THE ABBEY ruins are re-opening to the public for hard-hat tours next month after eight years of closure.

First closing to the public in 2009 for major conservation work, Reading's abbey is set to reopen in 2018.

An exhibition will run from Saturday, May 20 until Saturday, September 23 to showcase brand new interpretation panels helping visitors to explore the site.

Research is ongoing to discover the best preservation techniques, ensuring previous faulty restorations are not repeated.

Will Skinner, a conservation specialist working on the abbey, said: “We use a hot mix of lime water and work it when it is hot to reconstruct the stone work the same way it was when it was first built.

"Hot mix is a lime mortar from heating up limestone. A lot of these techniques have been lost over the last centuries and it is only now we are on the verge of rediscovering how these buildings were built."

The abbey team are currently recruiting for tours of the site after the council received a £1.7m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Matthew Williams, manager at Reading Museum, said: "In 2009 we lost the ruins. Everyone says the restoration is taking so long but not in the abbey's 900-year history.

“This is a national and international monument. This was one of the biggest Romanesque Monastic sites in Europe. It took a lot of work to get this procurement.

“In the next year we will host an exhibition at the John Madejski Gallery [at Reading Museum], really putting the abbey project on the map. It'll be the first chance to have a say on the interpretation panels."