© 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 August.


Dates for your Diary

A list of forthcoming events throughout the year.  


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.

12-Jul-18  Love Northumberland Awards

The Duchess of Northumberland helped to celebrate the very best in community and voluntary environmental work across the county at a special LOVE Northumberland awards ceremony held at Alnwick castle on Thursday 12 July...



The work party numbered eight today, and the work was split between path verge strimming and Himalayan balsam bashing. It was another hot, sweaty day, but fortunately Holywell Dene is well shaded. ...



The work party of seven volunteers were given a variety of tasks this morning: strimming, logjam removal and balsam-bashing. The weather was dull, damp and cool, and it was rather muddy underfoot. The party met up at Crowhall Farm and had to brave the rather sullen-looking cows in the field to get there from their parked cars...



A work party of nine volunteers converged on a site near North Gosforth this morning for an off-site adventure (balsam-bashing near Weetslade Country Park) on a dull, warm, humid day with the (tall) vegetation wet from overnight rain...



A nine-volunteer work party resumed the Great 2018 Strim today, with a focus on the downstream meadow, but with some balsam bashing on the side for added excitement. The sky was predominantly overcast and it was a warm day, but with wet vegetation after recent rain....



A good-size work party of eleven volunteers assembled near Hartley West Farm for a morning of strimming. The weather was dull, warm and damp, and the vegetation was very wet from recent rain. ....



A nine-volunteer work party turned out at the metal gate on the Hartley West Farm road again for another session of strimming. There had been rain overnight, which was not ideal because it made the vegetation heavy to cut and rake up....



The work party this morning consisted of only eight volunteers, others being absent for a variety of reasons. The morning was ideal for task work: bright and breezy....



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....