EDLESBOROUGH: Silent night, holy night takes on a whole new meaning for visitors paying for an unorthodox overnight stay in a mediaeval English church. With a midnight walk in the graveyard and the chance to play some show tunes on the church organ, “champers” — short for church campers — make the most of the experience. “It adds to the mood, thinking about who is sleeping underneath us,” says university student Kae Ono, with a nod towards the gravestones, ahead of what she and her three friends hope will be a spooky sleepover in the 13th-century hilltop church in the English countryside.
Hiring out their space for “champing” stays is providing a handful of churches in England and Scotland with a way to bring in much-needed cash for their upkeep. “Champers” pay around £50 (Rs 4,441 approx.) each to hire out St Mary’s Church in Edlesborough, 64 kilometres north of London, sharing the space only with the resident bats. The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), which runs the village church, provides camp beds and sleeping bags so guests can “snuggle down in a truly ancient space”.
“I love it, did you see the trees? Creepy, amazing!” says fellow camper Lingbo Zhou. Ono blasts out gothic riffs from “The Phantom of the Opera” on the church organ, which comes as part of the deal. “We’re planning on watching a horror movie later,” says the archaeology student.
On arrival, the visitors explored all the nooks and crannies of their home for the night with the kind of nervous excitement seen in the opening scenes of many a horror movie.
The CCT conservation charity, which looks after 354 churches in Britain, offers overnight stays in 19 of them. The churches were selected after careful consultation with volunteers and local communities, champing manager Neil Best said.
Despite still being consecrated, St Mary’s only rarely hosts services, and guests are given few restrictions, other than being asked to not annoy the neighbours. “Yes, don’t be silly,” the official website advises, on the question of whether alcohol can be consumed. Best stressed that all guests had so far behaved themselves, and shown the buildings due respect.