Sunday, 9 October 2011

Preparing for Winter

Winter is fast approaching the the members of Fox are rapidly getting to grips with all the work that needs doing to ensure that this year there is water that doesn't freeze, walls that don't drip and a big house is more than 50% usable (last year indoor temperatures as low as -2oC were recorded). The house is now pointed, thanks to some very hard working volunteers. The massive cracks in the yards concrete have been patched. The chicken house is up. The courgettes are all eaten. Job Done!

We're struggling to weigh up which work is most important to achieve. After investigating, we've discovered that the water system means our water isn't really fit for human consumption, so we're still running on mains, even though we'd wanted to be back on spring by now. This week we've costed up the price of re-plumbing the upstream water pipe network, to give us clean spring water at an increased pressure. We're also debating replumbing the main house, last year we discovered that the heating system wasn't up to the task, not because the wood burner and back boiler aren't big enough, but because the current plumbing isn't quite right. Besides that, again in the main house, we'd like to get the insulation in the northern end sorted before the weather cools down too much... so much to do, so little time.

Happily the number of heads to think about it and hands to achieve the job are increasing all the time.

Luckily we're self sufficient in sound systems and so we had a party on the 1st of the month to celebrate the ending of the dispute with the former members, who call themselves the "directors", of Fox. Earlier in the same day we had a special general meeting of Fox, a boring but necessary legality, at which we reviewed the evidence available to us and discerned, finally and officially, that none of the former members are members (suprise, suprise). Our determination was based on the legal opinion of our expert barrister, who happens to have already worked a case very similar to ours (and won).

Unfortunately it seems that the former members haven't quite got the message yet. So they've asked their solicitors (who're rather pushy and don't like to follow the guidance laid down by the ministry of justice for handling disputes because.... it's only guidance (professional, yeh)) to file a claim for possession based on their assertion that we're squatters. Good luck with that one guys.

Watch this space...

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Green Gathering: There and Back Again

So, five of us have just returned from the Green Gathering Festival in Chepstow on a beautiful oak woodland pasture site next to the River Wye with forest, caves and ruined buildings on the periphery.

John and Rob helped Avalon Rising with their power, sound, projections and all round technical backup. They were very much in demand, they always enjoy helping with Rob at one point constructing leads for the laptop from an axe and a pair of scissors! All five of us sat in on the odd talk, but I don't think they appreciated us sniggering at the back during some of the more far out moments. We aim to live the change every minute of every day in a non-judgemental way, but that generally means growing our own food, chopping our own wood and managing our own housing as well as helping others suffering from oppression or violence and nothing more mystical than that.

Joe, with Rob and John helped put up the Triban solar stage structures and provided some support with power and sound. The Triban folk had the best acts as usual and the best atmosphere ( Our favourite act was probably Calico Jack, a canal-barge living band including two female accordian playing singers who played sea shanties that the crowd loved.

Joe's megadome (a giant geodesic dome constructed from ash poles, plastic water pipe and canvas) was put up by the three guys as the campaigns tent hosting Radical Wales (, No Borders (, Don't Deport My Mum Campaign, Radical Routes (, UKUncut (, Campaign for Accountability of American Bases ( and South Wales Anarchists (

Ali and Jane manned the Radical Routes stall for the weekend and had lots of interesting chats with people about living co-operatively. Some maturer individuals expressed an interest in investing in Rootstock ( to help provide funding for people wanting to live and work co-operatively, whilst much younger folk explored the idea of co-ops and communities.

Our favourite campaign was Yasamin's (not her real name). Yasamin's stall was handmade with a handsewn banner, handmade Egyptian dolls and patches with a petition and information about her story and her campaign to raise money for the judicial review to save her mother from deportation. Yasamin has been in the UK for three years having come from Egypt with her mother. Her mother suffered domestic violence in Egypt and applied for asylum in the UK. Yasamin's father has friends in the old regime. Yasamin discovered sexual freedom in the UK and became openly gay here. Being openly homosexual in Egypt is not accepted, with in 2004 for example one 17-year old gay man being sentenced to 2 years hard labour for posting an openly gay personal profile on a social networking website.  Yasamin works with Women Seeking Sanctuary Advocacy Group Wales, a group run by women to help women seeking refuge in the UK from violence and persecution in their country of origin (See See Yasamin's campaign for her mum and sign the petition at All of us here at Fox hope that Yasamin and her mother win their battle to remain in the UK.

Joe, John and Rob made a lovely camp with Ali's geodome already put up under an oak tree next to Joe's yurt and Rob's Landrover when Ali and Jane arrived. Jane had an uncomfortable weekend of hips spreading to encompass the growing baby, but she made herself a comfortable bed in the dome and enjoyed laughing at her friends after they consumed one too many of the nice ciders/perrys and the home brew brought with them.

