Church camping movement seeks to spread the word far and wide | Camping holidays

For millennia, pilgrims have taken time out from their epic hikes to overnight in churches, mosques, temples and monasteries to eat, sleep, pray and meditate while recovering from one day’s hard slog and preparing for the next. Christians keep up this practice on pilgrimage routes across Britain and Europe.

Now, people of all faiths and none are being invited to “champ” – church camp – in historic churches across England and Wales. The scheme was launched in 2016 by the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), the charity that protects Anglican churches made “redundant” (closed) and considered at risk. The project offers unusual accommodation to travellers and provides churches with funds to keep buildings maintained.

These wonderful buildings need to be used; to see lights on and hear chatting, singing and dancing is heartwarming

Last year, 1,500 people (and 200 dogs) slept in champing churches, helping the CCT post record income for the year. It’s now seeking to bring in more churches across the UK.

“Champing is still too small to raise significant amounts,” says Fiona Silk, who oversees the champing business for the CCT. “But it does generate extra funds for upkeep and repair work and is a way of helping keep a church sustainable.

The church of St Laurence, Hilmarton, Wiltshire. Photograph: Alamy

“It’s also about providing a warm welcome to people who might not ordinarily go into a church – and supporting rural communities, as visitors will also eat out. Champing can also provide local people with a kind of mission.”

Priscilla Moxey, from the parish council at St Laurence in Hilmarton, Wiltshire, says: “The idea that people from far and, indeed, near can come and stay in our beautiful Grade I village church and have the key for one or several nights, enabling them to enjoy and absorb the history, beauty and architecture, is an amazing concept.

“These wonderful buildings need to be used as much as possible; and to see lights on and hear…


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