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A change for the better; Making big changes in your life requires courage. But,as these people can testify, taking the plunge can bring you happiness and fulfilment.

Byline: Eileen Taylor

MARK EDWARDS, 36 -FARMER

LIKE farmers all over Britain, Mark Edwards has felt the wind of change in recent years as EU regulations have sometimes put homegrown agriculture at a disadvantage.

That is one of the reasons why, this time last year, Mark and his wife Diane, decided to take the biggest gamble of their lives. They decided to quit their farming activities and transform their buildings at Great Altcar, near Formby, into Farmer Ted's FarmPark-a wonderful play, party,activity and educational centre for children which is quite rare in the area.

Now buildings, which housed animals, feed and tractors when Mark was growing up on the land, have been transformed into facilities which are perfect for play and parties.

They are also designed to make children more familiar with farm animals and agriculture and teach them about the source of various foods.

Apart from enj oying the play barn, young visitors to the centre will have a chance to stroke,hold and feed small animals and to watch cows being milked. In the two classrooms, soon to be provided for school visits, they will learn about the life cycles of animals and the production of crops like grain. In the meantime, their parents can enjoy a restaurant providing home cooked food.

It is not how Mark,now 36, envisaged the future when he was growing up on the farm which his father,Peter, took over in 1961. After leaving school, Mark went to Agricultural College and then to Australia where he worked on a farm. He returned to Great Altcar to work on the family farm, specialising in the sort of natural pig farming which won him national accolades.

But when the UK pig market started to suffer from unfair overseas competition in the late90s,Markand Diane, who have two young daughters,began to diversify. First they opened a very successful farm shop for which they sourced homegrown meat and other products from farms in Lancashire and Cheshire. Like other farmers, they are taking advantage of the niche market for good-quality, home-produced food sought by visitors to their own shop and to local farmers' markets. But by far their biggest venture is the farm park which is proving popular with families for a day out and is being booked up quickly for parties as far ahead as August, 2004.

Mark hopes that,as well as providing enjoyment, the farm park will help to bridge the gap that has grown up since the war between the public and agriculture. ``Agriculture is going through changing times and, if it is not working, you have to try something different,'' says Mark.

``It has been a huge gamble but we did our research and are providing an attraction unlike anything else in the area.

``So far Farmer Ted has met all our expectations.''

Farmer Ted's FarmParkcan be contacted on 0151-526-0002 website: www.farmerteds.comMARILYN COMRIE, 39 -LIFE COACHTO OUTSIDERS, Marilyn Comrie seemed to have it all -juggling an interesting but challenging career as a leading television producer with raising her family of three.

Her name frequently appeared as the credits rolled at the close of popular TV programmes. But behind the success, Marilyn admits that she was struggling.

``I loved my career but things had changed dramatically in recent years. As budgets were progressively slashed, you were given less and less time to make programmes. I had only four months to make a 20-part documentary about sick babies for which I would once have been allowed two years.''

For Marilyn, 39,and her crew that meant working 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week so Marilyn saw little of her younger children,Nile,aged eight and Blair, six.

``Things came to a head this time last year. The children were suffering because of the hours I was working. Nile was put in a special needs class. I didn't usually get home until about 9pm every night so I couldn't spend any time helping them with homework. I never got to do ordinary things like go to the cinema,go for a meal or nurture relationships -or even just sit and read a book.''

Marilyn reached her turning point this time last year when she vowed to change her life.

``My own health was suffering. I didn't have time to go to a gym or take regular exercise and I didn't get time to eat healthily which meant I put on two stone in weight. When I was diagnosed with a blood clot in my leg, I suddenly thought `it's not worth it if you are not going to be around to watch your children grow up. Something has to change.

``I'dprobably already made the decision in my mind during the previous year but wasn't sure what else I could do. When you have done the same career for a long time, you think that is all you can do and that if you leave, you will have to start at the bottom again which raises financial issues.''

But she realised that wasn't necessarilty the case when she sought the help of a career management agency. ``They made me realise that I had transferrable skills. That I wouldn't have to start at the bottom in another career. They made me see that the strengths I had in managing and motivating my TV teams were transferrable. I also had good communication skills. They made me see that all were skills I could use to launch another career.''

