Explore Sunderland: A walk across the “Tunstall Belt”
The Tunstall Belt is a stretch of open green land situated in the south of the Sunderland urban area. Built largely upon the land and former railroads of the old Silksworth and Ryhope Collieries, the area spans over nearly four miles ranging from Gilley Law and Farringdon to the west, all the way across to Ryhope and its beach towards the sea. The railways which once spanned it have created convenient and straightforward footpaths which make this a pleasant experience.
Silksworth Park and the Ski Slope
The western frontier of the Tunstall Belt begins at North Moor Road which leads onto Silksworth Sports Complex and Ski Slope, the site of a former mine which the Hetton Colliery Railway, one of the oldest commercial railways in History, ran through. Now, it is an area of natural beauty with two grand lakes, forests and swans. The footpath situated to the west of it can be used as a straight forward route northwards into the Barnes, however if one goes East through the park, up through the hills and out on the other side onto Silksworth Lane, the former Ryhope Colliery line can be found going between the former colliery terraced housing.
Tunstall Hill and the Central Area
Taking the footpath eastwards from Silksworth will lead you past some open fields into a small Crevasse which to the North you will eventually find Tunstall Hill, one of the highest points in the city, as well as the adjacent nature reserve. Despite being technically in the middle of a city, it is surprising how tranquil and quiet the area is,. To the south is situated the former site of Ryhope Colliery and its subsequent slag heap.
Ryhope and its Beach
As the former colliery footpath goes in one straight line, the route is uncomplicated and following it eastwards will eventually take you to the suburb of Ryhope and its old village green dated from the 9th century AD. Just slightly to the south of the Green and the end of the path may be found the walkway into Ryhope Beach. The beach offers an unconventional experience compared to the popular more bustling areas of Roker and Seaburn North of the River, as it is quiet and not historically designed for tourism.
The most striking features of the beach are its gaping cliffs and rock features, made of Magnesian limestone and carved by the waves over the years. Its surface is almost entirely cobbled, and it also possesses a number of subsequent caves that have been hollowed out by tidal erosion. Ryhope beach is one of Sunderland’s hidden treasures, and one which has received very little attention and focus over the years. It is important however not to venture too far from the initial public access point, or to time it well, as incoming tides can completely engulf the area and cut some areas off.
An excellent route for a day out walking
Overall, the Tunstall Belt of Sunderland provides an outstanding route for a day long walk. With social distancing measures still high and a limit on what activities we can do outside, the area offers an excellent and scenic choice to experience natural beauty within the city itself as well as to reflect upon its former mining heritage. The former railway lines make the way consistent and simple.