IT’S about two years now since I first wandered around the ruins of Langley Abbey, amazed at how much medieval history survives there. The church from this once huge complex may have long since disappeared, but substantial buildings remain amid a much larger farming estate. Back then a visit was a treat offered to very few of us – indeed for my book I was specifically asked to say that it wasn’t open to the public. But now all that has changed. And how. Since the beginning of the month it’s been open to everyone, six days a week. The atmospheric lighting and classy information boards make it unrecognisable from the dusty old buildings I previously encountered. Less than 500 years ago this abbey would have been simultaneously the commercial, spiritual and cultural centre for miles around. It’s great to see it being cherished and restored.
Manager Natalie Wilson (pictured centre with colleagues Lisa Wilson and Ann Morris) told me it was the culmination of nearly ten years of effort. Much of the funding had come from Natural England via their Higher Level Stewardship scheme, which encourages farms to preserve historic buildings. And as well as the abbey, there are tea rooms and a shop which sells Langley Longhorn beef – the cattle are of course grazed on the surrounding fields. For me, it’s yet another indication of the Wherryman’s Way effect. The walk attracts walkers. The walkers need feeding and watering. But they’re a discerning bunch who like proper history and a bit of geography and natural history too. Slowly but surely they are attracting a similar breed of business people. From Whitlingham to Coldham Hall from Langley Abbey to the Humpty Dumpty Brewery, a new generation of high quality attractions is starting to flourish.
* Langley Abbey open 10am to 4pm. Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays. Admission £4, concessions and children £2. Much more on the Abbey’s history in my Wherryman’s Way book which is on sale in the abbey shop.