It was lovely to meet new friends, see old friends, other co-op folk and some old Fox people too. We saw some hilarious acts: 'Judd' the comedian - poking fun at anarchists; and Bert Miller and the Animal Folk - extolling vegan principles through song with funny voices and sounds.

We were posted next to the Schnews stall ( who we enjoyed chatting to. Martin of Schnews gave the best workshop on the situation in Northern Mexico with the 'War on Drugs', drug cartels, the Mexican police and military involvement and the strength and bravery of the locals in living through the killings. The most shocking piece of news was that at one point the death toll from the killings of poor people caught up in the drug wars in Mexico was greater than the death toll of the three wars in which the UK was involved.

Mav, on the other hand, was the rock and stayed home - holding the fort in case someone comes and changes the locks on us. He also did lots more legal research, carried on with the pointing work on the central house, weeded the beetroot and spoke to applicant volunteers/members.

It was great to go out and have some fun, representing co-op life, but its great to be back to co-op life again! Our courgettes are huge, the potatoes are ready, the solicitor calls, one corner of the garden needs serious weeding, the compost loo needs finishing, the pointing and guttering needs doing...... the list goes on.....!!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Foxy folk

We are a group of people living and working together, getting ready for peak oil and climate change. Living the change. We like work. We like having fun and adventures too. We are passionate about co-operation.

A short intro to who we are

Ancient History and Social Anthropology graduate. Studied blacksmithing and welding with various blacksmiths. Permaculture Teacher Training graduate. Helped set up Cardiff Transition Project. Environmental activist. Looking to study Law to help people. Gardener. Parent. Plays flute.

Masters in Sustainable Development Advocacy. Permaculture graduate. Environmental and social justice activist. Gardener. Volunteer. Cleaner. Mum-to-be. Plays bazouki and flute.

Engineering graduate. Welder and woodland worker. Hydroelectricity installer and surveyor. Wood gasifying inventor. General fixer of things and shelf builder. Gardener.

Mechanic - knows most things about vehicles. Hydroelectric installer. Sustainable/traditional construction worker. Does pretty much everything he needs to do for himself and helps others too. Plays bass guitar in Kilnaboy.

Environmental Geosciences graduate. Took a Sustainable Woodland Management course with Ben Law. Permaculture Teacher Training graduate. Helped set up Cardiff Transition Project. Looking to study Law in order to help people who can't get representation. Step-dad.

Computer engineering graduate. Forestry worker and welder. Drives a Land Rover Defender in all terrain and pulls the timber trailer. Looking to study Law too. Gardener. Writes electronic music and dj's.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Recent fox fun

It looks as though some people didn't like the Fox Housing Co-operative facebook profile and have asked facebook to take it down.... seems a little like attempting to cover up the truth. However I doubt that the residents of Werndolau will allow the issue to sit.

The residents of Werndolau have recently received a letter from the solicitor employed by the non resident former directors of the co-op. The letter sets out all the ways in which the residents of Werndolau are nasty and all the bad things that they have done. Suffice it to say that the letter has been responded to in kind.

The police arrived last week, apparently on the instruction of a Ms Lovelock. She had reported to them that 'her caravan' was being broken into by some trespassers. Understandably the police turned up in force ready to stop this heinous criminal act from taking place... but when they arrived what did they find? The residents of Werndolau working on the electricity supply to one of the farms caravans. This had already been tampered with in order to provide an incredibly dangerous supply to the occupant of caravan 2. An eye witness said the police seemed confused and miffed to have been called out for nothing.

In the morning the residents of Werndolau got up to find the electricity, water and gas supplies to Caravan 3 cut off and the extension cable belonging to one of the residents stolen! Not only had these events miraculously occurred in the night, but also a pipe intended to serve the events field caravan plot had been severed and was pouring the limited water supply of the farm into the fields. At this time of year water from the well is very limited, so the farm is often reliant on mains, and the mysterious cutting of the pipes could have ended up costing the residents dearly had it not been so quickly discovered.

Even in the face of all of this childishness and strife the residents of Werndolau continue to improve the farm, making it more habitable for themselves and new members who have yet to join. The water system is currently undergoing improvements, to ensure that the farm is less dependant on the mains supply. The sewage system is being improved to prevent raw sewage issuing a few meters from the housing. The communal garden continues to grow and efforts to clear up and ensure proper drainage in the courtyard are on going.

The residents of Werndolau want to see a sensible resolution to the crisis sooner rather than later. They want the non resident former directors to come to the table and negotiate a settlement rather than dragging this conflict out and costing the co-op dearly by spending it's dwindling cash supply on expensive and unnecessary legal advice.

Fox is supposed to be a housing co-operative. Best thing to do is let it house people, rather than evict another family and group of people that could effectively run it.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Fox In Crisis

Fox Housing Co-operative is in crisis! But this is sadly no new state of affairs.

