IT IS summer and time to make the most of the warm weather by perhaps trying camping with a more of a spiritual angle?

The latest fad is not upmarket camping (glamping) ­— but champing! This is camping in a church, of all places. The local church for champing is St Mary the Virgin at Walkhampton and if you had to choose a civilised hospitable church to spend a night or two, then there could not be a better choice.

I was expecting a dark and uncomfortable church with a spooky atmosphere from all those restless souls. However, these are Christian souls at peace and the kindly churchwarden and staff have made the place so welcomi `ng for overnighting guests.

Having postponed by night, due to a funeral in the church, my instructions were to bring bedding and breakfast, while a toilet and kitchenette and camp bed was provided for me and a dog bed and water bowl for my companion Stanley the Jack Russell.

After a curry at the Walkhampton Inn, I drove the quarter-mile to the top of the hill overlooking the village and initally drove past the well screened Grade I listed church. The church is pretty remote and has lovely views over the countryside on the edge of Dartmoor. It is a perfect setting for a getaway break from the pressures and noise of daily life.

The keys retrieved from a little safe, I unlocked the heavy wooden dooor and was pleasantly surprised by the warm lighting and how modern it appeared, complete with a heavy glass partition engravced with the scriptures, despite being about 600 years old. It is obviously well loved and every detail has been thought of to make, not only the champers, but worshippers comfortable. Accessibility for all, is perfect and there is a fridge with milk, tea, coffee, a kettle and shortbread biscuits.

Most importantly, where were we to sleep? A small, but perfectly adequate camp bed is tucked next to the font and behind the first row of pews.

Knowing Stanley would not sleep in the dog bed, he’s is afterall, used to plonking himself in anyone’s bed except his own, I moved it next to the camp bed and he slept in it all night. He also surprised me by not even barking at imagined sounds. I had expected some unexplained sounds myself, being an urban dweller. But it was soooo quiet, maybe it was the thick stone walls or the countryside location. The bed was comfortable, even long enough for a six-footer, and the only sounds the next day were comforting, that of cattle and the dawn chorus from the early mid-summer light.

It took a few moments of wondering where I was, with colourful light bathing the air from the stained glass windows and a high-up curved vaulted ceiling overlooking me. Having decided I was not in some celestial place, but down on earth, I made a cuppa and sat at a table covered in board games to read the reviews by champers. They were overwhelmingly full of praise with visitors from Sydney and throughout the UK, saying how much they loved staying in the church and how they would return. I heartily agree.