© 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 December and January.


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 eight volunteers reported to Newburgh Avenue in Seaton Delaval for a morning of river clearance. We loaded up the wheelbarrows with the equipment and headed off to a blockage just down the river from the bridge….



A work party of seven volunteers met at the end of Millfield in Seaton Sluice on a windy but relatively warm morning….



A party of ten met up for a second week at Newburgh Avenue, Seaton Delaval, to finish last week’s task. We had some good news: we had a new starter in our ranks – a welcome development! With introductions over, we set out with three wheelbarrows loaded with tools….



A work party of eight returned to Newburgh Avenue, Seaton Delaval, for a third week to continue clearing river blockages. Four volunteers braved the cold river by pulling on waders. They started by removing any loose items to be removed from the river….



A party of eleven – including a new member of the work party – met at Thornhill Close, Seaton Delaval, for a morning of river clearing. The weather was nice for outdoor work: dry (but a bit muddy underfoot), dull at first then bright….



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….