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Herefordshire parish to trial luxury pods for champing in redundant churches 

06 October 2017


Innovative: the architect’s drawing shows how the luxury camping pod will fit inside St Michael’s

Innovative: the architect’s drawing shows how the luxury camping pod will fit inside St Michael’s

HOLIDAYMAKERS could soon be set­­­tling in for a stay in a luxury camp­ing pod inside abandoned churches.

A lottery-funded scheme from the Archbishops’ Council has developed an oak glamping — or “glamorous camping” — structure that can be installed inside churches to provide more comfortable facilities for tour­ists to sleep in.

The pods, the first of which has cost £140,000 to develop, can sleep up to six people, and include lav­atories, kitchen, bathroom, lounge, TVs, WiFi, wood-burning stoves, and even underfloor heating.

Camping inside old churches that no longer regularly host worship, known as champing, has soared in popularity in recent years. Norm­ally, it involves little more than lay­ing out a sleeping bag between the pews (News, 31 March).

But Ruth Knight, the environ­mental policy officer at the Church Buildings Division, explained that, with these new pods, churches would be able to charge significantly more to champers, which could be reinvested in mission and main­tain­ing the building.

“We have these small isolated churches where the community has moved away geographically,” she said. “You still have the building which is important to people, but it’s very dif­­ficult to look after them.”

Compared with putting in per­­manent facilities, the camping pods would have a low impact on the struc­ture, and would be relatively quick and cheap to install, Ms Knight said. They could also be removed if worship restarted at the church.

The first pod to be built will be put into St Michael’s, Dulas, in the dio­cese of Hereford, and will start taking bookings in 2019. The Grade II listed church had closed in 2008, but its grave­­yard is still in use, but the church remained a much loved com­­munity asset in the village, Ms Knight said.

No one consulted locally had ob­­jected to the idea of luxury camp­ing inside the church, she said. “They are very pleased to see something hap­­­pen with the church. They want to see it restored and back in the com­­munity.”

This pod will cost £140,000, but if the pilot scheme is successful the Church hopes to lower the normal cost to £70,000.

If the pilot goes well the Buildings Division hopes to roll out more of the pods at a rate of about three a year, or faster if the idea takes off. Despite little to no promotion of the scheme, several dioceses have already got in touch to express their interest, Ms Knight reported.

Other churches which still have active congregations could install only the kitchen and toilet element of the pods, she also said, to facilitate mid-week meetings or fresh expressions in medieval buildings.

In fact, depending on the size and layout, some churches could even fit in the full glamping structure while continuing to hold Sunday worship: “It’s perfectly possible to position something like this at the back or side; it would just look like a large storage unit if it was closed up.”

There are still two services each year at St Michael’s which will take place around the pod once it has been built.

BOB EMBLETONRenewed: St Michael’s, Dulas, in the diocese of Hereford. The church closed in 2008, but will soon host the first of a new kind of luxury camping pod to attract more “glampers”

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