Information for House Guests
Community life at Braziers Park
Braziers Park is one of the oldest secular intentional communities in Europe. We love having visitors to share our home but it is important that guests understand that they are visiting a residential working community and not a hotel. We are around 20 people living and working in this beautiful, historic Grade 2 listed Strawberry Hill Gothic mansion house. There are 55 acres of meadows, some leased to a local organic beef producer, some woodland and a large eco campsite. We are in a rural area close to the Ridgeway, Chilterns and the Thames.
The community is engaged in integrative social research, group process, organic gardening and working towards sustainability. We host a wide variety of outside courses and events which are listed on our website as well as our own in-house courses and events. Braziers Park is a specially authorised society with charitable status. We are a not-for-profit organisation run by members, residents and volunteers with no hierarchy and working residents not staff. You may like to find out about becoming an associate or volunteer, details and application forms are on the front desk or from the office. Our research communications go back to the 1950s.
Guests are welcomed to share our home and meals with us. Do please introduce yourself to residents and volunteers you meet during your stay. You are asked to do all your own washing-up and drying-up and keep the place tidy. If you have spare time while you are here and wish to help with jobs such as planting or harvesting in the garden, emptying the recycling bins, sweeping up, wiping tables, changing flower vases, fetching water for the table, there is usually something you can do. Please ask a resident.
Talks, workshops & tours
We can sometimes offer visiting groups short talks and tours to fit in with the schedule on subjects such as community living, working towards sustainability, organic gardening, bee-keeping, our wood chip district heating system, organic livestock rearing, house history tour, water harvesting, composting toilets, workshops such as preserves and bread making. Ranging from 20 mins to 90 mins sessions usually need to be arranged before your visit. Most talks are free but donations are welcome.
Things to do
There are board games in the Inner Hall, a fiction library in the study and reference books in the library. There is a grand piano, guitars and various musical instruments you are welcome to play. A computer room is next to the pantry with internet access and WiFi, the passwords are displayed near the office.
There are two pubs nearby: the Black Horse is a unique pub approximately a 40 minutes walk through the woods; and the King William with lovely views and serving food, is about 20 minutes away. The village shop and post office is a 10 minute walk and the River Thames about 40 minutes. There is no bar but you are welcome to bring your own alcohol and drink responsibly. Illegal drugs are not permissible anywhere on site. There is a smoking area outside but please be considerate and don’t leave cigarette litter anywhere on the estate, even out of sight. There are several bonfire sites for evening get togethers.
We are working towards sustainability and endeavouring to reduce our CO2 levels. We use Ecotricity 100% renewable electricity. We ask all our guests to help by recycling and re-using wherever possible (recycling bins are in the pantry), taking short showers (ensures hot water for everyone), turning off lights and heaters whenever possible, using eco-friendly toiletries (available to buy in the inner hall) and using public transport (bus stop 5 minutes away), bikes or car sharing where possible. A highly efficient wood-fired central heating and hot water system and open log fires keep the house cosy in cold weather but you may also need warm clothing. We have composting toilets and wood burning showers on the campsite. Our environmental policy is displayed in the back corridor.
House-keeping & Kitchen
All the cooking, cleaning, hosting, gardening, maintenance and administration is done by residents with help from volunteers from around the world including Wwoofers (Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms) who all work in exchange for keep. The majority of our guest food is organic and vegetarian. Special diets/allergies can be catered for with notice but we cannot cater for severe allergies or individual preferences. Two refreshment breaks are included each day in group bookings but hot drinks and toast are always available outside meal/refreshment breaks for a donation in the box. There is a kitchenette opposite room 11 on the first floor with a kettle and fridge. Hot water bottles and extra blankets are available if needed. Feel free to light the open fire in the Inner Hall on chilly evenings (NB. All fireplaces and woodburners are currently out of action pending remedial works)
The shared bathrooms are checked regularly. Please leave them clean and tidy for the next person and let us know of any problems you can’t deal with. You will need your own shower towel and toiletries (organic/bio-degradable). Our sewerage system is a septic tank which works well if the bacteria balance is maintained by not using the chemicals found in most detergents and toiletries. Towels are available to hire if you forget. There is a laundry room available at extra cost. The house is refurbished and maintained as economically and ecologically as possible. Please do let us know of any problems or suggestions.
