© 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 April.


Dates for your Diary

A list of forthcoming events throughout the year.  



It’s not going to be an easy report to write this week as the nine volunteers were split into three groups, working nowhere near each other. Sadly, despite wonderful advances in modern technology, I can only be in one place at a time so detail in places will be sparse...



This morning’s work party of nine volunteers converged on the middle Dene to renew the decking of the upper wooden footbridge. The weather was glorious – hot and sunny – too hot to work comfortably in fact (until after 10 o'clock, when the sun swung into the trees to the south...


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 work party numbered ten today, and in fine weather it set out from the metal gate on Hartley West Farm Lane work at two sites upstream. It had been decided to install some steps at the southern end of the meadow path, and to reset the stepping stones below Hartley West Farm...



A work party of only seven volunteers assembled today at the Hartley Lane carpark for a morning’s strimming. The conditions were nice and cool; we don’t like hot, sticky weather for strimming work. Conditions were misty and the vegetation was damp, although, strangely, the ground was dry...



A work party of twelve turned out at Holywell today to remove the remains of a tree from the river and to make a start on the annual pathside strimming effort. The weather was cold, damp and miserable at first, but improved later...



On a glorious summers morning nine volunteers met at the Hartley West Farm gate for another session of strimming. What more can I say? We strimmed.  We split into two groups...



Today’s work party, numbering only seven, converged on Seaton Sluice to continue strimming verges and bashing bracken in the estuary area. The sky was grey until about 9:30 when the sun came out and we enjoyed a bright and breezy day...