Babylonstoren 2 opens as The Newt in Somerset in the UK, celebrates local produce, history, and beauty!



It was by chance that I heard about The Newt in Somerset opening in the UK last year, a property which Babylonstoren owners Koos Bekker and Karen Roos bought in 2013 as Hadspen House, renaming the renovated estate, and turning it into a property similar to Babylonstoren outside Franschhoek.

The property has a number of attractions, the more famous being that it was in the Hobhouse family for 230 years, the best known member being Penelope Hobhouse, a renowned gardener. The estate dates back to the 1680s, and is Grade II listed. The other attraction for the couple, for Bekker especially, is his Iove for trees, and he imported an apple tree related to the one that Isaac Newton created the Law of Gravity from, when an apple from it fell onto Newton’s head when he lay under it, and had it planted at Babylonstoren. The Newt has a maze with 460 apple trees and 267 varieties, grouped by region of origin, Somerset being well-known for its apples. 

Babylonstoren opened its gates in 2010, a Cape Dutch farm which is best-known for its vegetable and fruit garden, landscaped by French architect Patrice Taravella, which supplies its restaurants Babel and the Greenhouse with produce. It also produces wines, and opened a shop from which it sells home decor items, hats, cheeses, meats, breads, preserves, and Babylonstoren wines.

Garden of Babylonstoren is its heart, reflects passion of owner Koos Bekker!

Taravella was commissioned to landscape the gardens at The Newt too, the 30 hectare property having a mix of woodland, planted gardens, and landscapes parklands. The property was named after the Great Crested Newt, an amphibian looking like a lizard, and a protected species in the UK. Newts live in ponds in summer, and in the woodlands in winter. The gardens reflect the history of the property, and its past owners, as well as of British gardening.

Karen Roos was the editor of Elle Decor, and has proven her flair for decor at Babylonstoren. She engaged Simon Murray-Jones architectural firm for the renovations, working with him to ‘celebrates the setting by responding to the light, the green woods and the Georgian building itself’. The stone mansion dates back to 1745, and was modernised to accommodate the needs of hotel guests. The property reflects cultural, natural, and traditional influences. Roos says she fell in love with Somerset a number of years ago. She was inspired by English period films, such as ‘Howard’s End’ and ‘Gosford Park’.




Roos did the interior design herself, blending traditional and contemporary decor touches. Portraits of the Hobhouse family members adorn the walls. 


The Newt includes a hotel, gardens, orchards, a Cider Cellar, a Deli, a Bakery, Gelateria, a buffalo herd from which mozzarella is made from the milk, restaurants, a Spa, and a garden museum. Accommodation costs £400 with breakfast, and £490 with dinner included too. 

The estate has been designed as a celebration of local beauty, produce, history.
Roos says about The Newt: ‘Babylonstoren is about mountains, wine, the Spice Route and subtropical fruit. Somerset is about cows in meadows producing milk for cheese, apple orchards that turn into cider and woods of oak and beech. We tried to capture some of that’.
The Newt is on my list to visit on my next trip to the UK. 
The Newt in Somerset, A359, Hadspen, Burton, Castle Cary BA7 7NG, United Kingdom. Tel +44 1963 577777 Twitter: @TheNewtinSomerset Instagram: @thenewtinsomerset

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide


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