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The Guardian: Holy nights – camping in a church

From the bloggers at The Guardian.

It was dark and chilly, and I was lying in a sleeping bag on a narrow camp bed. But I wasn’t in a tent, tipi or yurt – I was in a church. That’s because I wasn’t camping, nor even glamping; I was “champing”.

OK, it’s a terrible name, but what a brilliant idea! The Churches Conservation Trust looks after 347 churches that are no longer used for regular worship. It repairs and maintains the buildings, and finds new uses for them: circus schools, GP surgeries, artists’ workshops.

Church camping was the bright idea of Peter Aiers, one of the trust’s regional directors. He says that churches embody hundreds of years of British history, and are beautiful buildings to boot, so what better way to appreciate them than spending a night in one? And have it all to yourselves.

St Mary the Virgin in Fordwich, Kent, where I stayed, is certainly historic. (Champing is also offered at medieval All Saints Church in Aldwincle, Northamptonshire, and in the Georgian interior of St Cyriac & St Julitta at Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire. The trust is hoping to add more.) St Mary’s dates from Norman times; there are 14th-century stained-glass windows, 17th-century wall paintings and 18th-century wooden box pews. The church’s most famous object, the Fordwich stone, dates from about 1100 and once formed part of a saint’s shrine; perhaps St Augustine of Canterbury’s.

To read the full story by The Guardian, click here.

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