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Move over, glamping. There’s champing.

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What is ‘champing’, exactly? A term concocted (and trademarked) by the UK’s Churches Conservation Trust, ‘champing’ combines the words ‘church’ and ‘camping’ – yes, this means you’re sleeping in a church. An abandoned one, at that.

But don’t worry, it’s not exactly the YMCA – in fact, the CCT has a network of 12 churches so far where you can camp out in style. Fret not – you don’t have to be a Christian and they don’t hold services. You don’t even have to share the church with strangers.

How it works

The 12 churches on CCT’s list, located close to villages, are mostly abandoned or unused – but this doesn’t mean they’re derelict. You’ll be sleeping in well-preserved churches – some over 800 years old.

You get to explore the English countryside, and have an entire church to yourself (yes, they give you the keys), complete with hundreds of years of accumulated history. What’s more, you have the added option of getting breakfast (either delivered to your church by a local farmer or you can eat at a local hostelry), and have bottles of wine delivered to you.

As most of these churches are *abandoned* they don’t have electricity or plumbing (so no shower facilities), but they all have toilets (most churches have eco-compost loos). Churches are also only open in summer (March – September) as they’re not heated.

Want to see what these church stayovers look like? Here are some examples:

St. Mary the Virgin in Fordwich, Kent is a tiny 800-year-old church and sits on the ancient Way of St Augustine, located in the tiny town of Fordwich with its 16th century Town Hall.

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Sitting on the far easterly edge of the North York Moors National Park, the atmospheric St Stephen’s Old Church in Flyingdales sits atop the cliff looking out over Robin Hood’s Bay.

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The Georgian church of St Thomas in Friarmere, Greater Manchester, sits high above the town of Delph on the edge of Saddleworth Moor, with easy access to Marsden Moor Estate and the Hardcastle Crags.

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St Andrew in Wroxeter, Shropshire, is all about Roman history – it’s built on the Roman site of Viroconium, with Wroxeter Roman City and Wroxeter Roman Vineyard just a stone’s throw away.

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There are also churches not on CCT’s list, including St Peter in Sandwick, in Orkney. This simple lime-washed kirk sits on a rugged and exposed position overlooking the Bay of Skaill.

Where to go from here

With no high/low season, prices are per adult, per night, at £39 (Mon – Thurs) and £49 (Fri – Sun). If you don’t have your own camping gear, the CCT can rent a comfy bedding set at £25 per person.

The best part? By staying at one of these churches, your proceeds will help preserve over 300 other churches that are currently protected by the registry that may simply have gone to ruin otherwise. For more, check out their site.

All images via champing.co.uk.

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