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. This person took some photos and relayed them to FoHD by email, so we knew what tools and materials were required.

When we arrived at the scene, we split into two teams. Some went to dig out hardcore to back-fill the hole. The others set about hammering in recycled posts and decking boards to stabilise the path. Roots from the tree were cut that would otherwise get in the way of walkers. The boarding was soon in place, so we started back-filling. A relay was set up to share the hard work of pushing the wheelbarrow loaded with hardcore from the pile to the damaged path. After a lot of work, the path was back to being a safe place to walk and enjoy the beauty of the Dene.

Photograph A. Path before

Photograph B. Path after

It’s worth remembering that there is a page on the website that you can use to contact the Friends via email or telephone, to report anything you want to draw our attention to in the Dene. If it’s within our remit, we will take the appropriate action, and if not, we can point you in the right direction to get help.

Estuary Path

The Council have finished their work. Normal service has been resumed. You can use either the lower or upper path to navigate the western side of the estuary.

Photograph C. Repaired estuary path

Red Squirrels

We have been hoping for sightings of red squirrels in the Dene for some time. They are known to be close. A red was seen in Holywell on 31st July. On 21st September, one was seen in Hester Gardens, New Hartley. Unfortunately on 27th September a red, maybe the same one, was found dead on the Avenue road! We will have to be patient. Watch this space.

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, enjoying delicious homemade treats and beverages whilst getting to know other like minded people.

Members often use the coffee morning as a way of renewing their membership and buying a ‘must have’ 2020 FoHD calendar, but unfortunately this year a number of calendars were discovered to be missing their hangers, so some visitors ultimately went home empty handed. Hangers have now been fitted to the offending calendars and they are back on sale, (a calendar order form can be found elsewhere on this web site).

Raffle ticket sales were exceptional this year, probably due to the fact that there was not one but two star prizes of a weekend cottage break up for grabs. Also very popular was the display of projects carried out by our working party over the past year, and the stall selling various handmade items produced by our members was also very busy.

At close of play everyone went home happy, leaving a bunch of exhausted volunteer helpers to clear up what little remained of the edible goodies, and thus restore the hall to it’s everyday layout.

A big thank you to everyone who donated prizes for this years raffle, it was very much appreciated, and also thanks to our helpers and visitors who made it such an enjoyable morning.

See you all again next year?......


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 pair of volunteers set off to finish strimming the area near the bottom of the estuary. The other eight tackled the high-level path.

When Northumberland County Council finished their repairs on the lower path, as reported last week, they left us a pile of aggregate to enable us to give our path a durable surface. We had to fill buckets with this material and carry them up from the bottom of the path to where it was needed.

Photograph A. Surfacing high-level path

After a couple of times up and down the path carrying full buckets, to catch your breath you had to swap over with the person who was raking the gravel smooth, and they took over with the bucket work.

Photograph B. Finished path

We just had enough material to complete the path and tidy up where we had been. Having time to spare, we set to work cleaning out gullies along the bottom path, which were full of leaves and mud. We got part of this work done before our time ran out and we packed up for the day.

Photograph C. Blocked gully


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.

While we were working last week we noticed that, above the new section of the path which was repaired earlier this year, some of the sycamore trees’ roots were seriously exposed, and if any of these trees fell they would take away some of the new path.

So, it was decided that the best course of action was to trim as many of the branches as we could reach, to lighten the load the trees had to withstand. We set about this with bow saws, branch pruners and extending branch saws, to reach as high as we could.

A couple of the team stood at each end of the work area on the lower path to warn any approaching walkers that we were working above them, and to remove the branches as they were cut down.

Photograph A. Trimming sycamores

We cut as much as was possible and removed all the branches to one safe area before it was finishing time.

Wildlife on the estuary:

 a heron

 a little egret

 a flock of redshanks

Here’s what the egret looks like, in case you are down the estuary way – it is usually to be seen.

Photograph B. Little egret


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, and marched off along the bottom path upstream. When we came to where the gabions are, it was noticed that the path needed repairing. So, two of the team set about that job, bringing aggregate from our pile further down the path. This was soon completed and the two members then returned to the main party.

We came across a few gullies that needed our attention – blocked with leaves and branches. These were tackled with the spades and rakes. A fair amount of debris was removed, caused by the recent rain we have had. Soon the standing water was seen to be running free and draining away as required.

Picture A. Clearing a gully

Two of the team now went to have a look at the drainage between the “Rest a While” seat and the wooden bridge. It was discovered that this wasn’t draining away as well as we wanted, so the filter on the top of the pipe was removed while a new way can be implemented to drain that area.

Picture B. The problem drainage

For the remaining time we split into pairs and went sycamore-bashing, concentrating on the area between the top and bottom paths beside the incline leading down to the wooden bridge. Keeping sycamores from taking over the woodland is a never-ending job!

Finally, here’s a Halloween picture – something ghoulish is watching us; oo-agh!

