VILLAGERS have rallied round to help safeguard the future of their local pub.

The George and Dragon, at Boldron, near Barnard Castle, has stood empty since its previous tenants left last November.

However, owners Terry and Julie Race were determined the pub should not go the way of many other rural inns and, after refusbishing the bar, have enlisted the aid of willing residents to help run the premises.

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The pub reopened on Friday, with a local couple who live close by on hand to serve customers.

Mr and Mrs Race, who live in Castleside, County Durham, bought the George and Dragon in 2006.

They ran the pub for more than four years before appointing tenants, who left after running into financial difficulties.

Mrs Race, a nurse, and her husband, who works for a civil engineering company, are now planning to move back to the village to run the pub.

In the meantime, residents are helping out behind the bar.

“The primary focus has been to get the business back open for the village and hopefully attract custom from the surrounding area,” said Mrs Race.

The couple worked quickly to bring the pub back up to standard so it could cater for the local quoits team, whose Monday evening matches began this week.

“The community is delighted to have the pub back,” added Mrs Race.

“Without the support of the community our decision to reopen would have been different. We would have had no option but to keep it closed.

“However, this is an asset and a beautiful building which we don't want to go to rack and ruin. We will never neglect the building.”

To begin with, the pub will open on Friday, Saturday and Monday evenings. There is no food, but Mr and Mrs Race will provide plates and cutlery for anyone wanting to order takeaways to eat in the bar.

Mr Race said: “They can bring the food and will will provide the beer.”

There is also talk of inviting a mobile fish and chip van to the pub once a week.

“The level of business will dictate future plans,” said Mr Race.

“We don't have a brewery behind us, it is our place and we are keen to get the business up and running.”

Future plans include refurbishing the pub's two letting rooms.