Hello, September. The end of August into early September has been a busy time. I’ve said goodbye to Mr THL, who’s deployed for six months following fourteen days of isolation. I’ve said hello to the alarm clock, school runs and routine. As much as I’m missing the Mr, I’m really enjoying the routine of normal-ish life again.
Before everyone jumped back into work and school, we had a night away Champing. If you’ve not heard of it, Champing is the unique experience of staying overnight in a historic church. I wrote about our experience here. If you haven’t already, I’d love you to have a read.
Reactions to our Champing experience have been mixed. Well, it would be a boring world if everyone liked the same things, after all. But for anyone who does fancy giving it a go, you are in luck. The Champing season has been extended to the end of October. So there’s still time to be a Happy Champer.
Sleeping in a historic church is something a bit different, so potential Champers might wonder what to expect. I wasn’t too sure myself and it was my bright idea. With that in mind, here are the need-to-knows. And also a good excuse to share some more pictures from the church we stayed at. Because she was a beautiful old building, and deserves to be admired. I’ve decided Churches, like ships, should be ‘she’. Not an official thing , just made it up. Let’s go with it.
Choose Your Church With Care.
Not that they aren’t all lovely, but they are all different in terms of location, capacity and interior. From the far-flung St. Peter’s Kirk up in Orkney to the lovely St Katherine’s located just a short drive from the dreaming spires of Oxford, each Champing church offers a different experience. We picked St Mary’s in Edelsborough for a best-of-both-worlds stay. Perched on a hill with views across the countryside, it felt secluded but with the village itself just on the doorstep.
Parking & Access: Know Before You Go
Read the booking emails properly and they will tell you everything you need to know. You could even screen shot or print and keep to hand. I didn’t. Typical me, making it up as I go along. Meaning I forgot to mention to the husband that we couldn’t park at the church and we spent a good twenty minutes searching for the keys, that were in a box in the loo both of which required access codes.
If you like making a game of things and don’t mind a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, go for it. Really easier just to read things properly, though.
Eat, Drink & Make Merry…
You are welcome to bring food along, but no cooking is allowed inside the church. The Champing website does give details of the nearest shop/cafe at each loaction. Kettle, cups and basic utensils are provided so any sort of just-add-water thing is a good call. Hot drinks are provided. Just be sure to clear up properly. Poor church mice are very sweet in poetry, but could cause some real damage in a historic building. Best not to leave any temptation.
Fancy a tipple? Yes, that’s fine. Glasses and a corkscrew are provided. And if you’re sticking to the soft stuff, drinking water is provided. Just know it probably wont be running water, but bottled water care of Aquaid. And because what goes in must come out…
The Facilities. Or Not.
Historic churches are big on history and beautiful features, but short on plumbed in facilities. Don’t expect running water or a flushing loo. The toilet comes in the form of the Champ Lav, a dry separating toilet. They are usually housed in a little hut in the church yard and really are much nicer than they sound. As for getting washed…well, you have a kettle, water dispenser and washing up dish. Wing it, or make do with wet wipes.
If the idea of roughing it really puts you off, there are a couple of high amenity churches that are a little more blessed with facilities. Lack of amenities was the aspect of Champing that made me slightly apprehensive. Mr THL, being a soldier, couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. He was right.
Comfortable camp beds are provided. You can hire a bedding pack but we took our own. Pack or wear something comfy-cosy to relax and sleep in. Champing might give you a warm glow, knowing your helping to support the upkeep of a historic church, but ancient spaces can get a bit chilly. Fluffy socks recommended, old stone and ancient tiling is beautiful to look at but chilly on the feet. Hot water bottles are provided, and although we didn’t need them in August, I’m sure they’ll be very welcome towards the end of the season.
Traditionally, the Champing churches have been dressed with soft furnishings to make the experience comfortable and homely, but Covid precautions have put an end to this for now. You still have somewhere to sit, somewhere to sleep, fairy lights, camping lanterns and hot water bottles. What more do you need?
Keep Good Company…
Churches are generally open to all, and rightly so. But this was my first question : would we have sole occupancy? The answer is, yes. There is no sharing the church with strangers. Unless any of your own people are strange, but that’s another thing altogether.
Not just people, Champing is dog friendly. You can take up to two well behaved dogs. We took The Wolf, and he loved it. I’ve never seen him so relaxed.
Just keep in mind that although you’ll have sole occupancy, if the church already has residents you will be sharing with them. In our case it was a pair of bats. Lovely, once I’d realised what they were and my heart rate returned to normal.
If you fancy a sleep out in a church, there is still availability for September and October. I’d highly recommend it, it’s a great experience. Find the official Champing website here.