If you walk left on entering the Newt in Somerset, past the shop selling artisanal wares, up the slope and into the deer park, you will arrive at an avenue of pines edging an old Roman road. It’s a good place to view the monumental scale of the work that has taken place on the 800-acre Hadspen estate since the South African, Koos Bekker, and his wife Karen Roos bought it in 2013.
Look west, towards the 17th-century, Grade II*-listed Hadspen House and you can take in the owners’ masterplan, designed by the French architect Patrice Taravella. There are the pretty squares of the kitchen garden; the egg-shaped “parabola”, a walled labyrinth featuring 267 varieties of apple tree; a cascade of ponds; a Victorian glasshouse; a cottage orné; and a succession of pools and lawns leading up to the house itself, once the seat of the Hobhouse family, now a hotel.
“It’s best to think of the Newt as a garden with a hotel attached rather than a hotel with a garden attached,” is how visitor manager Arthur Cole puts it. The estate has 300 years of horticultural history to draw upon – the original estate featured a French garden of limes and elms; the great garden designer Penelope Hobhouse lived here until 1979; and artists Nori and Sandra Pope opened their celebrated “colour gardens” here in 1987, now reimagined in red, blue and white – but still, many visitors are surprised at the extent of the Bekker-Roos vision.
From the vast yew hedge (shipped in fully mature from Belgium) that surrounds the badminton court, to the state-of-the-art cider-making facilities and garden-to-table restaurant, the whole place has a no-expense-spared vibe about it. The Newt is named after the 2,000 crested newts that occupy the site – but its scale