For the past few weeks you might have heard whisperings of a strange new phenomenon on the internet. Mentions of #champing hashtags on Twitter, random pictures on Facebook, and arguments on various newspaper websites as to whether ‘champing’ is just another term for ‘glamping’ have gradually popped up. If you aren’t curious or excited about it you probably should, because it is a great and inexpensive idea that helps promote the outdoors and heritage at once.
‘Champing’ is effectively camping inside churches, and is the brainchild of The Churches Conservation Trust. The charity buys churches that are no longer used as a regular place of worship and transforms them into other uses, such as art studios, schools, even a circus skills training centre. Many of the churches they own also contain important or rare examples of art, archaeology or architectural forms that are difficult to find elsewhere and deserve to be conserved for posterity.
Always looking for novel ideas to preserve the functionality and history of their buildings, this latest offering from The Churches Conservation Trust is currently being rolled out at three locations:
The cost is £60 per person a night for chairs, bean bags, a camp bed and breakfast the next morning and pets are allowed to come too. Camping toilets and a basin for washing is provided, and visitors are required to bring their own bedding. The Churches Conservation Trust has also teamed with local business to provide activities to do nearby, such as canoeing. Considering some camping pods or glamping sites can easily charge double for the same provision of services, you can have the added benefit of knowing that your weekends away are also supporting the local history of the area and a charity that works hard to ensure the preservation of some of England’s oldest oft-forgotten buildings.
These churches are located in stunning rural or village settings, where once they were the focus of the community for hundreds of years. As the young population moves away in search of work and the elderly population dwindles, the churches gradually lay abandoned. If there’s no common place of meeting or young people to maintain the community of a village then it is left to stagnate, something which is happening across the country.
Whether or not you are religious is unimportant; the idea provides support on various levels to multiple deserving causes. By champing the church can preserve its original structure and is given a renewed purpose without any expensive or drastic renovation works. In return people are provided with affordable and unique accommodation to a destination they would otherwise be unable to visit and can enjoy the nearby nature reserves and other heritage sites. As The Churches Conservation Trust works with local businesses to source its breakfasts and activities, so visitors are also injecting money into the local community and providing work to small areas, and promoting the area’s nature and heritage.
Enjoying the great outdoors with a healthy dose of feel-good giving and a light dash of culture? I’m sure that’s something we can all agree we want more of.