First ‘Champing’ site in Wales opens on Anglesey to save Victorian church from closure
Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter
Llanddona parishioners have come up with a novel way to raise pennies from heaven to help save their Victorian church from closure.
When it was mooted that St Dona ‘s church might have to shut down the congregation came up with an innovative idea to raise money by ‘champing.’
Champing – or church camping – is the unique concept of camping overnight in historic churches.
The Llanddona church is the first in Wales to offer accommodation to visitors who get to camp inside the building.
Set in a stunning location, the church is just 100 yards from the beach and offers an ideal place for holiday-makers to stay.
Visitors pay £50, per person, per night, to bed down on camp beds within the building.
The unusual holiday destination comes complete with all mod cons, including a kitchen area and an eco-friendly compost loo.
Cosy camp beds are set up in the shadow of the altar, surrounded by the stunning stained glass windows, church furniture, candles and crucifixes on the walls.
The first church on the site was built in 610 but the current building dates to 1873.
It is dedicated to St Dona, who according to legend lived on the seashore nearby.
The church is located about a mile away from the main village of Llanddona, a popular Anglesey holiday destination.
Tucked into a hillside overlooking Llanddona beach, the church has views of Red Wharf Bay and Benllech in the distance.
The highlight of its interior is a stained-glass window added in 1963, depicting Christ with sea in the background, St Curig and St Dona.
St Dona’s is part of the St Seiriol Ministry Area.
So, far the the idea has proved “extremely popular” says the Reverend Canon Robert W Townsend.
“People absolutely love the idea, and have really taken it on board.” He said.
“The idea came about about a year, to 18 months ago. We couldn’t justify having two churches running just for one congregation, we have St Dona’s and St Iestyn, which are close to each other.
” We had many discussions and the dreaded ‘closure’ word was mooted.
“So, we decided to give the church until 2024, to see if we can come up with an alternative use, to demonstrate that the building had potential.”
“So, here we are the first in Wales to do Champing! It is a movement starting to happen in churches all over the country now, and we’ve been going since June.
“So far it seems to be quite popular, so we just have to see how it goes!”
One of the first to champ at St Dona’s was the The Right Reverend Mary Stallard, Assistant Bishop in Bangor.
Speaking of her experience on the Diocese of Bangor page, she said: “My experience of champing was much more relaxing than I expected.
“It’s not the same as sleeping in your own bed at home, it is more like camping or staying in a caravan, but it feels different because it’s such an unusual setting.
“There was something unique about the experience of sleeping in a church, I found an ambience of holy hospitality and I would encourage others who are interested to give it a try.”
Read her full experience here:
To ‘champ’ at St Dona’s see here…..
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