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What Is Champing? (AKA Camping with an ‘H’)

Have you ever thought about staying overnight in a historic church? Perhaps you went to youth group slumber parties as a teenager or camp-outs with children’s leaders as an elementary student.

But what about staying in a Victorian church overlooking the coastline of Wales?

Doesn’t that sound amazing? It’s possible with The Churches Conservation Trust’s unique experience, Champing. Let’s look closer so you can make that reservation!

What Is Champing?

According to the Champing website, “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.”

Champers can stay in designated churches in Great Britain with exclusive use of these ancient spaces for a night or two. Through this Champing experience, guests help preserve these historic spaces.

Where Can You Go Champing? 

In 2014, a local Scout troop asked to stay overnight in a church under the care of The Churches Conservation Trust. The champing idea was a result of this experience, to allow others to experience champing stays all over Great Britain.

The Churches Conservation Trust first partnered with Canoe2, a local canoe company, to provide accommodations for paddlers exploring the Nene River in Northamptonshire. The success of this location led to the opening of more churches across the country under the care of The Churches Conservation Trust. Today approximately 20 churches are participating in the Champing experience.

You can book a reservation at a medieval church in the village of Berden with proximity to Cambridge, Saffron, and Walden. You can stay in St. James’ Church, where you’ll find the courtyard that inspired the opening chapter of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. If you’re looking for a church with breathtaking views, the Georgian preaching church of St. Thomas sits high above the town of Delph. Many more options are offering unique overnight experiences.

Pro Tip: While RVers can go champing in the UK, find out if you can park your RV overnight at churches in the USA.

Sculpture of Jesus in church
The Churches Conservation Trust established a way for RVers to camp in historic churches.

What Amenities Are Included in Champing? 

When you pay the overnight rate for your Champing location, you receive exclusive use of the church. The Churches Conservation Trust will set out beds, chairs, tea, and coffee. They’ll have provisions, lanterns, and fairy lights. If you want bedding, it’s an additional cost.

You can add breakfast to your reservation for a fee, but it’s only available in specific locations. It’s crucial to note that these are ancient structures without running water or heat. The Champing experience is very much like camping in a tent regarding amenities.

What Should You Pack When Champing?

If you don’t want to pay for bedding, you must bring some. You’ll also want to get food. However, you can’t cook inside the churches. If you’d like milk for your morning coffee, you’ll also need to bring that. Most churches don’t have electricity, so there’s no need to bring items you’ll need to plug into a power source. Pack what you need for an overnight tent camping experience; warm clothes, hygiene items, snacks, etc.

Can You Bring Your Pet Champing? 

Champing is a pet-friendly experience. You can bring up to two dogs to enjoy your overnight stay in one of these ancient churches. If you have three tiny dogs, The Churches Conservation Trust will allow you to bring them. Remember to pack everything you need for your furry friends.

Woman driving camper van to go champing
Champing is an affordable way to spend the night in a unique setting.

How Much Does Champing Cost? 

Unlike campgrounds or parks, there is no low season or peak season for Champing. You’ll pay the same rate in May as you would in September. However, stays during the week are cheaper than weekend stays.

For Monday-Thursday reservations, the rate varies depending on if you’re camping alone, with friends, or with your family. Prices can range from £25 to the £50’s; call in advance for your quote. For Friday-Sunday reservations, the rate is slightly higher than weekday Champing. Breakfast is a nominal fee anytime during the week.

They typically require a 25% deposit for reservations more than 28 days before the stay. You can also reserve groups to stay at these historic locations. You can usually get a group rate of 25% off groups of 8-11 people and 30% off groups of 12-16, so check first, just in case!

Is Breakfast Included With a Champing Stay? 

Breakfast is not always part of your reservation. However, it is available to add on depending on the church location. There are also small towns with quaint cafes near many of the churches. They’re perfect for visiting in the morning to grab a pastry or complete feast, whichever you desire.

Pro Tip: Stop at the Smallest Church in the USA while road tripping across America.

Is Champing a Unique Experience You Have to Try?

From beautifully carved stone and intricate woodwork to awe-inspiring stained glass, the artwork, textures, and architecture of these ancient churches in Great Britain are available to behold up close with a Champing stay. No staying with strangers. No setting up a campsite. You arrive, and the scene is ready for a unique overnight experience.

Plus, you’re supporting The Churches Conservation Trust and its endeavors to keep these historic buildings open and accessible for future generations.

Which location would be the perfect place for your Champing stay? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

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