ONE of the district’s most historic attractions is gradually reopening its doors to the public.

Hexham Abbey welcomed back members of its congregation on Sunday, after almost four months of services via videolink.

The Abbey’s cafe began serving refreshments on Tuesday, while the popular shop will open from today.

The landmark, which dates back to the seventh century, will reach another significant milestone on Monday, when daily opening of the Abbey, and its visitor centre, will resume.

“It’s a gradual return to a new normal,” said the rector of Hexham, the Rev. David Glover.

“There has been a lot to do in terms of safety procedures, but we are looking forward to welcoming more people back.”

The Abbey is a major draw for tourists, and Rev. Glover is hopeful it will complement the efforts of businesses and other organisations to revitalise the town centre.

“There’s definitely more of a buzz in Hexham now, which is very pleasing to see,” said Rev. Glover.

It’s been a whirlwind start to life at the Abbey for the new rector. He was appointed to replace Canon Dagmar Winter back in January, before coronavirus impacted upon everyday life in the UK.

But the former rector at Holy Trinity in Washington, Tyne and Wear, didn’t take up his new role until May 14.

“I’ve been leading services via Zoom,” he said. “But Sunday was my first service inside Hexham Abbey.

“Even though I was meeting people for the first time, it felt as though I knew them because of the online interaction.

“It was very different with all of the safety measures in place, but it was a great experience to be in the Abbey.”

Rev. Glover wore a face mask for communion, where he administered wafers of sacramental bread to his congregation, but not wine.

There will be several changes at the Abbey’s attractions. While the visitor centre, which opened in 2013, is designed to be interactive, there will be no touching of items.

The Anglo-Saxon crypt, beautifully preserved and largely unchanged in 1,300 years, will not reopen until more advice has been sought from the Government over safe access.

Rev. Glover thanked the Abbey’s staff and volunteers for their hard work and dedication.