Photos: Champing culture in England’s 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.

Updated On Sep 14, 2019 02:38 PM IST 8 Photos
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Guest Ismail Abdirahman (top) reads to his friends Andrea Stewart, Lingbo Zhou and Kae Ono from the pulpit at St Mary’s Church, where guests can pay to stay overnight in what is known as ‘champing’—short for church camping, in Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire. Silent night, holy night takes on a whole new meaning for visitors paying for an unorthodox overnight stay in a mediaeval English church. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

Guest Ismail Abdirahman (top) reads to his friends Andrea Stewart, Lingbo Zhou and Kae Ono from the pulpit at St Mary’s Church, where guests can pay to stay overnight in what is known as ‘champing’—short for church camping, in Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire. Silent night, holy night takes on a whole new meaning for visitors paying for an unorthodox overnight stay in a mediaeval English church. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

Updated on Sep 14, 2019 02:38 PM IST
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An outside view of St Mary’s Church. “Champers” pay around £50 (56 euros, $62) each to hire out St Mary’s Church in Edlesborough, 40 miles (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”. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

An outside view of St Mary’s Church. “Champers” pay around £50 (56 euros, $62) each to hire out St Mary’s Church in Edlesborough, 40 miles (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”. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

Updated on Sep 14, 2019 02:38 PM IST
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University student Kae Ono plays the church organ while her friends relax in the background. “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. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

University student Kae Ono plays the church organ while her friends relax in the background. “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. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

Updated on Sep 14, 2019 02:38 PM IST
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History student Ismail Abdirahman took to the pulpit to read to the small congregation which included the group’s dog, Coco, while Zhou scoured the walls for signs of ancient graffiti. “I want to take a midnight walk in the graveyard,” she says. “And I will be thinking about the creepy faces up there,” she adds, pointing to the grotesque carvings that decorate the ceiling. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

History student Ismail Abdirahman took to the pulpit to read to the small congregation which included the group’s dog, Coco, while Zhou scoured the walls for signs of ancient graffiti. “I want to take a midnight walk in the graveyard,” she says. “And I will be thinking about the creepy faces up there,” she adds, pointing to the grotesque carvings that decorate the ceiling. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

Updated on Sep 14, 2019 02:38 PM IST
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With a midnight walk in the graveyard and the chance to play some show tunes on the church organ, champers 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. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

With a midnight walk in the graveyard and the chance to play some show tunes on the church organ, champers 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. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

Updated on Sep 14, 2019 02:38 PM IST
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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, who have been “hugely supportive of the initiative”, 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. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

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, who have been “hugely supportive of the initiative”, 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. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

Updated on Sep 14, 2019 02:38 PM IST
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The charity, which launched champing in 2014, stresses that a church will “always be a place for contemplation, tranquility and peace”. But, it added that champing was “just the latest chapter” in an ongoing tradition of change. “We are sensitive to any community concerns or priorities and work with them before, during and after initiating champing on any site,” said Best. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

The charity, which launched champing in 2014, stresses that a church will “always be a place for contemplation, tranquility and peace”. But, it added that champing was “just the latest chapter” in an ongoing tradition of change. “We are sensitive to any community concerns or priorities and work with them before, during and after initiating champing on any site,” said Best. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

Updated on Sep 14, 2019 02:38 PM IST
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For Ono, being creeped out was also “part of the plan” -- and speaking the morning after, she said it had worked. “It was one of the scariest nights for all of us, in a good way! “The noise... and the stained glass at night was really creepy, and there were bats in the church, we could hear the squeaks and something flying. “We watched the whole of ‘The Exorcist’. It wasn’t easy not to think about them!” (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

For Ono, being creeped out was also “part of the plan” -- and speaking the morning after, she said it had worked. “It was one of the scariest nights for all of us, in a good way! “The noise... and the stained glass at night was really creepy, and there were bats in the church, we could hear the squeaks and something flying. “We watched the whole of ‘The Exorcist’. It wasn’t easy not to think about them!” (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

Updated on Sep 14, 2019 02:38 PM IST
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