Picture C. Somethings watching us


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. The main topic of conversation was that today’s session was going ahead despite the weather – with a lot of rain predicted to fall overnight, everybody was expecting a text message to say the session was off, but the boss held his nerve and it turned out to be a good call.

After loading up the wheelbarrows with the tools, off we went to tackle today’s tasks. When we arrived at the fallen tree it was decided it would only take three people to move it off the path, so the rest of the party split into pairs and went looking for any sycamore that needed cutting back.

Photograph A. Puzzling over fallen tree

The hand-winch was soon set up with the strap around a sturdy tree, stretching across the lake. Two people took turns on the winch, and the other person stood on the path watching for walkers. The two trunks were soon removed, and the three volunteers were able to join up with the rest of the party.

Photograph B. Problem solved!

The main party started to trim the branches of any tree overhanging the path, to make the way safe for walkers enjoying the Dene. As well as cutting the branches we also cut back any ivy wrapped around the trees, as this makes the trees heavier and more susceptible to coming down in high winds.

It was noticed that the path was in a bad state, with all the rain we have had recently. Large areas were difficult to navigate because of the run-off from the surrounding fields, and the oxbow lake was as high as can be remembered. To help, several small gullies were cut into the path in order to drain the puddles without damaging the path.

Please note that it is possible to walk along the path, but due care is needed while we are having this very changeable weather.


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.

The weather was dry when we loaded up the wheelbarrow with the tools required for today’s tasks, but there were plenty of upward glances to the heavens trying to guess how long we would have before the rain came, if the last few weeks were anything to go by.

When we arrived at the part of the path that needed repairing near the reed beds, we split into two teams. One set about scraping the mud and removing the grass that had crept over the path and clearing the surrounding gullies. While this was happening three volunteers pushed the wheelbarrows along to our heap of road plainings (aggregate produced when a surface layer is removed from a road or path) which had been stored on the path below Bywell Terrace about 400 meters away.

Photograph A. Path maintenance – hard work!

The going was slow as a lot of grass had encroached onto the path. None of the team could remember the last time this particular job had been undertaken. It was slow-going with the road plainings as well, as we had to walk quite a distance to reach it, then dig it out and then push the full wheelbarrow back.

After a couple of trips it was time to swap over jobs – to give each other a rest and to give everyone a chance to have a go at each of the jobs. By mid-morning it was obvious the weather was going to win in the end, as the showers were getting longer and harder – so it was decided to call it a day and come back another time.

As you can see from the photo, we have made a big difference on the path, and the part that had been flooded and needed the most attention has been completed and is now in good repair.

Photograph B. … but worth it!


Among the birds spotted today was a pair of cock pheasants, and an egret opposite to where the foot path has been recently repaired.

And somebody spotted a male wood duck on the burn recently ­– a North American species rarely seen over here – and quite a looker!

Photograph C. Wood duck


A party of nine met again at Millfield to continue with the path repairs we started last week. It was a bright morning with plenty of blue sky showing but a frost on the ground as we made our way down from the cars for half a day’s toil.


As we were continuing with last week’s job there was no need for instructions, so everyone picked up the appropriate tool and started work. Two volunteers set off with wheelbarrow to pick up the road plainings as described last week, while the rest of the squad with mattocks and spades set about removing the turf encroaching on the path.

Photograph A. Path maintenance work

Photograph B. New, improved path

The hedge that runs parallel with the path was also trimmed back, and it wasn’t long before that section was finished. After a quick cuppa we started on the next section – further upstream going towards the wooden bridge. A couple left the main party to clear out the gullies on both sides at the wooden bridge as it was noticed that the water coming out of the bank was unable to run off the path.

The drain rods were called into action today at a couple of spots, as there was a blockage in the drainage pipes caused by stones and leaves. This can be a dirty job, but it is essential that the pipes are clear to help keep the paths free from lying water which makes it unsafe in icy conditions.

There were lots of walkers using the Dene today, getting their exercise while the conditions were favourable – but there was no unusual wild life spotted.


A work party of only six returned to Millfield for another week of path clearing and sycamore bashing. Once again we were relying on the weather holding back for the morning’s work.

After the wheelbarrow was load up, we set off back to where we finished last week – the path on the east side of the estuary.

We removed the grass which had grown over the path over the years with mattocks and spades, to leave the surface clear. The overhanging bushes were also trimmed back before we moved on to the next area.

Photograph A. Path restoration

Photograph B. Finishing off

The second part of the morning was to cut back the sycamore saplings and branches further down the path towards the mouth of the estuary. It was touch-and-go if we were going to get a full session in, but the weather held off for us to achieve our target.

By the way, a fallen tree was cut up and cleared away early in the session.

Photograph C. Tree clearance


There was a change of venue for the work party of nine volunteers today: we all met up beside the gas pumping station at the end of Wallridge Drive in Holywell. On the agenda today was path-clearing, fence-mending and gully-clearing.

