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The planning meeting at The Durham Ox

We hope our lunches will be a doorstep to friendship for people who might not otherwise have the chance to get out and meet one another.

The award winning Durham Ox, Crayke, is launching a monthly Friendship Lunch on Monday February 9th to get locals of all ages to reach out to others in their area and raise awareness of the issue of social isolation in the local community.

The monthly get-togethers will offer good company and good food – everything from small bites such as soup and homemade bread to main courses such as the Ox’s famous fish and chips, and three-course meals – in an effort to help combat loneliness in rural areas.

Owner Michael Ibbotson’s good Yorkshire welcome and his family’s communal attitude to mealtimes mean he has always placed a convivial ‘pull-up another chair approach’ at the heart of his pub. With an increasing number of village shops and community facilities closing, he feels rural communities are increasingly relying on pubs for community cohesion.

“Eating is such a social practice and has a crucial impact upon physical, social and mental health,” says Michael. “We hope our lunches will be a doorstep to friendship for people who might not otherwise have the chance to get out and meet one another."

“I am sure everyone knows of a friend or a neighbour who might not have had a great Christmas, or spends a lot of time on their own without many visitors – and "it’s up to communities like ours, rather than central government, to get people together.”

The Durham Ox’s Friendship Lunch will be proudly supported by the Yorkshire Post. The regional paper launched its own fantastic awareness campaign to end loneliness in February 2014 and The Durham Ox is delighted to have its endorsement. “It is great that the Yorkshire Post has got behind our idea. Their work highlighting this enormous social issue has been phenomenal and having their support will make a brilliant difference to our Friendship Lunch” says Michael.

Age UK, which is Britain’s largest charity working with older people, has also championed The Durham Ox’s new initiative. Its research discovered that two fifths of older people (about 3.9 million) say television is their main company.

“We can all do our bit to help fight the growing problem of loneliness by making time for older people and checking in on older friends and neighbours who we might know,” said Alex Bird, executive officer at Age UK. “Small changes and acts of kindness can make a real difference, and it’s fantastic to see pubs like The Durham Ox doing their bit to combat loneliness. What better place to encourage people to meet than their community pub, a great place to forge new friendships. It would be fantastic to see other pubs launching their own Friendship Lunches, as this could really make a difference in rural communities.”


Editor’s Notes
• Rural areas have a unique set of circumstances that can exacerbate social isolation of older residents, leading to poor health, loss of independence and lower quality of life. These factors range from lower per capita expenditure on social care to greater reliance on car ownership. 23 per cent of the rural population are over retirement age compared to 18 percent in urban areas.
• According to research, living with loneliness is as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and in May 2014, an Age UK survey found that more than 1 million people aged 65 plus in the UK describe themselves as feeling lonely. See more here:
• The Durham Ox is based at Westway, Crayke, York, YO61 4TE, tel: 01347 821506, fax: 01347 823326, email:
• The ‘Keep in Touch’ menu for the Friendship Lunches will range from small bites at £4.50 to main courses at £7.95. There will also be a two course special menu for £10.00 or a more substantial three course menu for £12.95
• Offering all the comforts of a traditional Yorkshire inn with flag stone floors, oak panelling, Inglenook fireplaces and cosy boutique rooms, Michael and Sasha Ibbotson saved The Durham Ox from the receivers in 1999, and marked their 15 years at the 300-year-old country inn with a knees-up for Crayke villagers last year.
• The historic, family-run Durham Ox has secured more than five awards for its food and service over the last decade, and is part of The Provenance Inns group, which won ‘Pub Group of the Year’ in September. Visit

For further information or images please contact:
Annie Stirk
Absolutely Food PR & Marketing
T: 01347 810531
M: 07771 655756