A Classic Nature Reserve
Just beyond the North Tyneside Border, as you cross over into Northumberland, with the coast to the east you can find the town of Holywell. Holywell Pond which is rich in birds, is adjacent to the former estate associated with Seaton Delavel Hall which is now managed and owned by the National Trust. Holywell Pond, is managed by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and is a large subsidence pond with reed beds, woodland and grassland along the outskirts.
The pond can be enjoyed from the west from the NWT members bird hide, (keys are available to members of the NWT for a small charge) or from a pubic hide to the east where access is free. There are bird feeders to the left and right of the NWT hide and there is a feeding station, with a screen along the main path between the two hides; which is accessible to the public.
The bird feeders are well loved by the local Woodpeckers and woodland birds which can include Tree Sparrow in present times. Brambling visit some years during the winter months . A small team of NWT volunteer wardens help manage the reserve. Holywell Pond is great for wildfowl all year round and attracts a good selection of birds throughout the year.
Since the landfill closed in Seghill, the site is less popular with Gulls; however a wide variety continue to visit, which can include Greater Black backed, Glaucous, Iceland or Mediterranean Gull some years.
“In the early 90’s Ruddy Ducks started to colonise Holywell Pond and for many years were a popular attraction. Since the UK eradication programme of the Ruddy Duck’s due to concerns of inter breeding with White headed Ducks, they are no longer present.”
Grey Herons are often easy to find, and there is always a good selection of wildfowl. Pochards have remained loyal and at times Pintails come to visit. Good numbers of Little Grebes are recorded and their distinctive whinnying trill call is easy to hear. Great crested Grebes are not as common in recent times, but are always worth watching out for.
Over the past decade as Buzzard populations have recovered in the north east of England, they have extended their range. At times they can be found visiting the reserve. Other birds of prey such as Sparrowhawks and Kestrels are regulars; whilst Hobby occasionally pass through.
The exposed mud areas in front of the public hide attract waders such as Common, Curlew, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Greenshank, Little Stint, Golden and Ringed Plovers, Redshank, Spotted Redshank; and Curlew, Lapwing and Snipe. There is also a scrape behind the pond at times, which can be easily viewed from a main path beyond the outskirts of the reserve.
“In the 1980’s the site was well known for a resident Ring-necked Duck which remained in the area for a few years”.
Other wildfowl of note have included an American Wigeon in 2015, an Egyptian Goose in 2014 and a Red-crested Pochard in 1999. In recent years there has also been a couple of inland records of Slavonian Grebe’s which were very popular with local wildlife photographers.
A well maintained path travels along the back of the reserve from the A190 and to Holywell Dene. This area is well loved by Goldfinches and Yellowhammers. During the spring/summer months a good selection of Warblers are present, which can include Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat. Holywell Dene follows the route of the Seaton Burn freshwater stream to the coast; past Hartley and joining the sea at Seaton Sluice. Just a short distance away towers the lighthouse on St Mary’s Island.
Over the past two decades the familiar Grey Partridges have been joined by Red-legged Partridges and the northern expansion of Little Egrets has inevitably, brought individuals to Holywell Pond also. These visits continue to be infrequent at the moment and don’t attract as many birders, when compared to the 1992 bird, which was considered a major twitch for the county at the time.
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Wheelchair users can usually access this nature reserve easily. Vegetation can at times be overgrown on route to the bird hide. A downloadable access sheet is available from the NWT website at www.nwt.org.uk
Members of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust can obtain keys for a small charge to the locked hide, which is located to the left of the reserve. There is no public access to this hide. To the right of the reserve there is a second hide, which is accessible to the public. There are toilets in the nearby town of Seaton Delaval.
Visitors can park in the Holywell housing estate.
More information is available from the NWT website at www.nwt.org.uk