Walk 2 – Holywell & Sluice
The walk is around the wider estate of Seaton Delaval Hall, incorporating local points of interest. The walk includes a long version (5.75 miles) or a shortened version (4.5 miles).
Seaton Delaval Hall main gates, grid ref: NZ321766
Leave Seaton Delaval Hall by the main gates, turn left on the footpath and follow the estate wall around the bend - as far as the gates to the grounds of the Church of Our Lady and its secluded graveyard. Retrace your steps back to the main road and turn left to walk up the Avenue towards Seaton Delaval.
Church of Our Lady
The Church of Our Lady was built by the Normans, and is more than 1,000 years old.
Turn left at the first junction (signposted 'Public Bridleway Holywell Dene') into Harbord Terrace. Go to the lane end, round the metal gate, and continue straight ahead between fields then through a kissing gate and onwards. To the left, see the obelisk which is a landscape feature of the hall's pleasure grounds and would be a focal point for the Delavals and their guests to walk to when the weather was fine (today it's on private farmland and is not accessible). The fields are called after the Dairy House Farm and Pit, which were in the hummocky area with several gorse bushes just before the next metal gate with a wooden bypass to its left. Carry straight on along the bridle way (signpost on right) to reach the wooded Holywell Dene.
Harbord Terrace, named after Elizabeth Evelyn Harbord the wife of the 20th Lord Hastings, was built in the late 19th century for estate workers; the first cottage was a smithy.
Go through the gate and turn right on to the footpath. Cross the former Blyth and Tyne railway cutting via the stone bridge and carry on to Holywell Village in the ancient parish of Earsdon. Walk straight ahead to the end of Holywell Dene Road and on the left see Strother Farm with its 17th-century house, thought to be all that is left of Sir Ralph Bates’ manor house. See the 17th-century gate piers on the west garden wall and the fine Boer War Memorial drinking fountain. In the field (private land) behind the manor house is a spring that was used by monks as they made their way between Tynemouth and Newsteads Abbey, near Morpeth - this is how Holywell was named.
Sir Ralph Bates
In 1753 Bates acted as surveyor for Northumberland on behalf of Queen Elizabeth and he also owned Bates Island, now known as St Mary’s Island.
Carefully cross the main road and go left down the pavement to enter the steep lane on the right, signposted 'Bridleway' and 'Heritage Way', leading to the picturesque 17th-century Holywell Bridge, an important river crossing in a leafy setting on the historic route between Tynemouth and Morpeth. Return up the lane and follow the footpath around the corner. Further on is the former 18th-century smithy and Ye Old Fat Ox, known earlier as the Red Cow. In 1808 Thomas Bates, a renowned agriculturalist, bred a short-horn bull said to weigh 122 stone (774kg), perhaps the source of the pub’s name. Cross over the road to the garage and turn right to The Milbourne Arms, built in 1905. Milbourne Hall, near Ponteland, was home to a Bates descendant. The pub replaced the 18th-century Half Moon whose stables survive at the rear. Take a moment to learn more about the village at the Art Stop, a repurposed bus stop. Retrace your steps along Holywell Dene Road and at the end of the road turn left on the pavement in front of the houses.
Walk along the footpath (signposted 'Footpath' and 'Heritage Trail') and follow the path around the edge of the field and past Holywell Pond Nature Reserve. There is a bird hide where you can stop and see many different birds on the water and water’s edge. Continue on the waymarked footpath that crosses the former railway track via two kissing gates and over the next field to arrive back at the iron gate you came through from the Dairy House Fields.
For the shorter walk, retrace your steps back through Dairy House Fields and Harbord Terrace to Seaton Delaval Hall. To continue on this walk go straight ahead along the wide grassy footpath, a wagonway that was in use by 1778. Deer can sometimes be seen in this field. As you walk beside the hawthorn hedge there are magnificent views of Seaton Delaval Hall and you can see the south front steps where Sir Francis Blake Delaval fell and broke his leg, from which he subsequently died in December 1752. The wagonway was used to carry the coal from the various mines in the area to Seaton Sluice, either for export or for the industry there. Climb over the stile at the iron gate and continue straight on to steep steps down to the left, over a stile, and down to another flight of steps to the bottom of Holywell Dene. To the right you can see the foundation stones of a timber viaduct built to carry the wagonway over the Seaton Burn.
In Saxon times, Holywell Dene was known as Merkell Dene.
Turn right and cross Seaton Burn using the wooden bridge, turn immediately left on the path, keeping the burn on your left-hand side. On the left are the remains of Starlight Castle. After a short distance further, on the left-hand side of the burn, are two 18th-century cottages and the site of Seaton Lodge, a large Jacobean house bought in 1694 by Sir Ralph Delaval and lived in by his brother Sir John Delaval. It was Sir John Delaval who sold most of the estate to Admiral George Delaval. Samuel Pepys is said to have stayed here in 1672 and, six years later, the Scottish inventor James Watt. The Lodge was demolished in the 1960s. Opposite, in the burn at low tide, can be seen the foundation stones of a footbridge used by the Delavals to reach the works complex in the now quiet and peaceful Seaton Sluice.
The castle was said to have been built in 24 hours by Sir Francis Blake Delaval for a wager of 100 guineas.
Continue around the burn side and under the road bridge, pause and then contemplate the scene in front of you. It is difficult to imagine that in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries Seaton Sluice was a major exporter of coal, salt and glass bottles. In 1777, thanks to the 'cut' in the cliffs created by the Delavals, the following were exported from this port - 80,000 tons of coal, 300 tons of salt, 1.75 million glass bottles.
Seaton Sluice harbour
The 'cut' was made by John and Thomas Delaval between 1761- 1764 and gave improved access for ships to the old harbour and also created the New Harbour, a wet/dry dock, to allow the loading of cargo at all states of the tide and weather. This also created Rocky Island. The isolated sandstone pinnacle is known as Charlie’s Garden, named after the person who cultivated the top of it before the sea finally eroded the rocks between it and the mainland. It is not a sea stack but the result of 19th-century quarrying.
Retrace your steps (do not go under the road bridge) but turn right to cross over the metal footbridge. Then turn left and down the short flight of steps to pass under the road bridge and continue half right to reach the street of bungalows (Seaburn Grove), bear right in front of the bungalows.
At the roundabout turn left and stay on the pavement all the way back to the hall. As you climb, notice the old wall on your left topped by slag, which is a waste product of glass making. Beyond the wall lay Lord Delaval's deer park, and above that his hare park. On your right, notice Lookout Farmhouse built in 1721 and used as a lookout post in time of war. Opposite it you may be able to glimpse the Mausoleum. Further on you may also see, over the wall, the Orangery and the houses previously used by the garden employees. You will then reach your original starting point at the main gates of the hall.
Built in 1776 by Sir John Hussey Delaval for his son John who died in 1775 aged 19, the Mausoleum was never consecrated and John is buried at Doddington, Lincolnshire.
Seaton Delaval Hall main gates, grid ref: NZ321766
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