© 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 November.


2020 Calendar

Due to popular demand we have decided to produce a calendar for 2020. All the photographs have been donated by our members and were taken in Holywell Dene.


Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan balsam, an attractive but invasive alien plant, is trying to invade the banks of the river. Please keep an eye open for it, and report it if you see it. To find out what it looks like, view our Himalayan Balsam Guide.


A party of eight returned to Dove Cottage on a fine autumn morning for a day of sycamore bashing and tidying the path by the upper estuary….



A work party of eight met at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road for a morning of gully clearance and some further sycamore bashing.  We loaded up the wheelbarrow with branch loppers, extending branch saw and various spades, rakes and bow saws….



A party of eight volunteers met at Millfield in Seaton Sluice for a session of path repairs, gully clearance and hopefully a bit of sycamore bashing on the south estuary path….



A party of nine volunteers met today at Crowhall Farm for a morning’s work on the Holywell Bridge path beside the oxbow lake: removal of a fallen tree and some sycamore bashing….



A work party of only six returned to Millfield for another week of path clearing and sycamore bashing. Once again we were relying on the weather holding back for the morning’s work.  After the wheelbarrow was load up, we set off back to where we finished last week – the path on the east side of the estuary….



A party of nine met again at Millfield to continue with the path repairs we started last week. It was a bright morning with plenty of blue sky showing but a frost on the ground as we made our way down from the cars for half a day’s toil….



There was a change of venue for the work party of nine volunteers today: we all met up beside the gas pumping station at the end of Wallridge Drive in Holywell. On the agenda today was path-clearing, fence-mending and gully-clearing….