Guests are welcome to explore the 55 acre estate’s meadows and woodland but are asked to bear in mind that it is a rural, farmed property and there may be hazards not found in urban public spaces and could include electric fencing. Please don’t stray onto neighbouring farm land except on footpaths – a map of the estate is in the entrance hall. Please close gates and take care not to disturb farm animals or wildlife or any other visitors. Also please don’t leave litter and ensure waste is recycled in the appropriate bins. You may need a torch at night and boots for much of the year . There are compost toilets in the orchard and on the camping field which are pleasant to use. Bonfires can be arranged in specific areas only; there is a charge for firewood which must never be foraged from the estate. Our woodlands are sustainably managed; fallen branches are usually left lying to play their part in the ecosystem. The Chilterns and The Ridgeway are areas of outstanding natural beauty if you have time to explore further afield.
We have many kinds of wildlife including red kites, buzzards, owls (50 species of bird are recorded), bats, slow worms, newts, frogs, deer, rabbits, moles, foxes, hares and many species of bees, butterfly and moths. Much of our grassland is left to flower and seed and is spectacular in spring and summer. There is a lovely woodland walk fromWest Park through ancient woodland down to the Orchard (30-45 minutes) where you should be able to spot our 400 year old Oak with an ancient ivy and an unusual embracing of an oak and a yew. Do let us know if you find anything interesting and please don’t damage, disturb, remove or pick things without asking – although we’d be grateful if you pick up any litter spotted!
Dogs are not allowed without specific, prior permission. We have pets, livestock, ground nesting birds and wildlife that is very sensitive to the presence of unfamiliar dogs. Registered help dogs are allowed but please inform us in advance.
Children remain the responsibility of their parents/guardians and must be supervised at all times. There is one cot available, you may need your own high chair,there’s a baby changing mat in the downstairs cloakroom. A woodland play area is just beyond West Park and must be supervised. There are several unfenced ponds and a water garden so small children must be accompanied at all times.
We will try to provide facilities for guests with mobility difficulties. However, the house is a listed property and we are restricted in the alterations we are able to make. Early notification of requirements will assist us in the provision of facilities. There are two ground floor toilets with grab rails. All bedrooms and shower rooms are upstairs but we can sometimes convert a ground floor room into a temporary bedroom when needed. There are wheelchair accessible composting toilets and shower on the campsite. This is not a therapeutic community and it’s not possible to provide physical or emotional support or supervision for guests.
There is parking at the front of the house and along the drive way toward the barn for small groups. For larger groups parking will often be on the campsite and will be signposted. Cars and contents are left at owner’s risk. Large groups may be charged for parking space on a sliding scale reducing for extra passengers.
There is an excellent bus service between Reading and Oxford (X39/X40) every half hour, with the bus stop approximately an 10 minute walk. We are on National Cycle Route 5 and bicycles can be stored under cover at own risk.
Health & Safety
Everyone is responsible for health and safety. If you see something that could be a danger please report it and take action to remove the danger. Ensure you know where the fire escapes are and if you hear the alarm leave immediately via the nearest fire escape. Do not stop to collect belongings. Assemble in the front car park and ensure you give your name before leaving the site. Do not leave candles or incense burning unattended or smoke anywhere in the house. Never cover electric heaters (wet clothing can be dried in a warm cellar) and always turn off heaters when leaving a room. The wood burning stoves in Drawing Room, Dining Room, Study and Library get burning hot – take care and keep children away. The terracotta tiles on the terrace and outside the back door are extremely slippery when wet or damp so please take great care in these areas which have warning signs. First Aid kits are in the main Kitchen, Office, Greenhouse and Cowshed. Most residents are qualified first aiders. Details of doctors and dentists are in the phone room and office. Braziers Park School of Integrative Social Research accepts no responsibility for injury, loss or damage.
-Bedrooms have locks on the inside but there are no room keys.
-Please check with office or housekeeper what time you need to vacate your room.
-There is a lost property box in the office and unclaimed items will be disposed of after 2 weeks.
-There is a telephone room next to the ground floor cloakroom. Please check costs and pay adequately for your calls.
– Please respect the privacy of residents when exploring the grounds – outbuildings may be homes.
– Voices carry, especially from the terrace to bedrooms above .
– Amplified music is by agreement only.
– Damage and breakages should be paid for in the donation box.
-Midnight is quiet down time – sound carries through the house.
-Please leave your details in the office if you wish to receive information about volunteering or our events.
-We reserve the right to require any visitor to leave if their behaviour seems inappropriate.