Seasonal Co-living in Devon

Lounge At Selgars Mill Coliving

Interview with Nick, who after a period of work and then travel, wanted a base somewhere close to nature with interesting people, to relax and plan the next stage of life. Devon provides the backdrop but ‘It’s not so much about the place – it’s about the people you share it with.’

Q. What was your previous house sharing experience?

I’d house shared at university and then again afterwards with friends and/or strangers in various combinations. I’d also had a short period in a central London squat and hosted over 50 Couch Surfing visitors to London when I owned a narrow boat. I have also lived on my own so have had a fairly wide range of experiences.

Q. What were you looking for when you found this co-living place?

I was looking for a base for a couple of months to work out the next phase; where to live and what to do next workwise. After a couple of years of intense work in a corporate job, an ankle break, and some travels in Vietnam and Thailand, I needed a space to gather my thoughts together and work on job applications.

Q. What attracted you to the place?

They had a website explaining the coliving and coworking setup they have during the winter months; at other times of the year, the venue is used for corporate retreats and weddings etc. Selgars is focused on regenerative living and educational projects connected with nature all year round; in the low season they offer extended stays in a coliving environment.

It seemed to be a fascinating combination of things I enjoy; conversations, walks, outdoor activities, shared meals and a piano. I enjoy playing piano as a hobby and had missed playing it when travelling.

After looking at the website, I had a zoom chat with the cofounders. What interested me was that compared to previous house shares I’d stayed in where people often retreated into their own bubbles, with only a few words spoken a day, this would be a more involved experience. The appeal was in doing things together and in sharing an evening meal, as well as having a variety of people around who would be open to a conversation during the day.

I saw it as a place to explore Devon and to play the piano, as well as getting involved with the other daily activities, and meeting some unexpected, new people with different outlooks, in a supportive environment. I was also intrigued by community living as a positive way of life and wanted to experiment with living it to understand it better.

Q. How has it been living in this co-living situation?

It’s been great. A varied range of people, some retired, some up at 6.00 am working on projects, and many different ages; generally between late 20s and early 60s.

It’s been a chance to do lots of unusual things. We visited a nearby goat farm a few days ago and I found myself brushing goats for an hour. Not something I’ve ever experienced! There have also been bread and soap making classes, and a trip to a local pub for a gig performed by one of the guests. We had a dance night the other day which was entertaining, with two of the guests DJing. Some people only stayed for an hour, some for longer, we had a laugh.

It’s been a bit quieter than expected in the day, as many people are working on their own projects in different parts of the property, there always seems to be someone about for a chat though, and it has been a peaceful place to get on with my endeavours. There’s been about 12+ people here since I arrived, with different people arriving and leaving. Some stay for a few days, some for months.

Q. With it being a short-term co-living space, would you say it’s different to a more permanent share?

Yes, I didn’t have to commit to a 2-year experiment (some co-living spaces expect much longer-term stays), it has made me want to maximise the experience each day and to say yes to more things.

I have got involved in every activity, generally for the fun of it, although there is no obligation to do so, and have taken myself for a pleasant country walk right out of the back door when I felt like some headspace.

All activities are optional and tend to be organised informally via the app Slack. There have been meditation sessions, Time Management workshops and Pilates classes as well as local walks, business discussions and gardening lessons.

There is a ‘give more than you take’ attitude that people bring into the place. Here, people are respectful and generous to each other. People bring different ideas, and it all works as people are inclined to engage with each other.

Q. How is Devon? Is that an important part of the regeneration effect?

Being a big house and two cottages there is plenty of space. There is a barn, vegetable garden and grounds, with artistic features made by some of the previous colivers, with woods and rivers nearby and fields all around. In the summer, they use the field space for camping and glamping. It’s quite remote in that there’s not any large town that is easily walkable – there are regular local buses though.

It’s not so much about the place – it’s about the people you share it with. It is also a special place in its own way. With the positivity of the people I have met here so far, the house seems to self-organise (with some excellent back-up from the hosts who keep things running smoothly and also form part of the coliving community). Everyone contributes with the cooking and keeping the space neat.

It’s a rural part of Devon, with little villages, lots of farms and some industrial estates nearby, it’s also a very scenic part of the world. We went mountain biking in Haldon Forest, which was very beautiful.

Q. What advice would you give to someone interested in experiencing this sort of co-living?

It helps to have a certain sort of mindset from the outset. It requires a level of openness, trust and a willingness to muck in. You can choose when and with what you want to get involved, so you do get your own space, and people respect that – however the intention is to share the space and build a positive community, not just to exist side by side.

One good thing they do when you signup is ask you to complete a ‘Notions’ page, which is then used as a way to introduce yourself to the other housemates and for you to learn more about who is there already – similar to a Cohabitas housemate listing.

Q. Can you imagine such a coliving working longer-term?

Yes, after a couple of weeks I really like it. I’ve heard about other places in Spain and Portugal which are more of an established community that have continued for years, and some of the people here have moved around staying at many different coliving places around the world. I’ve even heard of one in Sweden in which two housemates lived for 3 years, with 50-60 people.

I like that the sociability is built in. I have lived on my own for some years and also enjoy solitude, although this can require more effort to go out and meet or host people. Here it’s easier, and the interactions have felt very organic so far.

Visitors are welcomed too. The first night is free, then they would have to pay for up to week. For longer stays of course, they would need to apply to be a ‘coliver’.

It has certainly changed my perspective on alternative arrangements for living and has opened my eyes to the potentials of these self-forming communities – Selgars does it extremely well, and everyone brings a lot to the group. I am interested in exploring this way of living further, and looking into other similar places, and am looking forward to more fun experiences with my new and varied housemates!

——-

Nick was staying at Selgars Mill Estate in Cullupton near Exeter. It is a multi-functional venue that not only transforms with the seasons, but also with the holidays. It offers co-living for 4 months of the year and encourages visitors to ‘Reconnect with nature’. https://www.selgars.org/

Sign-up

Register to receive our newsletter. You can manage and cancel your subscription in Account Details found in the main menu.