Your refuge from the bustle of daily life © 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

Upcoming Events

Dates for your diaries - a list of events occurring throughout the year can be found here.


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.


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



The great Holywell Dene strimming sweep continued today, with nine volunteers operating four strimmers in mid-Dene, on a pleasant dry, bright, warm day….



 party of nine volunteers met at Ridge Way in Holywell at the usual time of 9am to continue strimming. The weather was warm and humid with the occasional drop or two of rain, but thankfully not as warm as the previous day….



A volunteer taskforce of nine assembled at the Northumbrian Water pumping station gate this morning at 9 o’clock to continue the great summer strim. Some fence repair was also undertaken, to break the monotony of strimming….



A larger-than-average taskforce assembled near the Millbourne Arms, Holywell, today to continue strimming the Dene. There had been overnight rain, so vegetation was a bit wet and the ground was a bit muddy, but nothing to write home about….



A ten-volunteer squad turned out this morning to continue the summer strimming project. It was, unusually, a bit muddy under foot today because of yesterday’s rain, but otherwise conditions were OK – not too hot and no rain….