© 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.


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 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….


12-Oct-19 Coffee Morning

The ‘Friends’ held their annual coffee morning at Seaton Sluice Community Centre on Saturday 12th October. The weather gods were kind on the day, resulting in a record breaking turnout of visitors….



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 party of ten volunteers met at Dene Cottage on an autumn morning to put the finishing touches to the new high-level path we started at the beginning of the year….



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….