The City of Sunderland is incredibly lucky to have a lot of green spaces which can be uncommon in cities. Many of these have a very rich history, are full of culture and beautiful wildlife. In this post, I wanted to look at the parks and put them into order and find the best 6 in our city that you should visit (if you haven’t already).
This is completely my opinion but I have looked at more than just the park itself, I have also thought about accessibility, amenities, activities and the overall appearance of the park. But if you do disagree with me then feel free to let me know, politely of course!
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1. Barnes Park
Taking the number one spot, it had to be Barnes Park. Sunderland’s largest park is our best in my opinion. Not only does it have a really great play area which children and child-like adults (myself) would love to play on, but it has a lot of other things. A huge field perfect for loads of sports like football, flying a kite (or a drone as it is 2021), or something like cricket or rounders! In the pond, there are always ducks and birds to feed which is always a fun thing to do.
There is also a load of paths to walk through making it a great place for our daily walks. There are paths on either side of the revene that the park sits which involve some hills, but also some flatter paths through the bottom of the park. This makes it great for pushchairs or wheelchairs, as well as able-bodied people who don’t mind getting their heart rate up.
Amenities on-site include a pretty decent car park which is free, although can get busy and the spaces are pretty tight even in my little car. There are even a few blue badge spots too! The last time I checked the toilets were currently open which is always a bonus these days. And the cafe is closed right now but today there was a coffee van in the car park so you can get refreshments!
Overall Barnes Park is a really excellent park and I think very highly of the Friends of Barnes Park for the maintenance and upkeep of the beautiful place.
2. Roker Park
Roker Park takes the second spot, although it was a close contender for the top spot! However, it has been knocked down due to it not having as many key elements that Barnes Park does. For one, it doesn’t have its own car park which I think is a little bit of an issue. Of course, you could park in the streets around it. But these are either residential areas or some of those roads are key through roads along the coast. Alternatively, you could park at the Blockdyard car park at Roker but then it is a bit of a walk along to the park.
There is a play area here which is a decent size. There are tennis courts which are always great things to have in a city. The small pond is home to a family of swans as well as ducks and other birds, perfect for feeding. There is usually an ice cream van beside the play area, which is perfect for a day at the seaside. And speaking of which, it is on the coast and can be tied in with a fantastic day out at the beach.
With the park being on the coast, it is a little bit hilly so might not be ideal for wheelchairs and pushchairs. However, if you have some knowledge of the park you could probably avoid these hills and stick to the top (level) part of the park.
This park is another really great one in our city and absolutely worth a visit!
3. Herrington Country Park
Herrington Country Park is another example of a great park. However, unlike the others on this list, it doesn’t have as long of a history. Up until 1985, the site where the park is now was a coal pit and was one of the largest in the North East. There are some insane photos on the Sunderland Antiquarian Society that are just so hard to imagine. For me, I have only ever known it to be a park and trying to imagine it as anything other than that is crazy.
There are some historical artworks throughout the park that serve as a reminder of the very recent history of the site. And of course, it sits in the shadow of Penshaw Monument which is one of the highest points in Sunderland and gives you incredible views over the city.
The parking here is the best of any of the parks on this list as there are two decent sized car parks which are both free with no time limits. The first is at the top of the park beside the play area (which was my favourite play area when I was a kid!), the toilet block and the cafe which is usually open in non-covid times. There are often ice cream vans here too.
The second car park is down the bottom beside the boating pond which is home to so many swans, geese and ducks! Herrington park has a lot of paths to walk around, which are a mixture of plat and hilly ones. Again you could probably avoid the hills if you had a pushchair or wheelchair if needed (for this case I’d recommend parking at the bottom car park). Along the paths, there are a load of interesting pieces of artwork to discover.
The park also has lots of open green spaces perfect for sports, games, kite flying and picnics. There is also the skate park down here for all the skater people.
Herrington is a really great park and the reason I have only placed it at third is that I just wish there were more trees and flowers and a little bit less open green field. I feel they could make a really pretty wildflower meadow and add some flowers around the park without losing all the open space. But that is just my opinion!
4. Mowbray Park
The Cities Park takes fourth place. If you want a cultural day out to explore the heritage of this city then Mowbray is where you want to go. There are a load of statues commemorating huge events throughout local history that any mackem should know! I do plan on doing a full post about this soon so keep your eyes peeled for that!
The park is incredibly lucky to be in the city centre and very close to many car parks there however it doesn’t have its own. You could park in the Civic Centre car park which is very close, however, I would recommend against it as it’s a little sketchy. However, the perks of being in the city centre mean it’s so close to a load of cafes and shops which you could add to your day out. And of course, you could always visit the Sunderland Winter Gardens which (in non-covid times) is a free museum full of incredible exhibits. This is also the best place for toilets nearby when it is open!
Mowbray Park is a really great play area, a small green area perfect for a picnic, a pond full of ducks and swans and a load of paths to walk around. I think this one is probably the best park in terms of accessibility as it is the flattest and it is perfect for wheelchairs or pushchairs.
The greatest asset of this park is absolutely the history within it. If you don’t know it then I definitely recommend visiting and discovering for yourself!
5. Backhouse Park
Backhouse Park is slowly becoming one of my favourites to visit. The main reason I think is that it is very quiet and right now, places that aren’t busy is a bonus! Backhouse Park is a great place for your daily walk because it is pretty much a loop so you can walk around it and get back to where you started easily. There are also quite a few steep gradients in it so for anyone wanting to exercise it is perfect!
The park is full of beautiful crocus flowers right now so if you wanted to go for a lovely walk to get you in the mood for spring then it will be a really great fit for you!
There is a little play area here which is always a great part of a park. However, the hilly terrain makes it not brilliant for wheelchairs or pushchairs. There are some short and flat paths however the majority include some kind of hill.
In terms of parking, you really only have the option of parking in the streets nearby. There is no cafe or anything of this sort which makes it difficult to spend a whole day there. However, it is pretty close to the city centre so you could tie it in with that.
6. Doxford Park
The final spot goes to Doxford Park. I wasn’t going to include this one and end it at 5 places however, I thought that the improvements this park has had in the last few years deserve to be mentioned. When I was younger this was a very sketchy park that was unmaintained and unsafe. Yet now it is very different. It’s really lovely to visit and walk around.
It doesn’t have a play park or anything in that nature. However, if you want to go somewhere for a walk, some fresh air and take in some natural beauty then this park is the best fit for you! There is a small car park at the top of the park beside the walled garden which is free. However, I’d recommend using the car park at Morrisons to park. Plus you could always pop into Morrisons and grab some snacks for your walk! There are a couple hills in the park so keep that in mind if you are coming with a wheelchair or pushchair.
I recently did a post all about The History of Doxford Park, and the research from that post has probably also contributed to the feature on this post. Despite the fact that this park isn’t as well equipt as the others, I do think it is a really lovely place to visit.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. I know I have enjoyed visiting all the parks for this post and ‘doing the research’ (have nice days out). Thank you for reading it. If you have a difference of opinion or disagree with any of these let me know! And if you enjoyed this post be sure to drop your email address below to be notified every time I post!
Stay Safe, Happy Adventuring
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