MARILYN decided to do just that early last year, remortgaging her home to give her financial breathing space while she embarked on training to be a Life Coach. She is now working with Altrincham based Excelerate, a national life coaching network of which she is a director. She has also set up a media training company,Making It UK, with her close friend,Esther McVey,from Aigburth. Her life changes have more than paid off, says Marilyn,from Manchester.

``I can arrange my own hours and can pick the children up from school myself most days. Nile no longer needs special teaching and I am sure that is because I am there to support him and give him more time.'' Marilyn's own health has improved with weight loss and more time for exercise and healthy eating. Now she is supporting others who want to change their lives.

``It is all about getting the right balance in your life. Work is taking over many people's lives and they are not happy about it. The first thing you need to do is ask what sort of life you want. A life coach won't tell you what to do but we will help you come up with your own solutions. We will help you decide what you want and how to get it. We will motivate and inspire you.''Excelerate can be contacted on: 07971 243 963 or visit www.excelerate.me.ukEVEN LOSERS CAN BE WINNERSKEVIN REILLY,46KEVIN Reilly spent New Year's Day climbing a mountain in North Wales -something that would have been unthinkable in January two years a go. For then Kevin weighed 25 stone11lbs and had difficulty walking on the flat,let alone uphill.

But this year,after more than halving his weight,Kevin,46,faces the New Year as a ``normal'' size for the first time since boyhood. After decades of being overweight,father-of-threeKevin finally found the will to tackle his weight problem after being rushed to hospital in September, 2001, with a blood infection which could have killed him. It marked a turning point that was to bring dramatic changes to his life.

As Kevin relates,he is one of the few people in the country who can't remember anything about September 11, 2001, the date which Al Qaida seared into the consciousness of people throughout the world with their attacks in the United States.

At the time,Kevin was floating in and out of consciousness in his Liscard home, seriously ill with septicaemia. The following weeks in hospital,during which he also suffered a near fatal reaction to penicilllin,are also a blur. He went into almost total organ failure and doctors feared that his excess weight would have taken such a toll on his body over the years that he would not survive. But he did -and when doctors told him he was lucky to be alive,Kevin vowed to finally do something about his weight.

The words of his sister,Patsy Dodd, a practice nurse,also spurred him on.

``Patsy said that,by rights, I shouldn't be here but for whatever reason, I had been given a second bite of the cherry. It would be criminal not to use it.''

Kevin had already lost three stone while in hospital. In January, 2002,he asked his GP how he could lose more. ``He told me that there was no easy way but that if I could prove to him that I could lose a stone,he would put me on a local NHS health lifestyle programme.''

Kevin went away and lost the stone through sheer willpower. His doctor kept his promise and referred him to a supervised health and fitness programme which involved free access to a gym where Kevin did carefully supervised exercise. When the programme ended,Kevin bought his own gym pass and went every day except Sundays. ``I was eating sensibily as well -I wasn't on a diet,it was a total lifestyle change. I switched to skimmed milk, lean meat,fish and chicken and had lots of fruit and veg. Crisps,pies and pastries were out.''

Kevin's wife,Delia,46,and children Rebecca, 20,Carol,17,and Michael, nine,joined in to give him support. By June, 2003,he had reached just over 12 stone which he still weighs now. His 62 inch waist has become 36 inches and his chest measurement has gone from 62 to 38. He has gone from wearing size 7XL to small/medium in clothes items such as fleeces.

In September, Kevin fulfilled a vow he made this time last year to walk up Snowdonia. He intends to celebrate this New Year by climbing another mountain. But it is nothing like the personal mountain he has scaled to reach a healthy weight.

Kevin, who now cycles to work in Hoylake from his Liscard home,believes other people who want to change their lives by losing weight must have faith in their ability to do it.

``This is the first time I have been a normal weight at New Year since I was a boy and it has changed my life beyond belief. But if I can do it,anyone can.I'm nothing special,I'mjust an ordinary bloke who had to face up to having a terrible weight problem. I had marvellous support from my family and my GP practice. I set out to change my life and I have achieved that beyond my wildest dreams.''

CAPTION(S):

NEW DIRECTION: Mark and Diane Edwards who run Farmer Ted's, show one of the attractions on offer Picture: COLIN LANE; LIFE COACH: Marilyn Comrie with friend Esther McVey; A NEW LEASE ON LIFE: A health scare made 25-stoneKevin Reilly,far left , take a serious look at his life and take regular; exercise
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 5, 2004
Words:1881
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