Three volunteers headed down the road to the Dale Top area to mend the broken fence at one of the entrances to the Dene. The old posts were stripped away from the guard rails, the stumps of the posts were dug out, and new posts were inserted into the holes. The ground around the posts was packed down, before the guard rails were reinstated – making sure everything was straight.

With that part of the job completed, the three volunteers set about cleaning the path that leads to the steps. As you can see from the before and after photos they completed a good job, before joining the rest of the party.

Photograph A. Dene entrance before

Photograph B. Dene entrance after

The rest of the volunteers headed down to the path between the bridge below Concord House and the steps up to Dale Top. There were two jobs to tackle here: clearing the path of encroaching grass, and clearing out the overflow pond. The overflow pond, or sump, was dug a few years ago as a reservoir for rain-water, which runs down the bank and used to collect on the path, making life difficult for walkers.

It was a case of “wellies on” and getting into the middle of the pond to clear out the mud and leaves. The size of the pond was slightly enlarged while we were there, and all the surrounding gullies were cleaned out to help to speed up the flow of water into the sump.

Photograph C. Sump after remedial work

If you are down in that area, you will notice that the pond is just below the normal level of the water in the river – so the pool is designed to hold the water and to let it seep into the Burn naturally, because if the river rose, the water would run back and flood the path area.

The rest of the morning was taken up with the removal of grass from the path. Part of it was re-covered with a layer of chippings. It was soon time to clean the tools and head home after a good morning’s work.

Photograph D. Path-clearing

On the wildlife side of things, a member of the work party spotted a song thrush which is a rare sighting nowadays.


A party of nine volunteers met at Hartley Lane car park on a cold but dry winter’s morning. There was a heavy frost underfoot as we set about this week’s tasks: it was more of the same, with path and gully work down in the meadow and a repair to the pond-dipping platform at the Old Hartley pond.

With tools loaded up in the wheelbarrows and lengths of decking, off we went. A group of three volunteers headed to the platform at the pond. This was in need of repair because someone had thought it would be a good idea to have a summer BBQ on the wooden decking, and had discarded some of the coals on the deck – resulting in a hole burned in the decking, causing a trip hazard.

With the old wood removed, on closer inspection some of the support beams of the under-structure were in need of attention. This had to be repaired before the damaged decking could be replaced. This was done, and the area is now safe again for visitors to enjoy the wildlife the pond attracts. With this, the three volunteers headed back to join up with the main party.

With the heavy frost, the six volunteers that were working in the meadow area found the path-clearing hard going – it was like trying to dig through concrete. It was suggested that the ground might be more protected from the elements at the end, where the steps are. This was the case, and we soon made good progress along the path, widening it and removing the grass which had encroached onto it.

While we were working, a woodpecker was heard drumming. One of the party said the male woodpecker hammers the tree to attract a mate and that’s what’s happening when we hear the noise.

We had another visitor which was a very inquisitive robin that took a great interest in what we were doing. It was decided that the robin was either a time-and-motion expert watching us or was waiting for us to disappear to get its dinner. We found out later on that it was the latter.

We had repaired about half of the path before we were beaten by time and left knowing we will probably return next week to finish that section unless a more pressing job crops up in the next few days.


A group of six hardy volunteers made themselves available for work on Christmas Eve morning, however, at 7:00am heavy rain was falling and it looked like a washout. The forecast indicated that the rain would ease through the morning so it was decided to postpone the start until 9:00 which proved to be a wise decision.

The group of six met at Hartley West Farm road to continue widening the meadow path, which had been started the previous week. Fortunately the rain did slacken off and eventually blue sky emerged for a very pleasant morning.

Work was interrupted by our lady chair with hot mince pies for everyone, which were much appreciated by all.

Despite the late start we managed to complete the task only slightly after midday.

Photograph A. Path maintenance

Photograph B. Result!

A robin was in attendance – as usual whenever there is digging in progress – and a woodpecker was heard busily hammering away nearby.

Oh, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers!


A group of eight volunteers met at the end of Millfield in Seaton Sluice on a bright and sunny but frosty New Year’s Eve.

The task today was to clear an unsightly blockage in the river just upstream from the new wooden bridge at the west end of the estuary.

The first task was to remove a section of the fence running next to the burn on the south side and then to set up the winch for dragging large logs out of the water and across the footpath.  At the same time a group of four set about removing smaller branches that could be reached from the north bank using an extending saw.

Waders were then donned by three (hardy!) volunteers and the heavy work of clearing the debris began. The largest logs were cut with the chain saw and dragged up the bank and over the footpath using the winch. The smaller debris was removed by hand.

Finally the large boughs of the overhanging willow tree were removed to prevent further blockages as the water level rises.

The fence was then reinstated and we headed for home.

While having a short break to warm up with coffee and tea three deer walked across the field on the south side and made a magnificent sight silhouetted against the clear blue sky.

Happy New Year to all our readers!