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What is that place?

A question; What organisation has been in Crich since 1969, is one of the largest employers in the village and serves as the place of worship for local Catholic families?

Answer; The Briars Residential Youth Retreat Centre. www.thebriars.co.uk

Way back when ��

Situated between the villages of Crich and Fritchley, it was founded in 1969 when Father Paul Klee secured funding to buy the Briars building, previously a Quaker guest house in which Ghandi is rumoured to have once stayed, and established a centre to which Catholic young people could come for a few days away from school and home and spend time reflecting on their personal, social and spiritual development.

38 years later, it still serves the same purpose. Now Affiliated to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham (www.nottinghamdiocese.org.uk), run by a board of Trustees and under the management of Father Joe Wheat as Director, it still welcomes young people from ages 10 � 18 in groups of between 30 and 80. These groups come mainly from Catholic schools and parishes throughout the county of Derbyshire and the rest of the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham. With their teachers, the young people participate in a programme which includes prayer and worship, fun and games, reflection and discussion; �fun, friendship and fellowship�.

The retreat is led by a programme director and a team of 8 young volunteer youth workers on a gap year before work or study.

The aim of the Briars is threefold:

  1. To further the personal, social and spiritual development of young people in an informal educational environment.
  2. To provide a centre for young people where they can express themselves freely and openly.
  3. To draw young people to active and responsible participation in the life of the faith community and society.

The groups who visit come almost exclusively from schools which are comprehensive in nature, so are made up of young people from many different backgrounds. The work of the Briars has no spiritual boundaries as young people from many faiths come to spend time here.

A day in the life

A typical day would begin at 8.15 with Morning Prayer and then breakfast at 8.30. The morning would continue with prayer prepared and led by the group of visiting young people, followed by a two-hour session reflecting on issues of faith and the life of the young people.

After lunch, the afternoon would typically be taken up with activities such as a walk in the countryside, trip to ice-skating or bowling, or workshops of sports, art and craft. In the late afternoon, the young people would come back together to prepare for the evening�s activities before going into dinner at 6.30. After they have eaten, the evening would be taken up with maybe a prayer service, celebration of the Eucharist, talent show, disco or quiz night.

After night prayer, the young people would be under the supervision of their school staff and lights out would be set for anything between 10.00 and 11.00, depending on the age of the group.

The Briars accommodates groups of between 30 and 80 young people and their teachers and we have no intention of increasing these numbers. At present, the centre is booked up for 12 � 18 months in advance, closes to groups for four weeks in the summer, two at Easter and Christmas, is operating at capacity and there are no plans to expand the capacity.

The Briars also operates as the place of worship for local Catholics and their families. They join the staff and resident group on Saturday evening for Mass and are always supportive of the activities of the Briars.

Picture of the Briars in about 1939

Links to the local community also extend to our use of local suppliers and services. The Briars has always tried to use local trades people and suppliers, and most of our staff are Crich residents.

The young people who visit know that they are coming into a well established, thriving Christian community. We have Christian values at the root of everything we do and take as our motto a quotation from John�s Gospel; �I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full�. (Jn 10; 10)

The Briars is often referred to as �The Friendly Place� and our aim is to build on that reputation, ensuring that the superb local and national reputation the Briars has continues well into the future, creating a safe and caring environment for all visitors.

Father Joe Wheat

Centre Director

The Briars in about 1939