At the current time three non-resident 'directors' are trying to evict the 5 residents of Werndolau farm, which is owned by the co-operative. For those of you who don't know much about co-ops here's a low down:

Fox is a fully mutual housing co-operative. What that means is that the co-op is supposed to operate on a simple membership principle, i.e. All tenants are members and all members and tenants. A fully mutual co-op is set up to support people to live in a way that they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford and also it allows the members of the co-operative to have control over their housing rather than being beholden to a landlord. In the case of Fox, the main objective of the society is to provide housing free from discrimination on any grounds and to provide those people who live their with land, amenities and services that they require.

So you'll note that I said 'supposed' above. A little history, until 2006 Fox's rules were fully mutual, then it appears that the directors decided that they didn't want to live in a co-op any more. They purchased properties and moved away, fair enough. Sadly, rather than handing the co-op over to the next group of people to move in so they too could benefit from the farms 70+ acres, extensive barns and buildings, they decided to move the goal posts. A letter was sent to the FSA (who are supposed to regulate co-ops) asking them to change the rules. The FSA duly noted the changes and added them to their system. The rule changes allowed for people who didn't live at Fox to remain members... not only that, they also state that even if you do live their you need not be a member. These rule changes effectively destroy what the co-op stands for, they make Fox Housing Co-operative Ltd into a private landlord which can, and all to regularly, does evict people who should be recognised as members.

All this sounds a little dodgy, but ok, as long as the rules are used sensibly. I fear, however, that the changes to the rules have not been sensibly employed. In 2007 a couple brought their family and their investment to Werndolau. Promised membership by the 'directors' they sunk £50k into renovating a barn to create the dream eco-home. After more than a year with no movement on the promised membership things started to turn sour. The family was asked leave their new hand built home and sent a series of threatening letters. In the end the pressure was too much for them and they left for greener pastures, feeling like they had wasted 2 years of their lives.

Following that another group of people arrived, another family, a single man and two young foresters. All had great expectations for what they could each do with their lives as part of Fox Housing Co-op. Shamefully the same story begins to repeat it self with the family eventually leaving under circumstances which it is down to them to discuss.

Upon arrival at the farm the foresters set about improving the place. They pruned the neglected woodland, traditionally laid 200m of unmanaged hedgerow (creating a significant amount of firewood shared with all living at Werndolau), laid water piping and electricity cabling, installed a caravan, strimmed half an acre of brambles, aided the installation of a staircase and cleared the courtyard its litter of broken slates.

With the new caravan installed another person was able to relocate to Werndolau. A woman and her young, home educated, son. Much the same as the foresters had, she also immediately began trying to reclaim the patch of farm surrounding her caravan from neglect. She trimmed willow from the hedges so that the bluebells could flourish, created a garden, fixed the outdoor toilet, removed disused stock fencing for use elsewhere and brought in firewood for all to use.

All this these 3 did for free, without expectation of pay, their only expectation was to, as promised, receive membership of Fox Housing Co-operative Ltd. The promises kept coming and they kept working. Chopping firewood, improving caravans, scrapping derelict caravans, sourcing and installing their replacements, taking on admin work for the co-op, such as managing the email box and finding quotes for work desperately needed to improve the farms crumbling infrastructure.

In the end though, as is ever the case, the traditional crisis of Fox caught up with the new comers and they were told to leave. They made numerous attempts to settle, to allow themselves time to set up their own co-operative (which is not an easy process) but instead the 'directors' served a section 21 notice on their properties showing they intended to have them evicted. The 'directors' knew that there was no way that the residents of Werndolau would have time to relocate themselves, and their businesses without considerable loss and stress. They tried to reason with the 'directors' in person and through others, but to no avail.

On March 7th of March 2011 the residents of Werndolau called a meeting, to be attended by themselves and the 'directors'. The intention of the meeting was to go through the rules and laws that the residents suspected that the'directors' had breached and see if they could make a proper account of themselves. Unfortunately the 'directors' did not attend. as a result the residents of Werndolau resolved to suspend the 'directors' of Fox Housing Co-operative Ltd. The 'directors' were notified that they were suspended on the 14th of March pending a full criminal investigation of their activities.

Suffice it to say, the 'directors' didn't take that very well. The residents of Werndolau have tried a number of times to settle the dispute. They feel that it is imperative that Fox Housing Co-operative Ltd stays co-operative. That is why people invested money, that is why Triodos bank invested money and that is why so many people have come to Werndolau looking to make it their home.

The residents of Werndolau now have a plan together to save Fox Housing Co-operative and to stop Werndolau from being. However, it most certainly isn't in the bag. Support is needed from all quarters, local people, investors, other co-ops and concerned individuals to call upon all parties to attend arbitration, where the matter can be settled by an impartial expert.

There is a strong hope that within the year the residents of Werndolau will be able to clean up the site completely, commence work on building more housing and be well on the way to making the land workable and biodiverse.