Throughout recent years, the advent of luxury camping — or “glamping” — has brought a wealth of new, diverse ways to get away from it all. These days, camping enthusiasts can stay in chic cabins, cottages, tipis, yurts and much more. Knowing this, it’s not surprising that about 42.5 million Americans go camping each year.
And recently, the UK’s Churches Conservation Trust opened up a whole new option for intrepid glampers — some of the country’s most historic, revered places of worship. It’s neither traditional camping nor luxury camping; it’s “champing,” or church camping.
According to a May 29 Guardian article, the Churches Conservation Trust — which maintains and restores 347 out-of-use churches — made the choice to open its churches’ doors to campers as a way to bring people closer to Britain’s rich history.
Currently, medieval churches St. Mary the Virgin in Fordwich, Kent and the All Saints Church in Aldwincle, Northamptonshire, along with the Georgian interior of St Cyriac and St Julitta at Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, are the only churches open to campers. The trust hopes to eventually add more as the concept gains popularity.
St. Mary’s, in particular, boasts a wealth of historical and architectural significance. The Norman church has stained-glass windows dating back to the 14th century, wall paintings from the 17th century and wooden box pews from the 18th century. Most importantly, the church is home to the Fordwich stone, a relic from about 1100 A.D. that is believed to have been part of St Augustine of Canterbury’s shrine.
The trust also offers optional activities to complement campers’ church stays, from guided walks with a storyteller to canoe trips to yoga.
Once “champers” settle in for the night at their church of choice, they are free to explore every nook and cranny the space has to offer. There is no mini bar or room service at these consecrated spaces, but the trust allows church campers to get up to “whatever their consciences allow,” the Guardian reports.
Just be sure to lock the doors behind you if you don’t want any unexpected visitors — these churches are still technically public places, after all!
While it might not be as luxurious as staying in a plush cabin filled to the brim with modern-day amenities, there’s no denying that spending a night or two in one of England’s most historic churches is a truly special experience.
So whether you live in the UK or you’re simply here for a visit, going church camping can be a unique, exciting camping choice. Simply visit visitchurches.org.uk for more information.