© 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 June.


Dates for your Diary

A list of forthcoming events throughout the year.  


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 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...



Ten volunteers formed the work party this morning, assembling at the metal gate on the Hartley West Farm access road to resume the great summer strim-fest. The weather was grey and boring but dry – actually, ideal weather conditions for strimming...



For the eight-volunteer work party that met at Crowhall Farm this morning it was “strimming again!”, on a day which began misty, dewy and cool and turned hot, dry and sweltry...



Eleven volunteers – nearly a full turnout – met up at Hartley Lane carpark to continue the 2018 strimming effort between the carpark and the estuary. The weather was sultry and sweaty, under grey clouds which relieved the temperature somewhat. The ground underfoot is very dry indeed...



And the heat goes on! Not that we are whinging of course but once or twice during the morning I began to wish we had a night shift. Nine of us met at the entrance to Crow Hall Farm and made our way across the field....