Your refuge from the bustle of daily life © 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 August.


Upcoming Events

Dates for your diaries - a list of events occurring throughout the year can be found here.


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.


Today’s working party comprised ten volunteers and their mission was to strim the path verges around the estuary. The weather was sunny, but not too hot and with a pleasant breeze….



Something different for the work party this morning: strimming, but in a different place and for a different purpose. The eleven volunteers met up at a farm gate on the Earsdon–Holywell road….



A party of 12 volunteers turned up today at the metal gate at Hartley West Farm for another morning of strimming. The sun was just waking up when we tooled up and headed down to the stepping stones….



A good turnout of 13 volunteers assembled for work this morning at Hartley Lane carpark for a serious strimming session….



An eight-volunteer working party turned out to mow the meadow near the stone bridge this morning, on a dull, drizzly, windy day – possibly the second-last strimming event of the year….



The sun (a round yellow object) greeted the working party of eleven people this morning at 9am. The task today was to strim the upstream and downstream meadows….



The task for the 12-strong working party this morning was something different yet familiar: removing a fallen tree from the river. The meeting place was the Hartley Farm lane metal gate….



The working party had a big job on this morning. If you are wondering whether the tree in the photo is big or not: it was BIG! So much so that it took a party of nine volunteers with a chainsaw and three winches all morning to shift it….