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 reports for April and May.


2020 Calendar

Due to popular demand we have decided to produce a calendar for 2020. All the photographs have been donated by our members and were taken in Holywell Dene.


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 party of ten volunteers returned to Thornhill Close, Seaton Delaval, on a cold and windy but bright morning to finish the logjam-removal work from last week. We were spurred on with the prospect of an early finish, so we loaded up the wheelbarrows and ran to the area behind the Holywell Community Orchard….



A squad of eight volunteers turned out to work on the riverbanks and paths above the stone bridge this morning. It was a glorious day to be working in the very fresh air in Holywell Dene….



A party of twelve volunteers met at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road for today’s work of fence repairs, log removal and bank repairs, between the stone bridge and the gabions….


Upcoming Events

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



Eleven volunteers today reported at the Crow Hall farmhouse for a morning of river clearing. The weather forecast was for a dry, fresh day; the main problem was whether the water level had dropped enough for a safe morning’s work….



A work party of eight met at Crowhall farmhouse on a very windy morning to continue clearing the Oxbow Bend blockage that we started on last week and to remove other debris towards the tunnel under the old railway line….



Well how do I begin what could be the last report for a while.  We split into three groups of two, two and six. Group one returned to the Oxbow bend on the Holywell Bridge path….


Coronavirus Statement

With the rapid spread of the Coronavirus, the UK government has decided not to allow groups to work in close proximity. With this is mind, the Working Party co-ordinator has regrettably had to cancel the working party sessions in Holywell Dene for the foreseeable future.

This means there will now be no strimming, tree clearance, path work etc. until the working party is reconvened, in other words, the Dene will be left to it's own devices. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months.


Working party activities have resumed, thanks to the partial relaxation of the COVID-19 lockdown. Just three hardy members of the working party braved the drizzly afternoon weather to remove a large tree that came down ….