© 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 February.


Dates for your Diary

A list of forthcoming events throughout the year.  



Eight of us turned out today to form a work party for a morning’s path repair work. We managed to stick it out from before 8:30 until about 12:00 despite the cold and snow. The snow may only have been a dusting, but it made the surfaces very slippy...



A work party of twelve turned out to do path repairs this morning. The weather conditions were poor: wet, cold and windy (when not in the shelter of the Dene)...



A ten-strong work party turned out to tackle logjams either side of the Holywell road bridge this morning. The weather was strikingly more pleasant than it had been on previous outings, with some sunshine and milder conditions...



A work squad of ten volunteers turned out today at the estuary to plant reeds in one of the new ponds and do some path maintenance. This was a pleasant day for the time of year, with some blue sky but limited sunshine. The ground, however, was very sticky indeed...