Let’s Go Champing

If you’re a farmgirl, you know all about glamping, but have you heard what tourists are doing in England?

It’s called champing, and it just may be the best thing since the invention of s’mores.

Churches + camping = champing! Picture this: unrolling your sleeping bag to sleep, not exactly under the stars, but under some of the most beautiful and history-drenched architecture that side of the pond. Camping in medieval churches might seem … well, peculiar. Okay, maybe a tad, but the atmosphere can’t be beat.

photo, champing.co.uk

Champing is a new phenomenon. Begun in 2014 by the Churches Conservation Trust, it started with the first champing offer at All Saints’ Church in Aldwincle, Northamptonshire. Promising that you (the uh … champer?) would be the first to stay the night in the church, “apart from a few weary pilgrims, monks, and a tired vicar or two,” that is.

The Trust saw some success with their unique lodging accommodations, and have now expanded to 12 champing locations. History lovers will hardly be able to sleep while they marvel over things like 14th-century stained-glass windows, 17th-century wall paintings, 18th-century wooden box pews, 14th-century bell towers, rare bread shelves (where the wealthy used to leave loaves of bread for the poor), a “ducking stool” (used for “gossips” in the 15th century), and organs for a little night music. Urban legend has it that Shakespeare himself performed his plays in one of the locations. Of course, champers who love a good ghost story won’t be able to resist a moonlit stroll through the accompanying graveyards.

Odd it may be, and it might not float every camper’s boat, so to speak, but over 300 champers stayed that first season, and that number doubled in size by 2016. Guests say while they expected to be “spooked out,” the churches were calm and serene (some now offer yoga down the lane in the mornings to go with that tranquil feeling). And if you’re worried that you need to be a card-carrying member of a religious organization, the website reassures you with these sage words: “You don’t have to be a squealing preteen to enjoy a One Direction concert.”

Room service, mini bar, hot tub, and gym may not be included, but we don’t think you’ll miss them. Find out more at Champing.co.uk.

Church of All Saints, Odiham, via Wikimedia Commons.

Leave a comment 5 Comments

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Oh, now this is something I would do in a heartbeat! When we visited England last Fall, I was so amazed at all of the lovely little village churches . This history and beauty of these places have stories to enjoy that go back hundreds of years, sometimes. The churches were also the heart of the community and have layers of community life recorded in their photo archives. My favorite church was the one used in Downton Abby in the rural town of Brampton. It was hard to separate 6 years of “being” in that church for marriages, funerals, and baptisms from the reality of the real story it has as the community center.

  2. Karlyne says:

    I love this! One of my favorite memories of Ireland & the U.K. is the amazing churches, including the one James Herriot was married in.

  3. Krista says:

    This would be so fun. I would love to check out some old churches and learn some history along the way. Those old churches are so beautiful with many stories to tell. If I ever get the chance to head to England I will definitely check this out!

  4. BB king says:

    Count me in, sounds great!

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