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Would you go camping in a church? You can near Reepham

PUBLISHED: 09:54 16 February 2016 | UPDATED: 14:06 16 February 2016

The Church of St Michael the Archangel, in Booton, near Reepham.

The Church of St Michael the Archangel, in Booton, near Reepham.

Fancy holidaying at home this year, but with a difference?

Camping inside St Michael and All Angels Church, Booton. Picture: JOSEPH CASEYCamping inside St Michael and All Angels Church, Booton. Picture: JOSEPH CASEY

How about camping inside one of Norfolk’s most unusual churches, with breakfast thrown in?

“Champing” – church camping –has arrived in the county. From May holidaymakers will be able to book a night inside the fantastical, richly-decorated Church of St Michael the Archangel, in Booton, near Reepham.

For £55 per adult, £20 for children, campers can enjoy the run of the extraordinary 19th-century Gothic building, designed by eccentric clergyman the Rev Whitwell Elwin.

Families and pets will have the isolated church to themselves to play hide-and-seek, and sleep under the hammerbeam roof decorated with the carved angels Elwin modelled on his “Blessed Girls” – young female friends. An eco-friendly compost toilet will be installed outside, water provided and organisers are talking to local pubs, cafés, farms, and restaurants about providing breakfast for campers.

Eccentric’s Gothic fantasy

Eccentric clergyman Whitwell Elwin, rector of Booton from 1850 until his death in 1900, was a descendant of native American princess Pocahontas.

He was also a friend of Victorian luminaries including Charles Darwin, whom he advised to write about pigeons, rather than his theory of evolution.

Elwin spent some 30 years rebuilding Booton Church, sometimes known as the Cathedral of the Fields because of its scale and tall spires.

He had no training as an architect or draughtsman, borrowing ideas from many other churches, including Glastonbury Abbey and St Stephen’s Chapel at Westminster.

Booton Church was made from Bath limestone and black-knapped flint from Mundesley.

The Grade II*-listed building, unused as a church since 1987, is among 347 in England under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust which is trying to find imaginative ways to bring people back inside them. The trust launched its first four champing sites last year and is expanding choices to 10 this year, including Booton Church.

Tracey Crouch, minister for heritage and tourism, said: “This scheme is truly an encouraging way to ensure the rich history in churches is not lost.”

For more information visit www.champing.co.uk

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