When I was a boy, I’d go camping with my family every summer, and, on hikes, I’d find my father taking moments to stare off into the wild green and soulful brown of the woods. Each year, he was astounded by the solitude, and each year, he’d tell us, “This is my church.”
Camping does that to you. It restrings your heart like a guitar.
Photo: All Saints' Church in Aldwincle, Northamptonshire Copyright. David Joyner
The Ultimate Unique Group Getaway
But it doesn’t always have to be by the blessed union of Mother Nature and Father Time. For some, it really comes down to seclusion and simply finding a way out of traffic, small talk, and city noise for once.
Now, there’s a more literal place of peace awaiting your sleepy head. “Champing” is a soft spot between camping and glamping (the recent trend of “glamourous camping”), and you can already guess what “champing” is—camping in a church! Yep, it's a real trend. Adventurures are flocking to churches that are no longer occupied to partake in this champing trend.
And it’s not just any church. These are churches that have witnessed the evolution of western parishioners. You’re able to dream beneath centuries-old paintings and stained glass (some dating back to the 14th Century).
Beats uneasy rest beneath cheap motel wallpaper and loud neighbors, doesn’t it? If you are looking for a unique group getaway, reunion, bridal shower or birthday party. We have found it!
Photo: David Joyner
This is all thanks to The Churches Conservation Trust, an organization that tends to 347 churches around the United Kingdom that no longer have regular worshippers.
After a successful pilot run at All Saints Church in Aldwincle, Northamptonshire, last year, two more churches now welcome travelers: The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Fordwich, Kent, and The Church of St. Cyriac and St. Julitta in Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire.
All Saints Church in Aldwincle, fully fitted out and ready for up to 16 lucky "Champers". Smaller groups as few as 4 can book the church on an exclusive basis. Photo: David Joyner
The Magical Experience
"Champers will enjoy a two-day, one-night break at one of three historic churches, with the building to themselves, surrounded by rural simplicity and hundreds of years of history. Champing is the ultimate ‘slow tourism’ escape, with England’s historic churches offering their own unique havens of tranquility, a peaceful night’s sleep interrupted only by the sounds of the natural world, and time to explore the beauty of the surrounding countryside at your own pace by day.
Guests are given the key to their church so they can head out and enjoy the natural beauty of rural England. Experience the world as our ancestors would have, travelling no further than the horizon and exploring on foot, dining at the local pub and soaking up the sights and sounds of the country. Alongside the standard champing break, The Churches Conservation Trust can also arrange activities to complement your stay, including leisurely walks, canoeing adventures, storytelling and meditation. Guests can enjoy a full breakfast delivered in the morning, made using local produce." reports the Churches Conservation Trust
Peter Aiers, the Trust’s director in the southeast, might be the most excited, quoted on the group’s website, saying, “As a veteran ‘champer’, I can recommend it without reservation.”
“There’s something so special about the silence and tranquillity of a rural church,” attests Aiers, “and enjoying this over two days is a great way to commune with centuries of history, whilst escaping the push-button trappings of modern life.”
It’s a perfect rustic and old-world experience; not quite civilization, not quite the wild. The experience doesn’t come down to just room either. Guests delight in a home-cooked meal at a nearby bed and breakfast before returning to an evening of candle-lit history lessons, complete with magical stories, myths, and legends. The ultimate goal is to create a wondrous cycle, where lodgers can learn about the churches while simultaneously paying for their upkeep.
“It’s great to be able to give guests the opportunity to be the key holder of one of our churches for a weekend,” according to Aiers, “so they can not only enjoy the interior beauty of these buildings, but also head out and enjoy the natural beauty of rural England in the same way our ancestors would have, travelling on foot, dining at the local pub and soaking up the sights and sounds of the country.”
You can book your tranquil stay with the Churches Conservation Trust for roughly $90 a night per person including breakfast.