A BEER fan has taken on the challenge of going a year without alcohol to raise funds for Ryedale & District Mencap.

James Welham, 30, a sales consultant at Malton Coachworks and the Classic and Sports Car Centre, decided to do something to support the charity after his boss, James Szkiler, tackled the Yorkshire Three Peaks to raise funds for the charity.

He said: “For the last two years I have successfully done ‘Dry January’, mainly for a detox after Christmas, but this year, I thought why not do it for a good cause, but a month seemed a bit of a underwhelming exercise.

“If I was to do something it had to be a big step up to be worthy of someone putting their hand in their pocket. I contemplated my challenge for quite some time in late 2018 before I finally put my foot down and committed to a full year without beer.

“I wouldn’t call myself a particularly heavy drinker but the first two weeks were tricky, mainly due to breaking my routine when I would normally drink. However, I have started experiencing some surprise benefits like sleeping better, having more energy and people tell me I look healthier.

“I still regularly use the pub, although I’ve swapped the bitter for sparkling elderflower and pomegranate juice. It’s a community hub, and people have this perception that you can’t go out and have a good time if you’re not drinking.

“In today’s world where social interaction among the younger generation is increasingly becoming ‘pressing like’, I’d rather discuss vital nonsense in the pub rather than over a smart phone with someone I barely know. With 18 pubs closing per week according to BBC news, it’s more important than ever to use your local. I am living proof that you can support it without drinking.”

Jennie Croft, landlady of The Fleece Rillington, which is James’ local, said: “Pubs are not a male dominated environment anymore. It’s certainly more family oriented.

“People come out to socialise with a drink rather than the other way round as it used to be.

“We are really happy to support our locals with non-alcoholic options. I want to applaud James for his challenge, it’s a great charity and it shows you don’t have to drink to enjoy a night out.”

To sponsor James go to justgiving.com/fundraising/james-welham