© 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 February.


Dates for your Diary

A list of forthcoming events throughout the year.  



Ten volunteers assembled near Dene Cottage this morning to continue the refurbishment of the estuary high-level path. It was a frosty start, but there was enough brightness for the working conditions to be tolerable….  



Refurbishment of the estuary high path continued this morning, with eight volunteers meeting at 8:30 near Dene Cottage on a milder-than-usual morning. The puddles had a covering of ice, but it was already melting by the time we started, so the ground was rather muddy….  



The work party finished off the estuary high-level path today – hurray! Eight volunteers assembled at near Dene Cottage on an amazingly sunny, mild and dry morning. The ground was dry enough to sit on at break time, later in the morning….  



Eight volunteers braved the expected heatwave to meet at Hartley West Farm metal gate for a morning of coppicing and removal of disused fencing. The sun had not yet made an appearance over the top of the trees, so the meadow was covered in a fine coating of frost when we started….  



The work session was well-attended today: twelve volunteers turning out for fence-removal work on a damp, drizzly, grey morning (brightened up by the blooming daffodils in the meadow nearby)….  



The work party, of eleven volunteers, resumed its demolition of fencing along the south side of the Seaton Burn. The weather was OK for conservation task work: rain-free but grey overhead and a bit muddy underfoot….  



The ten-person work party was geographically divided today between the tunnel end and the estuary end of the Dene, and the activities were tree clearance and snowdrop transplanting respectively. It was a pleasant day for conservation work: quite bright and quite warm, but a bit muddy under foot….