© 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 September.


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.


A work party of seven volunteers met at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road for a morning of strimming, on a warm summer’s day. We split into three teams of two, with the spare person ….



A volunteer party of seven met at the entrance of Crowhall Farm for a morning of strimming and tree removal.  Four volunteers headed to the small meadow beside the wooden bridge ….



A party of nine volunteers met at the Hartley Lane car park on an overcast morning. The task today was a path-strimming and bracken-bashing….



A party of nine volunteers met on a warm sunny morning at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road to strim what we call the garden area beside the stepping stones….



On an autumn morning, a work party of eleven volunteers met at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road. There was a pleasant surprise in the form of a new volunteer. After the introductions, we set off on our morning’s toil….



A party of seven volunteers met at the gas pumping station to at the end of Wallridge Drive at Holywell for a morning of strimming and path clearing….



A work party of eight volunteers gathered at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road at the usual time on a cold but bright morning….



Today, the work party was split into two teams: one met at the Millbourne Arms for a day of strimming; the rest met at the end of Wallridge Drive, as last week, for path-clearing….



A work party of nine gathered at Crowhall Farm to attend to a fallen tree (see photo) which had damaged the path just below the waggonway. A member of Friends of Holywell Dene happened to be walking the Dene yesterday and witnessed the tree falling….