Somerset: Church offers camping services to help funding
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Camping doesn’t need to be in a campsite. Wild camping has never been more popular, and back gardens are also being opened to sleeping bags and tents.
The latest trend is camping in a church.
Called “champing”, the opportunity to sleep in a church for a night is offered by The Churches Conservation Trust.
On their champing website, the Trust explained: “Champing is the unique concept of camping overnight in historic churches, brought to the world by The Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity protecting historic churches at risk.”
It continued: “Don’t forget that by supporting Champing, you’re also helping to preserve these ancient spaces for the future.”
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On BBC today, the trend was explored with a look at the church of Langport in Somerset.
With a dwindling congregation, the church hasn’t had a weekly service since the 1990s.
There has been a church on the site of All Saints for more than a thousand years.
And while churchgoers were few and far between, churchwarden Clive Sills said: “People who didn’t come to the church still saw it as something that was a precious part of their community.”
The church is looked after by The Churches Conservation Trust and one way the charity raises money is by opening up its buildings to campers.
Annie Shillabeer, one of the volunteers said: “You’d think it’s scary but it’s not.
“It’s got a really nice atmosphere, you wake up in the morning and the light’s coming through the windows, it just feels really calm and relaxing.
“You’ve got this glorious space all to yourself and it’s really good for hide and seek.”
Another volunteer, Bill Langford, believed it was a good way to bring youngsters back to church.
He said: “If I went to church as a youngster, I’d be in my Sunday best. This is a freer and easier way to enjoy the space.”
One “champer” was Muireann Maguire, who camped in All Saints with her two young sons.
She said: “We usually go to Cornwall and stay in a bed and breakfast. This is different because we’ve never slept in a church before.
“And this is amazing, it’s everything I expected.”
Champing may not be for everyone but it is helping churches all over the country raise funds.
The pandemic has seriously impacted the champing trend, as it has other charities and accommodation options.
The Trust’s churches are open for stays until the end of October and the Trust has fully flexible booking.
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