NEW Forest campaigner Esther Rantzen has urged people to share a priceless gift this Christmas – a smile and a chat.

The TV personality has launched a free telephone helpline for older, lonely people.

She urged anyone feeling lonely to ring the new Silver Line helpline and befriending service, which operates 24 hours a day, and said everyone had a responsibility to look out for the vulnerable in their community.

Miss Rantzen, who has a house in the New Forest said: “I think a smile and chat helps so much, whether it’s in a bus queue, in a post office, in a bank, wherever.”

The Silver Line number is 0800 470 8090.

Other services include Age UK on 01202 530530, Brendoncare on 01202 722211, Help and Care 0300 111 3303 and the Royal Voluntary Service on 0845 608 0122.