Sunderland Guide: Tunstall Hills

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Location: Access through Tunstall Road, reachable via Essen Way and Leechmere Road.

The Tunstall Hills and their surrounding nature reserve represent a brilliant span of open space and natural wonder surrounded paradoxically by the urban core of Sunderland, offering the best views of the city, the sea and the surrounding region for miles.

Designated as a special site of scientific interest, the Tunstall Hills were formed hundreds of millions of years ago during the Triassic era. During this point in prehistory, the climate was tropical and Britain was near the equator.

The hills themselves were in fact part of a barrier reef stretching for at least 20 miles in the middle of an inland sea which no longer exists, known as the Zechstein sea, which was formed as the supercontinent of Pangea began to drift apart. The reef consisted of Limestone, which is reflected in the hills today and throughout Sunderland as a whole.

The Tunstall Hills would also play an indirect role in historic decisions to settle in Sunderland. The immense view offered by the Hill on a clear day, spanning as far North as the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland and as far south as the North York Moors, was an indispensable defensive asset to be able to watch and monitor events throughout the surrounding region.

This stretch of open land also forms an immense walking route from the West to the East of the city known as “The Tunstall” Belt, proceeding from Silksworth to Ryhope. The footpath which runs through this route is also the site of a former railway which connected the two former collieries of both villages, perfectly fitting through the elaborate valley in the middle.

If you are a nature lover or a geology enthusiast, we thoroughly recommend you take some time exploring the Tunstall Hills, a trek which almost certainly feel like an adventure and a great choice for a day out.