Sometimes, being forced to delay an event can be a blessing in disguise, as proved to be the case for our visit to The Newt in Somerset
. Originally planned for March 2020, we instead arrived on the most glorious June day with plenty of shade from trees in full leaf and flowers in abundance. More of that later.
Firstly, a brief history.
The estate dates back to the 17th Century and was owned by successive generations of the Hobhouse family until a South African businessman bought the estate in 2012. Since then he has spared no expense (£100m+) in creating a modern 'estate' that has the splendour of a National Trust property with modern twists in both design and architecture. It houses gardens, both formal and informal, woodland, a hotel, various restaurants and cafes, exhibitions and event space, There is more, as we discovered.
Some may be aware of the 'brand' from their 2022 sponsorship of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Not only do the staff and visitors reflect a multitude of non-UK accents, but there are numerous and welcoming references to other languages in subtle signage around the estate, but not in a uniform or contrived way. Readers no doubt discover their own language as a pleasant surprise, a welcome nod of acknowledgement.
On to our tour.
Hugh and Lynn Williams are members of The Newt and, knowing what to expect (unlike the rest of our party of 18 Members), kindly offered to make the arrangements... and pick the perfect day. After a short briefing in the car park followed by a welcome coffee, we were escorted around the gardens by Luke, one of the gardening staff (who all take their turn at greeting groups).
Our tour started at the crescent wall that protects the hillside orchard, revealed as we made our way through a 'rustic' doorway. What a view from there across the valley and into the far distance. Too many planting and design features to list here, save to say that non-gardeners were not bored!
Luke (left) points out the complex artistry of the stonework at our feet.
From there to the formal vegetable beds, wild grasses, hen house that would make a superb multi-car garage (if there was road access), water gardens and the long lawn leading the hotel (residents only). He left us for our introduction to 'Beezantium' (bee keeping) and then we were free to wander in the woods. A vantage
point (like what I did there?) included modern binoculars atop a spiral mound with views across to King Alfred's Tower and other notable landmarks in other directions.
Some of us went for lunch, some went for a picnic, some went for ice cream and some finished our day by visiting the Story of Gardening interactive exhibition, for which we were encouraged to remove our shoes for the full sensory experience.
If you're thinking of visiting, do so.
Thank you to Hugh from 'our side' and Beth at The Newt in Somerset along with her many colleagues in the background who helped to make it such a memorable day for Area 4.
No AMOC report would be complete without the obligatory car pic!
L-R Vanquish (Grahame & Rosemary Jupp), V8 Vantage (Geoff & Sue Cahalin), Rapide S (Anthony & Barbara King), DB9 GT 'Bond Edition' (Andrew & Gillian Fawkes), 1933 Le Mans (Hugh & Lynn Williams). Front: DB9 GT Volante (Andy & Maggie Dowden). Out of shot: John & Liz Cheyne 1971 DBS. Unable to bring Astons on this occasion were: Mike & Beverley Jones, David & Sarah Bryers, Debbie Fortune & Mark Hayward.
Andrew leads the thanks for Hugh (out of shot)
The apple is a major theme of the venue
One of many water features... some include newts!
View to the hotel
Another inviting doorway
Inside the glasshouse
Paths and borders abound
Here are some more photos kindly provided by Geoff Cahalin: