The woodland that developed within the dene is characteristic of the area and includes lime loving species such as elm, ash and large numbers of mature native yew on the northern slopes.
Snowdrops, wild garlic and bluebells carpet the woodland floor from Spring and uncommon species such as bird’s-nest orchid and herb Paris can also be found. There are a wide range of woodland birds including jay, treecreeper and great spotted woodpecker and roe deer are regularly seen.
What makes Hawthorn Dene such a special place is that it offers much more than woodland. Within the dene is a species rich magnesian limestone meadow on the site of Hawthorn Towers, once owned by the Pemberton family before falling into disrepair and finally being demolished in 1969.
The remains of the private railway platform that served the house can still be seen. The Dene itself stretches down to the sea, opening out under an impressive railway viaduct onto Hawthorn Hive, with cliffs and rocky shore. Hawthorn Dene definitely provides something to see at any time of the year.
At the coast visitors can follow the coastal path northwards towards Seaham, or south to Beacon Hill and onwards down the Durham Heritage Coast. Keen walkers can head Trust’s Blackhall Rocks reserve.