It’s called “champing” (because everything needs a cutesy hook to earn people’s interest these days), but the chance to spend a few days in one of several rural, medieval churches in the English countryside is a pretty charming proposal, adorable name or not.
The Churches Conservation Trust came up with the idea back in 2014 and began a pilot program, the idea being that charging people to “champ” in their churches and historic buildings would offset the maintenance and restoration costs incurred by the small towns and parishes. In exchange, travelers get a unique experience a little off the beaten path.
As of 2016, 7 churches were offering the option, and over 600 people have taken advantage and spent a quiet holiday exploring the churches, canoeing on nearby rivers, or spending their days hiking the surrounding woods and meadows.
That said, if you’re not a fan of spending time outdoors, this might not be the activity for you – all of the churches are located in southeast England, and while the close proximity to London (2-3 hours) makes it ideal for some, the fact that the small villages offer little in the way of tourist attractions could turn some potential champers off.
It is, after all, camping – that means that even though local volunteers provide electric candles, snacks, bottled water, and sleeping bags/pillows for international guests, this isn’t a hotel experience. All 7 churches are unheated and without running water, and only 2 have actual toilets.
None of that, however, will turn off people who love camping, spending time close to nature, and finding a quiet place to spend the night on a long hike or bicycle trip. As of May 2017, the Trust expects to up their offering to 12 churches all across the English countryside.
With over 350 non-operational churches to oversee, the Trust may have found a way to keep their doors open for people looking for remnants of British history, and the buildings that were central to English life for so many years.
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h/t: Atlas Obscura