News / Transport & Travel

Leave London for an overnight snooze in an ancient church

Champing in Langport church
Photograph: Joseph John Casey Champing in Langport

Forget glamping – champing is the weird new camping trend for 2019

When the stresses and strains of London life get too much, you need somewhere to unwind. A weekend retreat that’s tranquil and secluded, spacious and bright, preferably with period features – wooden floors, tall ceilings, stained-glass windows… a pulpit? How about a bell tower? An ancient tomb? Churches might not be the first choice for a holiday home, but they’re at the centre of a new indoor camping trend that’s making glamping look like slumming it.

Holiday rental service Champing gives people the opportunity to hire out an entire church for their own private use, with some churches allowing guests to stay for weeks at a time. Happy champers are treated to camp beds, lanterns, candles and tea- and coffee-making facilities. It’s up to the guests to bring booze, food or musical instruments – whatever they fancy to transform the ancient building into a cosy weekend hideaway.

Photograph: Joseph Casey

New additions to the Champing collection include the charming Church of St Mary the Virgin in Kent, which can be found in an idyllic spot next to the River Stour, and the breathtaking Church of the Holy Sepulchre, West Sussex – a thirteenth-century sandstone building with ornate windows and an unspoilt eighteenth-century interior.

In addition, guests can slumber next to all manner of religious relics, including the seventeenth-century tomb figures at the St Mary the Virgin, Essex and the mildly disturbing ‘Pip’s Graves’ in St James’s, Kent – the gravestones of 13 babies that apparently inspired the opening chapter of Charles Dickenss ‘Great Expectations’.

Photograph: Joseph Casey

It’s certainly a unique experience, and according to organisers the Churches Conservation Trust, last year was their busiest ever, with hundreds of champers staying at more than 16 churches across the UK. The revenue raised by Champing is used for repair to and investment in church buildings, many of which are in remote locations where visitor numbers and funding are low. 

Photograph: Joseph Casey

So if you’re looking to try something new – and you don’t spook easily – maybe your next weekend getaway could be truly heavenly.

Champing rates start from £49 per adult per night, and £25 per child, plus £25 per person for the hire of bedding. Visit www.champing.co.uk for booking and more information.

Feeling inspired to go camping but churches don't ring your bell? Check out these amazing camping spots near London.  

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