TRADE is booming at the district's auction mart, but it's not quite business as usual.

Hexham Auction Mart is continuing to operate during the second lockdown, but with strict regulations in place.

Auctioneer Chris Armstrong, of Hexham & Northern Marts, praised the role of staff and the farming community.

He said no less than £20,000 had been invested in perspex and ring furniture in the interests of Covid safety, while there were restrictions on who can enter the mart and the ring itself.

"Things are very different," he said. "The spectacle, the buzz and the chat of a sales day has gone to a degree. But we are still allowed to conduct business. The government has taken the same view as it did during the first lockdown, that livestock auction marts are an integral part of the food chain, and we need to keep trading to feed the country."

The sale of prime stock - fat sheep and cattle on a Tuesday, and store stock - cattle and lambs on a Friday, is still at the heart of mart life.

But only one representative from each business can attend. The track and trace system is in place, face masks must be worn on the premises, and social distancing must be adhered to. Spectators, which traditionally include retired farmers and children, are currently not permitted.

Chris said the mart was able to get its busy period of September and October out of the way before the second lockdown began, and said the trade for stock, during the autumn had been exceptional.

"It's not been easy but everyone including farmers and staff have handled the situation well," he added.