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 strimming season got off to a flying start this morning despite a lower-than-average turnout of eight volunteers. We met up near Dene Cottage….



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



A working party of ten volunteers met outside the Milbourne Arms at Holywell this morning to do some more step-laying work. This was a grey and chilly morning, but the ground was nice and dry ….



Pleasant weather greeted the ten-volunteer workforce this morning as they gathered near Hartley West Farm to lay a new section of footpath near the meadow – it was a sunny, breezy day and nice and dry underfoot….



Today’s working party numbered just eight volunteers, but we managed to get a lot of sycamore bashing done nevertheless. The weather was perfect in the sense that the rain held off – only just….



Fine weather greeted the thirteen-volunteer taskforce this morning – warm and sunny, but slippy under foot because of overnight rain. The venue was Hartley Lane carpark and the mission was sycamore control….



Ten volunteers met up this morning at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road for a morning of path improvements on the south side of the burn….



Ten volunteers turned up today at the Hartley West Farm metal gate for another strimming session, on a day that started out cool but became warm and muggy later, with the sun more-or-less hidden behind high cloud….



The strimming taskforce this today numbered ten volunteers, and we assembled at the Hartley Lane carpark on a fine sunny morning. The temperatures rose as the morning wore on, but there was an increasing amount of high cloud in the sky….



A work party of eight volunteers turned out for another morning of path verge strimming, on a dull day which was, agreeably, neither too hot nor too cold….