© 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 March.


Dates for your Diary

A list of forthcoming events throughout the year.  



The work party finished off the estuary high-level path today – hurray! Eight volunteers assembled at near Dene Cottage on an amazingly sunny, mild and dry morning. The ground was dry enough to sit on at break time, later in the morning….  



Eight volunteers braved the expected heatwave to meet at Hartley West Farm metal gate for a morning of coppicing and removal of disused fencing. The sun had not yet made an appearance over the top of the trees, so the meadow was covered in a fine coating of frost when we started….  



The work session was well-attended today: twelve volunteers turning out for fence-removal work on a damp, drizzly, grey morning (brightened up by the blooming daffodils in the meadow nearby)….  



The work party, of eleven volunteers, resumed its demolition of fencing along the south side of the Seaton Burn. The weather was OK for conservation task work: rain-free but grey overhead and a bit muddy underfoot….  



The ten-person work party was geographically divided today between the tunnel end and the estuary end of the Dene, and the activities were tree clearance and snowdrop transplanting respectively. It was a pleasant day for conservation work: quite bright and quite warm, but a bit muddy under foot….  



The work party of eleven volunteers tackled several maintenance jobs in the lower end of the Dene this morning, in good weather conditions: initially dull, but sunny later – and good ground conditions: mainly dry. ….  



Ten volunteers turned out on a grey, damp and initially rainy day for a medley of tasks in the Dene near Crowhall Farm this morning. Since about four tasks were undertaken, this will have to be a swift run-through rather than a thorough report. ….  



A work party of eleven volunteers assembled on a sunny morning at the Crowhall Farm cattle grid for three maintenance tasks in the middle Dene. Butterflies were flying and wildflowers were blooming on a bright morning with a heavy dew on the grass ….  



A squad of nine volunteers converged on the Crowhall Farm entrance gate this morning to tackle various jobs in the meadow area near the upstream wooden footbridge. The weather continued its recent cold-and-windy arctic theme….