Campers get chance to holiday in church

Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date published: 23 January 2017

AN iconic church is to throw open its doors to tourists in a unique travelling experience.

Because St Thomas Church at Friarmere will be offering overnight accommodation to campers looking for unusual places to spend the night.

But currently travellers could be in for a chilly reception as there is no toilet or water facilities and only one light source in the building.

And Rev John Rosedale, Saddleworth team vicar, said candidly: "It can be a challenging venue and it's often colder inside than out."

The revolutionary concept, champing, is being driven by the Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity protecting churches at risk.

St Thomas's is joining the scheme which last year saw hundreds of happy champers stay overnight in ancient spaces across the country.

Information from the trust says: "Despite its brooding appearance, St Thomas's interior is charming with vibrant stained glass and the outside has breathtaking views on all sides."

They say champing is very popular with couples, families and special interest groups looking for adventure and a memorable camping experience.

Camp beds are set up inside the church, with a cosy sitting area, complete with rugs and cushions. Guests only need to bring bedding and a bottle of wine is allowed. "The church is for the exclusive use of each group, be that a couple or a larger group of friends, which makes the experience even more special.

"This season sees the introduction of a more flexible pricing structure for people to pick their level of comfort, and includes mid-week and weekend rates, plus optional bring-your-own breakfast packages."

Rates are from £19 to £59, with group discounts for eight or more. Dogs are welcome.

"For those of an adventurous nature it will be an adventure," said Rev Rosedale.

"And for those in the local community, who have a place for Heights in their hearts, I hope they will see the benefits of the building coming alive with regular overnight visitors.

"In the past six years the building has been used for weddings, funerals, art displays, local Songs of Praise and the Saddleworth festival.

"This is another way of ensuring a future for the life of the building."

Champing franchises are available and this season the trust has joined forces with the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust and the Churches Trust for Cumbria to deliver new sites in under-utilised churches and boost tourism.

Crispin Truman, the Churches Conservation Trust chief executive, said: "We're enormously proud of the success of champing bringing new life to our unique historic buildings and a new, way of enjoying the countryside."

Bookings can be made now at The season runs from March 31 - September 30.