Dad’s guidebook to the best family days out in the region

Seamus Villa, 8 and Teddy Cook, 8, look out over Longridge
Seamus Villa, 8 and Teddy Cook, 8, look out over Longridge
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A Lancashire dad has published a guidebook of his family’s favourite free days out in the region.

Garry Cook spent three years documenting days out– and then compiled a guidebook of the best places to visit in the region.

Garry Cook with daughter Betsy Byrom, almost 2,

Garry Cook with daughter Betsy Byrom, almost 2,

Every one of the 24 venues in the book are free, making the publication a must for parents looking to entertain their kids over the school holidays.

Out of all the places he has visited, Garry, who lived in the Moor Park and Penwortham areas for 15 years, named four as his favourites: Withy Grove playground in Bamber Bridge, walking up Pendle Hill steps, the Aqua Park at Happy Mount Park in Morecambe and going cycling at Dunsop Bridge.

The 39-year-old said: “Withy Grove Park is a massive area with loads of things for children of all ages – from babies to teens.

“It’s got one of the best designed playgrounds I’ve ever seen, a skate park, football fields, and a large area where you can walk your dog.”

Other venues include Preston’s Haslam, Avenham and Miller Parks, Clitheroe Skatepark, the beach at Lytham St Annes and Witton Park in Blackburn.

Speaking about Haslam Park, Garry said: “It’s an old Victorian park with wide walkways, and you can do walks along the canal and see beautiful swans and the lovely backs of people’s houses.

“There are also tennis courts and a playground. It feels like a clean, safe place to be.

“Finding things to do with the kids is one of the hardest jobs of being a parent, especially in the summer holidays.

“But the cost of some days out, particularly entrance fees to theme parks, can put a huge strain on the family finances.

“And after several days out over a few weeks, even the cost of a few hours at a play barn can leave a parent feeling stressed.”

But help is at hand, says Gary. “The reality is you don’t have to spend any money to entertain the kids if you know where to go – and that is where this book helps.

“Lancashire has some of the best parks, playgrounds and countryside in Britain – but it’s easy to forget this in the desperate rush to keep the kids entertained.

“I’ve spent hours searching online for great free days but they can be so hard to find.

“One of the Lancashire tourism websites lists a cinema in Burnley and a garden centre north of Preston as great family day out.

“When it comes to promoting days out which cost nothing, I don’t think there is the information users need.

“That means people are missing out on visiting some amazing free locations and venues. I felt that I could do better and I have put together what I think is a fantastic list of Lancashire days out.”

The book also profiles three places outside of the county which Garry said are “so good they had to be included”. These include Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire and Formby point near Southport.

Each venue profile consists of information about why the day out is so good, hand-drawn maps of how to get there and fact boxes, including any possible extra charges like car parking, and photographs of kids enjoying themselves.

The book is available on Amazon and Kindle, with the Kindle version also including full-colour photography.

Garry, who works as a photographer and journalist and now lives in the Ribble Valley, has children Teddy, eight, 
Betsy, two, and stepson Seamus, eight.