How Viking battles can help you beat loneliness

From stargazing to Viking battles – yet more ways to forge friendships and defeat loneliness

Over the past few weeks The Mail on Sunday has partnered with charity Age UK in an effort to beat loneliness by showcasing some of the best places to meet like-minded people.

We have highlighted just a few of the countless groups catering for just about every taste and interest – from drumming circles and knitting clubs to life-drawing classes and speed-dating.

Given that scientific studies show that loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking or obesity, there’s never been a better time to take the plunge. So here are just a few more activities to get you up and out and making new friends, from Viking-inspired meet-ups to literary lectures.

Try life as a Viking – pitch battles included

WHAT IS IT?

Vikings of Middle England is a history group with a focus on Anglo-Saxon and Viking cultures. Each week, attendees learn how to make clothes and food and re-enact – safely – brutal battles.

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The group meets on Wednesday evenings at the Social Centre at Braunstone, near Leicester. In the summer, they put on theatrical renditions of battles at historic locations such as Rockingham Castle in Northamptonshire.

Gentler members can wear the garments they’ve made, cook, and amble about as a Viking would.

Regular Alan Ball, 34, says: ‘We try to be as authentic as possible, camping in simple A-shaped tents. We eat stews and bread they would have made.’

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Sessions cost just £3 to attend. Visit vikingsof.me.

Vikings of Middle England is a history group with a focus on Anglo-Saxon and Viking cultures. Each week, attendees learn how to make clothes and food and re-enact – safely – brutal battles

Follow in Jane Austin’s inspirational footsteps 

WHAT IS IT?

Where Would Jane Go? is a group that visits stately homes they believe may have been frequented by Jane Austen or the characters in her novels.

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Visits take place about once a month. The group has been to Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire for a production of Pride And Prejudice, set against the ruins of the Elizabethan building, and enjoyed a cream tea in the library at Castle Howard, York.

Annabelle Blackham, 49, from St Neott’s, Cambridgeshire, set up the group in 2015. ‘I’d taken a knock after coming out of a four- year relationship,’ she says. ‘I loved looking at architecture and wanted people to do it with – and I found kindred spirits.’

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The group is free to join, with just the costs on the day to pay. Head to meetup.com/where-would-jane-go-visit-country-houses-and-stately-homes.

Where Would Jane Go? is a group that visits stately homes they believe may have been frequented by Jane Austen or the characters in her novels

A world of learning without boundaries

WHAT IS IT?

Manchester Literary And Philosophical Society, founded in 1781, presents lectures and discussions on diverse topics from science and politics to philosophy and art.

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Venues vary within Manchester and upcoming events include a talk on biodiversity by Oxford Professor Simon Hiscock and geneticist Sir Paul Nurse.

People are encouraged to arrive early to mingle, and there is a Q&A after the lecture.

Development manager Rachel Croft says the aim is to have charismatic speakers on stimulating subjects, adding: ‘It’s about being thought-provoking, but many members have made firm friends.’

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Lectures cost £11 each for non-members. Members pay £10 a month and can attend all activities. Visit manlitphil.ac.uk.

Somewhere you can reach for the stars 

WHAT IS IT?

Brighton Astro is a group for astronomy enthusiasts, from amateur to expert. They meet to discuss space, swap knowledge, attend lectures from expert speakers and then go out to stargaze.

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The group meets on the last Thursday of every month at Brighton’s Quaker Friends Meeting House.

Designer Phil McAllister, who co-founded the group in 2016, says: ‘We’re not astrophysicists. Our youngest member is ten and the oldest was 102. You don’t have to have a telescope – use ours and we’ll explain what you can see.’

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Events are free to attend. Donations are welcome but voluntary. Visit brightonastro.com.

A place to share your big ideas

WHAT IS IT?

Bristol Entrepreneurs and Opportunity Seekers hold business events for anyone with an idea they want to get off the ground or who want to make connections with other enterprising types.

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The group meets monthly in Bristol. There is a speaker – usually a local business leader – and time for members to mingle.

Organiser Ollie Collard, 35, says: ‘People of all ages attend. Young people might be better with technology while older people know other fundamentals, such as drawing up legal contracts.’

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Events are free to attend. Email [email protected]

Join MoS army of phone friends 

The Mail on Sunday is backing Age UK’s drive to find 1,000 new volunteers for its Telephone Friendship Service – helping to end the loneliness felt by older people across the country.

Recruits undergo brief training before being matched with someone who would benefit from a 30-minute phone call each week.

Sign-ups have already surged by 73 per cent, but more are still needed.

Kerry, 42, has become firm friends with Kathleen, 70, whom she speaks to once a week.

She says: ‘We’ve become close, even though we have never met. This is the right thing to do. I feel proud to take part.’

● Now sign up by visiting ageuk.org.uk/friend.

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