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 April.


Upcoming Events

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



The venue for the working party of ten volunteers this morning was the gas pumping station near Concord House in Holywell and the mission was, once again, river clearance again – maybe this is what the Americans would call a “Groundhog Day” event!….



A magnificent eleven volunteers turned out at an unusual venue today – Sandown Close in Seaton Delaval – for yet another river clearance session, on an unusually mild spring day….



Eleven volunteers assembled at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road today at the usual time of 9:00 to lay a new section of path by the river opposite the gabions. It was a misty, still day but working conditions were good nevertheless….



Today’s work party of ten volunteers met up at the metal gate near Hartley West Farm to finish off last week’s path work. This was a dull but dry day after heavy rain, which had made the paths muddy and the river full and cloudy; but it was warmer than previous days….



The working party assembled this morning near the Milbourne Arms, Holywell, to install a new flight of steps. The weather was brilliant – sunny, calm and warm – but actually a bit too hot for task work, and we were all getting hot and weary towards the end….



Holywell water pumping station was the assembly point for the eleven volunteers of the working party this morning, and the task of the day was installing a flight of steps in a steep section of the footpath network near the informal mountain bike park….



A working party of ten volunteers met outside the Milbourne Arms at Holywell this morning to do some more step-laying work. This was a grey and chilly morning, but the ground was nice and dry ….



A fine turnout of twelve volunteers met at the Hartley Lane carpark this morning to do willow weaving and fence demolition. The ground was nicely dry under foot, and the drizzle mostly held off; in fact it was a pleasantly bright albeit chilly day….



Pleasant weather greeted the ten-volunteer workforce this morning as they gathered near Hartley West Farm to lay a new section of footpath near the meadow – it was a sunny, breezy day and nice and dry underfoot….