THE WRITER Tobias Jones has sold his house in Bristol and bought 10 acres of woodland in Somerset so that he and his family can set up a commune modelled on the Pilsdon Community in the Marshwood Vale.
Pilsdon is a Christian refuge for people with broken lives, set up in 1958 by a clergyman who wanted to reinvent the 17th century community called Little Gidding (the inspiration for one of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets.)
Tobias Jones first stayed at Pilsdon a while back and his experiences there are written up in Chapter 5 of his book Utopian Dreams: A Search for a Better Life (Faber, 2007). It’s a book that always struck me as an odd mixture of tortuous and superficial. At one point Jones writes: “It’s mind-blowing the number of communities there are just within a few dozen miles of here [Pilsdon]: Monkton Wilds, Othona, Tinkers Bottom, Gaunts House, Magdalen House, Hillfield”. I remember thinking, ok, but for a start you’ve got the names of Monkton Wyld and Hilfield spelt wrong… and should Magdalen House actually be Magdalen Farm, and Tinkers Bottom Tinkers Bubble? I wasn’t sure.
But clearly Jones wasn’t just a tourist. He ends his chapter on Pilsdon by writing: “It’s a place with a radical simplicity, which comes at a stark price. It costs, as Eliot wrote in ‘Little Gidding’, ‘not less than everything’.” Moving with your wife and two small daughters to a wood suggests to me that Jones is putting everything into what he believes. Good luck to him.
While Pilsdon’s website is here.