Exploring Sunderland: The Hasting-Barnes Trail

From the far west of Sunderland’s urban periphery near the A19 sits the beginning (or perhaps the end) one of the city’s most scenic and pleasurable walking routes. Following on from our guide to the “Tunstall Belt” we now turn to “The Hasting-Barnes Belt” a scope of open land which starts with the the historic hill and stretches through the entirety of the city’s largest Victorian clad park and its various extensions. Here, we take you through this immense pathway step by step, again uncovering and detailing the unappreciated beauty of your city.

Part One: Hastings Hill (Pictured)

If you choose to start here, Hastings Hill is a large mound hill located to the city’s west towering above the A19 dual carriageway. The elevation is famous for having been a prehistoric burial site or “barrow” dating from the Bronze Age. The summit of the hill gives you an iconic panoramic view of the surrounding region. On a clear day, you can see as far North as Newcastle, South Tyneside and the hills of Northumbria, the entirety of the city of Sunderland, Washington and southwards towards Durham Cathedral. One of the best views in the city, easily.

The Grindon Sandhill

View from the top of the sandhills, Sunderland - YouTube

If you proceed downwards from the top of Hastings Hill, heading eastwards along the pathway and cut through the accompanying farm, you will reach another footpath which takes you up to the “Grindon Sandhill” a smooth green mound which as the name suggests, has a sandy surface. The hill is situated between Grindon and Thorney Close and is such an iconic landmark even a local school was named after it. Use the footpath which leads from one side of the hill to the next.

The Barnes Park Extension

Once you’ve crossed the road in front of the Sandhill, you’ll soon found yourself in a large green open expense at the back of Thorney Close. Congratulations, you’ve reached the Barnes Park extension. Although it is a bit empty and bare, it is a pleasant area to walk through. A stream runs through it known as the “Barnes” or “Bishopwearmouth” Burn, which used to pass the Sunderland Minster in the old core of the village in the city centre. Look for the footpath and head through the park.

Barnes Park Extension Parts II and III

As you’ll soon discover, the Barnes Park Extension happens to go on and on, and is divided by numerous roads along the way. Exiting the first segment, cross Grindon Lane and proceed through the second, which is lightly forested. This walk narrow through should take you to Springwell Road before you enter the third part. At this point, the park resembles a small forested valley which will take you upwards in conjunction with the rising Humbledon Hill.

Barnes Park Proper

Once you’ve trekked through the various Barnes Park extensions, after you cross Ettrick Grove Road you will then enter the Barnes Park proper. Whilst the extensions have suffered from some degree of neglect proportional to their distance from the centre, the Central Area of Barnes Park was in the last decade subject to lottery funded regeneration which has restored its pristine Victorian character and authentic charm. The Park is known for its rolling hills, beautiful aged woodland and thinly cut lawns. It also possesses a Civil War Era Cannon recovered from the River Wear, Bandstands, a children’s playpark and Duck Ponds. It has a cafĂ© on the far eastern frontier.

The Barnes Green & Burn Park

Sledging in Burn Park in 1950.
Burn Park in the 1950s in its “golden age”

If you’re okay to carry on from Barnes Park, you can exit its eastern entrance on “Barnes Park Road” and cross over into another extension of open land associated with the park known as “The Barnes Green” which stretches northwards in between various housing areas. It is simple, but pleasant. The Green comes to a dead end which pushes you onto Nesburn and Hunters Hall Road, of which channel you down to the A690. Here you can cross the road and turn towards Burn Park, where the Bishopwearmouth Burn continues to flow through and thereafter continues its passage underground. Once you’ve passed through Burn Park, you’re pretty much at Sunderland University.

Conclusion: A Walk that spans half of Sunderland

The Hastings-Barnes Trail is a route that spans a huge portion of the city, taking you from the western boundary of the core Sunderland settlement towards the city centre itself, most of which consists of territory of the famed Barnes Park. If you are looking for a long and challenging walk which really gets some good exercise in and some uphill hiking, combined with quality scenery, we recommend this route! Just make sure you don’t try it at night! It is possible of course to go the reverse too!