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Champing: Camping In A Church is the New Glamping (With a Touch of Holy Sprinkled In)

"We’ve all heard of glamping but what about ‘champing’? It’s a quirky camping idea to hit the UK, AKA 'Sleepovers with Soul'. Faith Bleasdale packed her sleeping bag and headed to St Mary’s in Walkhampton to test out champing for Holiday Goddess. "

Champing is camping in a church. The United Kingdom is famed for its beautiful churches, full of rich history and breathtaking beauty.

However many of these churches are under threat. Dwindling congregations means some churches are struggling to stay open and are being under utilised or closed. The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) had the genius idea to launch Champing in 2014 and its popularity has grown ever since. Not only does it raise funds but also breathes new life into these important buildings.

Champing appealed to me straight away. I love history and I love an adventure. There are quite a few churches to choose from but I searched for the nearest church to me which was on Dartmoor – St Mary’s in Walkhampton.

Not brave enough to stay in a church alone, I took along a friend. We went in April, which in the UK this year was still pretty cold and the churches aren’t heated so we were warned to bring a lot of warm clothes. You also take your own bedding, which is the same as camping. We set off with our supplies, including wine which, thankfully you are allowed to drink!

St Mary’s in Walkhampton

The church was gorgeous, as was the location. I couldn’t believe how beautiful our view was as we let ourselves into the church – our home for the night.

It was a little crazy how we were in charge of a whole church, but we soon got to grips with our surroundings. St Mary’s had a small kitchen area, with running water, a fridge, tea and coffee making facilities and even a corkscrew. It also had a proper toilet in the church, which not all churches have – some have eco loos instead.

Our camp beds were set up around the font, and they had provided towels and a hot water bottle which was definitely needed.

The earliest known reference to St Mary’s church is 1342, the present structure dates from around 1500. It’s a stunning church with amazing stained glass windows, and a modern bell tower. It’s big but somehow it felt quite cosy and comforting.


Walkhampton itself is a small but very picturesque village and we walked about ten minutes from the church to go to dinner at the Walkhampton Inn, a pretty local pub. Once we had eaten and had a few drinks we hiked back – unfortunately going back was all uphill – and we headed in for the night.

The camp beds were definitely more comfortable than they looked and when we wrapped up and snuggled down ready to sleep with our hot water bottles and bed socks, it was actually warm enough.

I wouldn’t say I had the best night sleep, but it was OK. I could hear the wind through the windows (clearly no double glazing in the 1500s), so I was a little startled through the night but on the whole it didn’t matter. Waking up in the morning was a little cold again but as the sun streamed through the stained glass windows, it was too beautiful to mind. And when we opened the door the view across Dartmoor took our breaths away.

I was sad to lock up and leave our church and we both agreed that it was definitely something we would do again, maybe with a group of friends next time…

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Camping beds set up inside the church for Champing by Faith Bleasdale
Camping beds set up inside the church for Champing photo by Faith Bleasdale
Thankfully a glass of wine is allowed while champing. Image by Faith Bleasdale
St Mary’s in Walkhampton photo by Faith Bleasdale
Bed down for the night next to the pews. Image by Faith Bleasdale
The stunning view across Dartmoor. Image by Faith Bleasdale

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Walkhampton church, Walkhampton, Yelverton, UK