Susan is a freelance journalist/editor in the north of England. She is available for web content writing/editing and runs a letter-writing site: www.needaletter.co.uk
Published June 17th 2013
One of the prettiest places in the area
Cleadon Hills Nature Reserve is a hidden gem - even some people who have lived in the region for many years have never seen it.
One of the reasons is that it is at the top of a single track road and it isn't signposted so you're unlikely to just happen across it.
If the windmill looks vaguely familiar from the picture, then maybe you're a fan of the TV series Inspector George Gently starring Martin Shaw. The hill was used in 2012 as an outdoor location for one of the episodes.
Once privately owned, the hill was gifted to the local council a few years ago to be used for the benefit of local people. It is a wonderful place for families (popular in summer for picnics and kite flying and in winter for sledging) and is also a favourite spot for dog owners and walkers all year round.
There are a couple of main entrances - one requires climbing a low stile from an entrance on Sunniside Lane while the other is through a kissing gate near the old farm gate.
Sadly, there are no longer grazing cows to keep down the grass so it can be a little jungle-like at times, but there are well-trodden paths to follow.
It is part of a walking trail and it is possible to follow the walking trail to the coast at Whitburn.
. It's listed as an area of natural beauty and features striking limestone outcrops which make a good place for a picnic.
There is also an abandoned windmill which no longer boasts sails but is still popular with photographers.
Nature lovers will enjoy the gorse, the cowslips and the varied birdlife. It's a great spot for dogs to be given a run off-lead since there are no busy roads nearby and the view of the north east coastline is beautiful on a clear day.
There are information boards with details of the history of the hill, including the famous ghost story surrounding the miller's daughter. It's a beautiful spot to while away at least a couple of hours with the children - wrap up warm in winter since it can be very windy.
It's a popular vantage point for locals during Sunderland Airshow weekend but most of the time it is a fairly quiet spot.
The main hill is known as one of the best places for sledging but don't expect to find a parking place on Sunniside Lane after a snowfall. If you do take the car during snow, park carefully since it is a single track lane and farm vehicles and emergency vehicles need access.
It's better to park in nearby Cleadon Village and if the exercise works up an appetite, you can pop into one of the two village pubs or choose between the village deli (which has seating inside) or the Happy Organic tearoom where you can also pick up seasonal organic veg.