Happy champ­ing: English churches wel­come campers

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Trends -

Edles­bor­ough: Silent night, holy night takes on a whole new mean­ing for vis­i­tors pay­ing for an un­ortho­dox overnight stay in a me­di­ae­val English church. With a mid­night walk in the grave­yard and the chance to play some show tunes on the church or­gan, “cham­pers” — short for church campers — make the most of the ex­pe­ri­ence. “It adds to the mood, think­ing about who is sleep­ing underneath us,” says univer­sity stu­dent Kae Ono, with a nod to­wards the grave­stones, ahead of what she and her three friends hope will be a spooky sleep­over in the 13th-cen­tury hill­top church in the English coun­try­side.

Hir­ing out their space for “champ­ing” stays is pro­vid­ing a hand­ful of churches in Eng­land and Scot­land with a way to bring in much-needed cash for their up­keep. “Cham­pers” pay around £50 (`4,441 ap­prox.) each to hire out St Mary’s Church in Edles­bor­ough, 64 kilo­me­tres north of Lon­don, shar­ing the space only with the resident bats. The Churches Con­ser­va­tion Trust (CCT), which runs the vil­lage church, pro­vides camp beds and sleep­ing bags so guests can “snug­gle down in a truly an­cient space”.

“I love it, did you see the trees? Creepy, amaz­ing!” says fel­low cam­per Lingbo Zhou. Ono blasts out gothic riffs from “The Phan­tom of the Opera” on the church or­gan, which comes as part of the deal. “We’re plan­ning on watch­ing a hor­ror movie later,” says the ar­chae­ol­ogy stu­dent.

On ar­rival, the vis­i­tors ex­plored all the nooks and cran­nies of their home for the night with the kind of ner­vous ex­cite­ment seen in the open­ing scenes of many a hor­ror movie.

The CCT con­ser­va­tion char­ity, which looks after 354 churches in Bri­tain, of­fers overnight stays in19 of them. The churches were selected after care­ful con­sul­ta­tion with vol­un­teers and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, champ­ing man­ager Neil Best said.

De­spite still be­ing con­se­crated, St Mary’s only rarely hosts ser­vices, and guests are given few re­stric­tions, other than be­ing asked to not an­noy the neigh­bours. “Yes, don’t be silly,” the of­fi­cial web­site ad­vises, on the ques­tion of whether al­co­hol can be con­sumed. Best stressed that all guests had so far be­haved them­selves, and shown the build­ings due re­spect.


Hir­ing out their space for champ­ing stays is help­ing churches in Eng­land and Scot­land to raise much-needed cash for their up­keep

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