'Champing, or Church Camping, is a fairly new phenomenon in the UK. It's been devised by the geniuses of The Churches Conservation Trust in England...'
Champing is such a simple idea - to make churches available for overnight stays - but it also helps to raise funds for the upkeep of the buildings. It's kinda brilliant when you think about it and I'm so here for it.
So, what is it exactly?
Champing is, quite simply, camping in a church (with permission). Please don't do it otherwise, or you might find yourself going straight to the burny fire...
Champing is a kind of glamping, in which you have a roof over your head (that isn't made of canvas or nylon). You also have access to toilets and a range of other facilities.
You can locate a suitable champ site by checking out the Champing website. At present, there are 27 churches included in the scheme, covering the north and south of England and a lovely, but lonely church on Orkney in Scotland.
The Trust behind the initiative is based in England and so has access to English churches. The reason that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland aren't involved is because, well... none of them are in England, basically. I doubt there's anything to stop this being replicated across the UK in the future, though, which is good news for the rest of us.
There is a single church outside England, which is on the Orkney Isles off the coast of Scotland. This has been loaned by the Scottish Redundant Church Trust and therefore, can be offered under the same scheme. Go Scotland!
Who can go champing?
The champing season runs from March to September and most churches can be booked online via the official website. Prices start at £49 per adult per night, but there are some discounts available (there's currently a 10% off voucher code available until July 8th 2018, for example).
Doggos and children are permitted to champ, as long as they're well behaved. This rule also applies to adults.
If you're arriving to champ after hiking, or are making your way to church by public transport, you can add on some pretty sweet extras to your stay. These include wine, prosecco (sign me up...), extra bedding, and even breakfast, depending on your location. This will help to ensure you don't have to lug everything with you if you don't have a car.
The provision of camp beds, bedding, camp chairs, lanterns (not all of the churches have electricity) and tea and coffee making facilities is included in all regular fees.
Heating, Lighting and Sharing, oh my...
Churches don't have heating, hence the reason that the season runs from March to September. Maybe this is the real reason Scotland hasn't introduced a similar scheme. I can tell you this - it's entirely possible to suffer from hypothermia in the highlands. Even in summer*
Bookings are honoured on a first-come-first-served basis, so there's no sharing. If you book for two or six, it makes no difference. All bookings are private, so you don't have to worry about sleeping with one eye open because some dodgy looking tourist has turned up and you're certain you saw their photo on the National Crime Agency's 'Most Wanted' webpage. (it's here, just in case you ever need to refer to it...)
Obviously, lack of heating and electricity means that it won't make sense for you to take any microwave ready meals or uncooked sausages with you. Also - always take a corkscrew in your bag. This is just sensible advice for anywhere you travel on holiday, as far as I'm concerned.
Not only is a corkscrew useful for opening wine, but it's also a handy weapon to have on you. This will undoubtedly make you feel a wee bit safer if you've spent time on the Crime Agency website after reading this. Sorry about that.