A TEESDALE farmer's wife plans to use her experience encouraging people to embrace a better lifestyle to create what she believes is the area's first health and wellbeing centre.

Paula Forrest is the One Life coordinator at Darlington's Dolphin Centre, where she and her six-strong team work with people referred by their GP.

Mrs Forrest and her husband Jason have started a new venture developing a disused wing of Barforth Hall Manor House into facilities that will offer residential breaks for people looking to kick-start a healthier lifestyle.

The 250-acre mixed arable and livestock farm is situated on the south bank of the Tees, opposite Gainford, and the project has received a £40,000 grant from the North Pennine Dales Leader Fund, which is designed to support schemes in rural areas.

She said: “Diversifying the farm business is important- gone are the days of the traditional farm.

“I was looking for something to do with that wing of the house and rather than running a normal B&B, I thought it would be ideal to run as some sort of wellbeing centre.

“There is no way we are saying we are some sort of miracle solution- it's not that easy- but it is a place where people who are ready to make some small changes to their lifestyles can come.

“I looked around at what's already on offer in County Durham and North Yorkshire and there doesn't seem to be anything like it.”

Mrs Forrest hopes the project will create a couple of new jobs at the farm, taking care of house and grounds keeping, and plans to recruit a team of freelance exercise professionals she can call on depending on clients' requirements.

The health and wellbeing centre will offer everything from weight management advice to Nordic trail walking around the farm and the nearby countryside.

Paula said it had taken more than two years to secure the various permissions required to progress the project.

She hopes conversion work will be completed by June next year with the first clients arriving in September.

Sue Ellwood, project manager for North Pennine Dales Leader, said: “This is a project which uses the natural landscape of the North Pennines to help promote a healthy lifestyle in a beautiful setting.”