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Past News Items and working party updates can be viewed by clicking HERE.

Dates For Your Diaries, a number of events throughout the coming year.

11-June-24

Eight volunteers assembled this morning at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road for another morning of strimming, on a day of mixed sunshine and showers that was rather cold for the time of year.


We managed to clear the verges of both the high and low paths from below Hartley West Farm to right past the bench at the Silverhill five-bar gate.


Here’s a picture of us strimming (which must be familiar sight by now!):

Photograph A. Strimming

Just to give an impression of how tall the weeds and grasses are now, here’s a pair of before-and-after pictures of the section just west of the Silverhill gate.

Photograph B. Before

Photograph C. After

Everyone passing by were friendly and thanked us, and all dogs were
on leads, except one that was in a pushchair!


Don’t forget to take a look at the Friends of Holywell Dene page on Facebook from time to time. There are some fab photos of the Dene and its wildlife in there.


You don’t need a Facebook account. Just put “Facebook Friends of Holywell Dene” into your favourite search engine and you should see it. If you get a “See more on Facebook” box, just click it away. If you want to post to that page, you would need to create an account.

4-June-24

Strimming was again the task facing the working party this morning, on the eastern side of the estuary and up the footpath from there towards the Hartley Lane carpark.


We had four strimmers going, each with an operator accompanied by a raker. The hedge trimmer was also in use, although it was being temperamental from the point of view of starting. (To avoid this, we were advised by a passer-by to add “fuel stabiliser” to the fuel, so we Googled that at break time and might get some.)

Photograph A. Strimming

Photograph B. Hedge-trimming

By the end of the session we had strimmed the steep path down from Millfield (Seaton Sluice) and the low-level path from there northwards part-way towards St. Paul’s Church and also southwards part-way towards the Hartley Lane carpark.


Our Friends chairperson came along and chatted. She was going to plant some cowslips by the estuary path. They are locally sourced wild plants from a place where they were otherwise going to be pulled out and thrown away. They should brighten things up if they take.


Incidentally, an otter was spotted bridge a few days ago by one of us: in the water under the Seaton Sluice road; she was showing us a short video of it on her mobile phone.


Quite a few dog-walkers passed us, especially around mid-morning and, as usual, we took care to halt strimming while they were going by. It’s always worth remembering that it is a good idea to take your lead with you if out walking the dog on Tuesday morning, so that your dog can be kept safe while going past the strimmers.


Luck must have been with us because the weather held – despite feeling all the time as if rain was imminent – until we were packing up, when somebody detected a few spots of rain. Sure enough some intense showers followed – but by then we were home and dry!

18-June-24

Despite the wet weather, we managed to assemble a working party of ten volunteers this morning to continue the summer 2024 strimming effort.


The starting point was the metal gate on the Hartley West Farm access road. After unloading the five strimmers and other tools from the van, we set off in the direction of the lower wooden footbridge.


We started strimming the verges around the vicinity of the old “new mill” (i.e. downstream of the stepping stones), and it was strimming all the way after that – up the north side of the Dene to the footbridge, then over the bridge and back along the south side via the side waterfall.


As usual, we were raking up the strimmings, trimming the overhanging trees and picking up items of litter. The paths were muddy in places, after last night’s rain, and the weather got steadily more showery as the time went on.

Photograph A. The strimming team at work

The great advantage of rainy weather is that there are fewer walkers in the Dene, so we were able to crack on with the work. The result was that by the time we got to the stone bridge, we had accomplished all we had set out to do, and so (with the showers getting worse) we packed up and went home a bit earlier than usual.  


Result: the paths in that part of the Dene are navigable without vegetation crowding in from both sides.

25-June-24

A decent-sized working party of nine volunteers met up at the Crowhall Farm cattle grid this morning for a bit of strimming in the hot sun.


After getting kitted up with strimmers, rakes, loppers, warning triangles, petrol cans etc, we ventured across the cow field (passing the very placid bull!) to the style, then along the path to the left to the upstream footbridge.


When we got there, we noticed that the vegetation was now very tall; also the trees planted in the meadow on the south side below the footbridge needed some of the lower branches removed to achieve a more tree-like shape.


One of us was tasked with pruning the trees and the other eight set off with their strimmers and rakes to get the pathside vegetation under control.

Photograph A. Strimming

Photograph B. Raking

Photograph C. Pruned oak tree

It was a hot, sweaty day, so we had a couple of breaks to take on water, tea, coffee (according to taste) or iced lollies (proffered by our kindly chairperson).


We had made it our objective to get as far as the bench between the high-level bridge on the south side and the lower footbridge. Having attained that objective, we upped sticks and departed, leaving Holywell Dene a more navigable space than before.


Wildlife interest:

one of us spotted a dipper (black river bird with white throat) by the upper footbridge

a blackcap and a whitethroat (little warblers) were heard

meadow brown butterflies are around

lots of flowers are out – too many to mention

Previous news items / working party updates can be viewed by clicking HERE


2-July-24

An eight-person working party resumed the summer strimming project this morning. This time the theatre of operations was the part of the Dene upstream of the Holywell road bridge.


We parked the van by the Melbourne Arms and (after arranging the tools and having a bit natter) proceeded to Dale Top (four people) and the old road bridge (the other four). The north-bank squad strimmed the path verges from Dale Top along to the Concorde House footbridge and then crossed over and started strimming eastward along the south-side path.

Photograph A. Strimming

While near the river they noticed some Himalayan balsam plants. These are invasive weeds which invade and monopolise river banks if left alone, so we pulled them up. Here’s what they look like. (Do tell us via the website or Facebook page if you see any.)

Photograph B. Himalayan balsam

Meanwhile the other squad worked their way from the road bridge westward along the south-side path and eventually met up with the other team. At that point, we declared “mission accomplished” and went home.


By the way, the weather was overcast and cool, but dry – where we were. I gather there were heavy showers elsewhere on Tyneside, so we were lucky!