© 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 October.


Dates for your Diary

A list of forthcoming events throughout the year.  


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 big work party of twelve turned out for a morning of path maintenance on the west side of the Seaton Burn estuary today, on a sunny and blustery day. A laser-like sun compensated, in the more sheltered places at least, for a strong chilly wind....



A work party of eleven converged on a non-standard venue today – the far SW corner of Holywell – for a morning’s river-clearance, litter-picking and balsam-bashing. The weather was not very encouraging....



This was another morning where early risers amongst us thought work might be cancelled but by the time we gathered at Crow Hall Farm entrance the rain had stopped and a brisk wind had begun to whistle across the field. The walk from the farm entrance to the farmyard proved a nervous experience for some ....



This was the morning after the night before and when we met at Crowhall Farm, two or three of the eleven volunteers were surprised that the session had not been cancelled. We’re made of stern stuff and although it was still a tad breezy ....



A rather depleted working party of six met today to carry out path repairs upstream  between the two bridges.  The weather was damp but mild for late October.  The path was covered in fallen sycamore leaves....



A select squad of nine volunteers assembled at Hartley Lane carpark today for a morning of pond clearance, fence maintenance and the installation of a waymarker post and a new seat....



A nine-person work party assembled at Crow Hall Farm for a morning’s path maintenance. The weather was strange: still, overcast and mild; damp in the fields but dry in the Dene. The working conditions would have been ideal if it hadn’t been for the thousands of tiny midgies that came out as soon as we started work....