Champ-ioning Stansted's St Mary's Church to a Russian TV audience
A Russian television crew filmed at St Mary the Virgin Church in Stansted for a feature on 'champing' – camping in churches – that will be seen by 150 million viewers.
Segodnya Today, part of the NTV network, also interviewed Lynda Dale, chair of Friends of St Mary's, on Monday (Sept 13) about the history of the redundant church, parts of which date back to the 11th-century Norman Conquest.
The interest followed features in The Sunday Times and The Observer this month, which took an in-depth look at the increased popularity of champing and what it means for the churches involved, and on BBC Essex Radio.
And since the publicity, requests to camp at St Mary's, via the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), had shot up 80%, said Lynda.
"St Mary’s is one of 14 churches nationwide to offer overnight stays. With more people staycationing, it's proving to be an extremely popular alternative to hotel stays," she said.
"It may be redundant, but we're working extremely hard to keep it open and welcoming, plus aiding the CCT with fundraising too."
The champing season runs from April to the end of October. The number of people opting to stay overnight in the church has totalled around 100 this year, compared with an average of around 60 pre-Covid.
Money raised from the scheme goes towards upkeep of a nominated church. Lynda said: "Bookings go through the trust and whichever church is most in need gets the money. It's a combined effort to support each other and it's saving historic buildings and churches, so it's very important – the more people we get champing, the better."
Bookings can be made via champing website www.champing.co.uk.