxaf
The PM tasks envisaged are:
Please download the application form to apply from this link: https://bit.ly/2FONXCa
Completed application forms should be returned to AejazOTB@gmail.com with Project Manager Application as your subject header. The deadline for applications is midnight on Sunday 17th February 2019
Our beautiful old house and brilliant new Coach House are now fully occupied: the first members of the group moved in on 2nd May and the last a month later. We’re now settling in to the rhythm of life here – but one outstanding feature has presided since we moved in: the weather has been amazing, and we hardly know what it’s like to feel a bit chilly or what happens when it rains here.
We are all too aware that this summer’s weather is two edged, as it represents a change in climate which may be lovely for us as we bask in sunshine and sit out in the courtyard after dark, but that it has far different consequences for countries experiencing drought, floods and fires. So we are trying to work out ways of minimising our own footprints. We have learned about the capricious bus routes, some of us are feeling slimmer and fitter as we walk more, we are sharing cars as much as possible for essential journeys. We are saving water to water the plants in the thriving garden, where we are composting, re-using as much material as possible and already growing substantial amounts of food. We have new solar panels on the roof, which supply electricity to the Coach House. We are learning from each other and from friends how to minimise the impact of our living on the environment.
We have had two gorgeous parties marking significant birthdays, and welcomed our neighbours in for tea and cake and a good look round. We are planning more events- we will be inviting the past NHS workers to come and see the finished building, and will host more events as time goes on. Several of us have hosted visitors and everyone agrees that we have a really lovely place to call home.
Working parties have cleared large areas of the garden, sealed the cleaned tiles in
the entrance hallways, and chosen decorations and pictures for the walls of the shared spaces. There’s lots more to do…
And for the next major bit of work – which we are calling Phase 2, we are about to submit a planning application for four new dwellings which our architects are working on as we speak.
Watch this space!
The conversion of Brincliffe House is complete. Eleven new flats have been created and a spanking new Coach House has been built. Although there are some inevitable final bits of painting, electrical adjustments and joinery still going on around us we have taken possession of the building. The builders’ signs have been taken down from the gates and we are starting to make ourselves at home.
The stream of building contractors’ vans has been replaced by a stream of removal vans and delivery vans for bits and pieces for each flat and for the shared spaces. The garden is thriving, thanks to the hard work of the flower and veg growers, the terrace builders and the evening waterers – including the two resident children who have loved joining in the fun on these warm days, and to the organised posses who meet every so often to clear bindweed, cut back nettles and set things straight.
It’s wonderful. Some years ago, when we first met our architects, they promised us that each and every flat would be special in its own way. And so it has come to pass. Each flat has amazing features – some very special spaces have been created and the WOW factor is apparent throughout our new building. WOW!
Hey, with a lot of help we have built the place. Now we are starting to build the community. Over the last couple of years we have only come to know each other through business meetings and the occasional social and team-building events. Now we will be living together and finding out what Cohousing actually means for us. Watch this space.
And of course we are in the process of designing four new flats. We rather grandly are calling this ‘PHASE TWO’. The architects have once again sharpened their pencils and are producing the designs for the new buildings in the grounds. These will be submitted for planning approval in the next month or so. Watch this space.
A year ago there was a rather tired old fireplace Can you believe it’s now looking like this: Throughout our new home there are so many examples of wonderful transformations, interesting spaces and fantastic views into the garden and beyond. More examples to follow.
Brincliffe House is rapidly transforming into a dwelling for 16 of the 20 current members of On the Brink Co-housing Community. The newly built Coach House, on the foundations of an old existing house will be home to one other member.
We have not all been able to see much of what’s going on, because the builders have been busy and we don’t want to delay them by getting in their way, but we anticipate that we have only about a month to go before those of us who will live in the old house and the Coach House will be able to move in.
What we have been able to see is truly amazing, new kitchen units transforming old office rooms into useful and welcoming spaces for individuals and for community use, and cleverly designed staircases leading to what was the roof space, and which will soon be stunning rooftop apartments. Bathroom tiling is done and paint is on some of the walls. Carpets for the communal corridors and stairs have been chosen with much thought and care – (by us all!) and are on order.
Although it is a snowy day and the builders are taking a well-earned holiday, there’s a lot of building work progress to report.
Look at the picture above. On the top floor new windows have appeared – bringing light to all the flats on that level.
While inside many of the spaces are just about ready for their final fix and then it’s just fitting the kitchens and decorating to go.
In Jane’s flat these wonderful shutters have been found to be in good working order having been shut up and painted over since 1953.
There’s a new ‘nook’ been created for our wood-burning stove – and a stainless steel flue has been fitted.
We understand that this picture of the cellar space won’t mean much to you, but we have discovered that the basement has wonderful flagstone flooring. We had been worried that it would need lots of remedial work to make the space useable.
There’s lots of evidence of great progress in the building – but Mambo remains rather unimpressed…
We have been granted planning permission to make the changes we have requested to the interior of Brincliffe House!
Details of the planning application approval can be found by following the link below.
This means that we are now able to begin with the next stage of development, drawing up working drawings and finding a builder. We are all anticipating for the work to begin on the 9th January 2017 and take around 6 months to complete.