Before Cockatrice Farm, my major effort for many years was the Crossroads Project. A group of us bought a property at Yass, about half an hour away from Cockatrice Farm, as a site for medievalist activities.
We developed quite a lot of facilities there, but much more slowly than we had hoped — we were limited by funds.
The easter Rowany Festival, the largest medievalist gathering in Australia, was there for five years, and there were some wonderful times.
Unfortunately, that period coincided with a terrible drought in eastern Australia, and the last event in particular was extremely dusty. The organisers of that event moved it to Peats Ridge between Sydney and Newcastle, a lovely but steamy site prone to flooding. Now that the weather cycles have moved back to wet, they may find they need to move the event again.
With the Festival gone, the Crossroads Co-operative had no income and significant debts. As the Treasurer at the time, I told them they had to find significant alternative income urgently, or they would have to wind up the venture. A portion of the membership was keen to press on regardless.
I offered to buy the property, and give the co-op ongoing use of the site. That went down really badly, so I bought Cockatrice Farm instead and you are obviously following our adventures there.
There’s been more politics within that group, and I haven’t much been involved for about five years. I’ve tried to help with positive actions, and have criticised them for unwise actions or where they are not meeting legal obligations. Overall the relationship has been strained.
Anyway, the major facility on the Crossroads property is the “Guild Hall’, basically a 3-bedroom house built with a massive timber frame held together with wooden pegs, and the walls infilled by “torchis” or “shuttered cob”, a mixture of clay and straw covered with a lime render. I built most of the walls, with lots of Allison’s help in the first year of our relationship. It’s an interesting building and we’ve had some great events there.
Unfortunately, the building was unfinished at the time the Festival moved. At one point the committee decided that only commercial builders could work on it, which was an interesting decision given the utter lack of funds. And nobody has done the required annual maintenance for five years, so two panels have failed and several more are threatened.
This seemed like a terrible pity, so I offered to organise the repairs and maintenance. The new board of the co-op (eventually) agreed and we had a working bee there a few weekends past.
Nine people came, including three of our wwoofers. We dug out lots of clay and sieved it, and made some new forms for the wall repairs. We mixed up some lime to make render for the walls.
It was a comfortably warm day, and I’d even say we had a good time. We had a campfire barbecue lunch.
We’ve been back once since then to continue the work, and the new panels should be ready for rendering after one more such visit.
Over coming weeks, we’ll do the urgent maintenance. Maybe then we can install the windows and make the place secure.
The co-op has nearly paid off the major mortgage, but there are several major debt repayments due soon. I still can’t see how they can pay them, but perhaps they’ll muddle through if the remaining members kick in enough cash. If nothing else, it could be a country holiday house for the members, and a site for occasional medieval events.
(A late note: the Registry of Co-operatives has sent me a letter, posted to my next-door neighbour of three years ago, stating that they haven’t received any annual paperwork from the co-op since I left, that they still regard me as a director, and threatening a fine of $2200! The co-op board says it’s all a misunderstanding and has been sorted. So I’m checking out the situation this week.)