© 2012 Friends of Holywell Dene. All Rights Reserved

History of the Dene

The first reference to Holywell Dene was in 800AD although it was then known as Merkel Dene. It was part of the Manor of Hartley.

In 1219 the Manor of Hartley was conferred to Gilbert de Laval and became part of the Delaval Estate, as it is today.

About Us

In 2000 Holywell Dene was in a bad state and deteriorating rapidly. The tenant farmer’s right to over-winter cattle in the Dene had heavily affected the ground flora and natural regeneration, as well as severely damaging the numerous paths.

Welcome to Holywell Dene!

Holywell Dene is in the South East corner of Northumberland, with a small part straddling the border into North Tyneside.

The Dene stretches for approximately 6km between the villages of Seghill in the west, passing close to Holywell and Old Hartley, and thence to Seaton Sluice on the coast in the east.

Holywell Dene is a steep sided ancient semi-natural woodland and is traversed by a small river known as the Seaton Burn. Between Old Hartley and Seaton Sluice, where the river enters the sea, the valley widens into a tidal flood plain.

Much of the Dene is part of the Delaval Estate. In 2000 the Estate granted the two Councils a 99-year lease; they in turn designated their areas Local Nature Reserves.


In the same year, 2000, a voluntary community group called Friends of Holywell Dene was established.

Flora and Fauna

The woodlands of Holywell Dene, together with its adjacent agricultural fields, support a wide variety of Flora and Fauna.

Wild flowers found, which are indicators of native woodland, include:                                

Bluebells in the Dene

Latest News


The Fauna page of the Flora and Fauna section has been updated with a report for October.


Dates for your Diary

A list of forthcoming events throughout the year.  



A work party of ten met up at Holywell today to remove a fallen tree from the river. Some strimming and Himalayan balsam removal were also on the agenda. It was a windy day and chilly, but the early cloud was soon chased away by a warming sun....



We had a good turnout for the task work this morning – eleven volunteers – for a morning’s river maintenance and (mainly) sycamore removal. The weather was dull and chilly, but growing brighter and warmer as the morning wore on. The soil was wet and very soft....



Today’s work party tackled an interesting variety of tasks in the lower Dene. Eight of us assembled at the Hartley Lane carpark more-or-less at dawn, under grey skies. The weather cheered up later, with subdued sunshine and a strong but warm wind. Four tasks awaited us, as follows....



A ten-volunteer workforce assembled at the Hartley West Farm road today for a morning’s path maintenance. This happened under grey skies but luckily without rain except at the very end of the session. The ground was wet underfoot....



The morning began bright and dry but very windy, when is it not windy these days, but despite the reasonable conditions this was a session that most of the party were not looking forward to as we knew that the only task to hand was yet another whole morning of ‘sycamore bashing’....



A work party of seven volunteers turned up today on a lovely November morning as we gathered at the metal gate at Hartley West Farm road to mend a stile and do some path work....



A party of eight volunteers met up at Dene Cottage, Seaton Sluice, today to tidy the path along the west side of the estuary. This was a good day for a bit of hearty exercise: damp underfoot but breezy, under a wintery sky....