As you approach the long winding driveway at The Newt you are immediately intrigued by what is waiting for you around the corner. A friendly face emerges from a shepherd’s hut, welcoming you to this Georgian country house. Leading you past the converted barn spa, a path draws you towards this historic English mansion, now a beautiful country retreat.
Hadspen House was bought in 2013 by South African hoteliers Koos Bekker and Karen Roos who drafted up big-scale plans to reinvigorate this Grade II listed property. However, work was briefly halted due to it being home to a colony of 2,000 protected newts, hence the name: The Newt.
Set amongst 800 acres, the landscape provides long sweeping vistas with views over the Mendip Hills with its gardens being some of the finest I’ve seen. As you turn your head across the views, different water features draw your eye to points in the distance often showcasing a sculpture or home-grown vegetables.
Concentric circles make up the walled Parabola in which all the apples are grown for their in-house “cyder” (sic) production using a state-of-the-art cider press with tours around the Press and Cellar available throughout the day.
With an on-site shop, the butcher serves meat from local farms. We picked up an ossobuco cut from a Hereford cross to make a slow-cooked beef stew for supper at the weekend along with a Chardonnay imported from Mr Bekker’s vineyard at Bablyonstoren, South Africa. The South African connection was one that brings back memories of our honeymoon, tasting deep oaky whites in the valley of Franschhoek. The shop houses a fabulous cheese counter, with a surprise of buffalo mozzarella on the list, from a nearby herd of buffalo.
There is so much to see, taste and smell here amongst the 800 acres from the cider press, bakery and café overlooking the rolling hills to the many numbers of walks available that we didn’t have time to explore it all,
Lunch in the Botanical Rooms
Situated in a glass box extension attached to the 17th century building, The Botanical Rooms refer to a light, airy courtyard with lime trees lining the space. Autumnal flavours dominated the starters with Jerusalem artichoke featuring heavily. We went for confit chicken wings with a pickled egg-yolk and artichokes with the estate’s homegrown mushrooms, Tambour cheese and pickled walnuts.
After we gorged on the locally sourced, freshly picked offering, we retreated to the Drawing Room to sample their selection of the finest teas along with a beautiful selection of fresh pastries and cakes.
There is no doubt, they have done an incredible job renovating this working estate in the Somerset hills. It’s unsurprising given that the owners, hoteliers Koos Bekker, a South African-born media mogul and his wife Karen Roos, ex-Elle Decoration editor already own Babylonstoren Wine Estate just outside Stellenbosch, South Africa and they have applied the same magic to The Newt.
The Newt is a beautiful mixture of English heritage mixed with sophisticated, contemporary design topped with the most friendly, professional service. With an abundance of things to do and so much to explore, you’ll be booking a return visit before you leave.