ONE OF Dorset's most popular bar restaurants has put aside a whole table on Christmas Day for lonely people to enjoy a Christmas meal with them.

The Olive Branch at Wimborne hit on the idea when a table of eight cancelled earlier in the season.

Manager Heidi McLaughlin said: "We could have sold it again but we started thinking about all those people who are lonely or who have to spend Christmas Day on their own so we decided to open it up to them."

So far seven people who would be on their own on December 25 have taken up The Olive Branch's kind offer and now they are searching for the last guest.

"It's completely free food and drink although some of our lovely customers have tried to pay for meals for people although it's not about that, we just wanted to give back," said Heidi. "We know that the reason some lonely people don't go out for Christmas lunch is because they can't afford £70 for a meal. One of the saddest things you hear is that it's 'just another day'."

She initially thought the guests would all be elderly people or those who were widowed but has been surprised at the number of people in their forties who asked to come.

"Some people are parted from their kids at Christmas, that kind of thing," she said. "We just want them to come along and have a great time."

One customer has donated some wine for the table and Heidi says that if people want to help they can give a small gift and a card.

*If you'd like to come, contact The Olive Branch on Facebook or on 01202 884686.