Are communes the new flat-shares? Charlotte Church turns her mansion into hippie haven

Charlotte Church has bought Rhydoldog House in Wales (SWNS)
Charlotte Church has bought Rhydoldog House in Wales (SWNS)

Charlotte Church has confirmed rumours that she recently bought Laura Ashley’s former Welsh home - and will turn it into an off-grid commune.

The classical singer had a £1.5m offer accepted on the historic 500-year-old mansion in Wales, which was previously owned by the fashion icon.

The seven-bedroom property, known as Rhydoldog House, just outside Rhayader, is set amongst stunning 47 acre grounds and was sold by the Ashley family after 36 years of ownership in 2009.

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Church, 35, is now looking to transform the site into a haven where people can "reconnect with themselves and the natural world" following the pandemic.

Church confirmed the news by posting a picture of the house to Instagram, writing:

“For people who are looking for something a bit different which includes living in a community, building something wonderful whilst being immersed in the wilderness of the Cambrian mountains.”

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She revealed she plans to create a "non-hierarchical participatory democracy" that will include mixed martial arts, spiritual healing practices like yoga and a creative space for writers, musicians and artists.

Church is also planning cycling, archery, foraging, hiking, strength and conditioning training and star-gazing at the luxury estate, as well as introducing a hot-tub, plunge pool and outdoor cinema.

She wrote: "At Rhydoldog House, a small, democratic building community is welcoming volunteers to live, work and learn on a radical and inspiring new wellness project: building an accessible, zero-emissions, off-grid, healing retreat centre in the heart of Wales.

“Immersed in 47 acres of dramatic ancient woodland, surrounded by waterfalls, red kites circling above and beneath an internationally recognised dark sky, we are offering a huge array of activities and disciplines for people looking to reconnect with themselves and the natural world after the last year of lockdowns.

“Our vision for this community is one that can support the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional needs of all its members.”

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She added that the community will be held together by a “system of non-hierarchical participatory democracy” and that each member of the community has the “right to an equal say and vote on decisions about how the community is run”.

The property also includes a helicopter landing area and a 200-year-old barn which will be converted into a large hall for gatherings and events, along with a row of four guest houses and an artist's residence.

The seven-bedroom house was once owned by fashion designer, Laura Ashley (SWNS)
The seven-bedroom house was once owned by fashion designer, Laura Ashley (SWNS)

Work converting the property into a retreat is expected to take 12 months, with the completion date around June next year.

But what is a commune and how does it work?

A commune is defined as a group of people living together and sharing possessions and responsibilities. It’s an intentional community where people share living spaces as well as resources.

Communes are generally income-sharing, which means the group pools their money, out of which the expenses are paid. Some communes are self-sufficient, with people growing their own food and using renewable energy to run their properties.

Communal living has seen a boom in recent years, likely driven by surging house prices and groups who want to focus on low-carbon living. According to the Guardian, there are around 400 intentional communities currently living across the UK - some with co-housing setups, others living in individual homes while some are based around a way of life, such as veganism or spiritualism.

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Millennials are a driving force behind these new-age communes, and they’re sprouting up all over the world.

Sixth Tone, a Chinese online magazine, reported that young Chinese people who are “fed up” with living in cities are moving to the countryside to build societies without hierarchy.

The New York Times reported last year that the number of intentional communities listed in America’s Foundation for Intentional Community directory doubled between 2010 and 2016 to roughly 1,200 communes now spread across the US.

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Perhaps it's burnout that is driving people to communes - or perhaps the shared living style attracts those in search of happiness.

In 2017, researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health spoke to 1,000 people living in communes across the US and Canada and found that commune members rank higher in happiness levels than those not living in a commune.

The authors concluded that living in a commune “appears to offer a life less in discord with the nature of being human compared to mainstream society” and the reasons for this could be social connections, sense of meaning and closeness to nature.

Perhaps Charlotte Church is onto something after all.

Additional reporting by SWNS.

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