Ashridge Nurseries Blog & Recipes

Hadspen House Gardens - now the Newt in Somerset

The Ashridge Nurseries team was honoured to be invited to the pre-launch opening of The Newt in Somerset last Thursday. Now, you may well ask, what on earth might that be all about?  In short The Newt is a stunning recreation of Hadspen House gardens and estate.

The family seat of the Hobhouse family for two centuries, Hadspen dates back to the 18th century. The original farmhouse was built by William Player, who created formal gardens and courts with two fountains and avenues on three axes within a private park of 300 acres. Terraces and more formal gardens were created in the 20th century whilst a walled parabola-shaped garden was created by Penelope Hobhouse and opened to visitors in 1970.

Recently bought by South African Koos Bekker, this historic estate has been transformed with a boutique hotel, spa, restaurant and café plus a cider press and farm shop. Extensive woods and gardens have been planted which include a kitchen garden, fragrance garden and a parabola-walled garden showcasing apple trees from across the UK. It’s an impressive project, with the official opening due on 11th May and the hotel and spa taking bookings from July this year.

Ashridge Nurseries has supplied a wide variety of the plants and trees over the past year or so and we were thrilled to attend the pre-launch opening to admire the landscape and gardens designed with such innovative and creative style.

Having parked (even the car park is a work of art, chock full of formal ornamental trees and herbs planted in dividing beds), we made our way to the gatehouse, along an impressive wooden walkway to a new threshing barn, and then into an open courtyard area with the garden shop on the left and cider press to the right.

The highlight for me was unquestionably the apple tree parabola. Within it lies a maze, the design inspired by the Baroque gardens brought to Britain from the Dutch Republic by William and Mary. It’s inspired, clever and immensely accomplished – a classic combination of water features and intricate geometry contrasting Baroque flamboyance with the simplicity and homeliness of apple trees.

Sourced from all major apple producing counties in the UK, including of course Somerset, there are more than 250 varieties in the parabola alone. Trained and coaxed into astonishing shapes, including spirals and double helices, they’re a masterclass in showing how, given the expertise, you can train a fruit tree into virtually any shape you want it to be!

Other fruit trees such as quince and damson have been planted outside the parabola – they’ll be trained on chestnut fan-shaped trellises (chestnut is a hard wood and should last for decades).

Other highlights include a Victorian fragrance garden, the prettiest cottage garden, tulips and wallflowers, bathing pond, mushroom house and greenhouse. An entirely envy-inducing kitchen garden brims with near perfect vegetables and has a great view of the house, whilst throughout, herbs border many of the beds and an area of yew hedging is destined to become a topiary expert’s dream.

Victorian Fragrance Garden

Cottage Garden

Tulips and wallflowers

Kitchen garden with view of Hadspen House

Trained apple with chives

Yew hedging

I also loved the fact that the cafés use food grown on the estate as well as championing Somerset fare. It’s certainly worth a visit and may in some small way inspire us all to create something wonderful in our own gardens.


14 thoughts on “Hadspen House Gardens - now the Newt in Somerset”

  • Terry Yorke

    What a wonderful place this has been transformed into,you must be immensely proud to have had a hand in this work of art.

    I think this is the place we used to visit many year ago,where they sold a small variety of plants,and sold teas from a small stone building,and the gardens over grown,we adopted a little boy that was profoundly deaf and blind he loved it there,we payed many frequent visits.

    • Mark Cadbury

      Thank you for your comments, it is a work of art, as you say. I hope you enjoyed you recent visit. All the very best. Mark

  • Amanda

    Your achievements look stunning - but what happened to the borders of Sandra and Nori Pope? I used to visit and think their use of colour and texture was inspirational.

    • Mark Cadbury

      Ashridge Nurseries was only responsible for supplying plants, particularly trees, and not the design or the texture and colour of the borders. Niall Hobhouse razed the borders and opened up the opportunity for a bold and untried design approach which he threw open to competition, which created the original parabola. That was back in 2007 and the current garden design has moved on from that. There is no doubt that the Popes created an "extraordinary kind of rolling theatre"and "a colour themed garden of renowned brilliance". I would recommend a visit to what is now another adventure in the evolution of Hadspen.

  • J A Eldridge

    How much is the entrance fee to the garden? 14/06/19 please?

    • Mark Cadbury

      The ticket prices are £15 for adults and £7 children. You can convert to a season ticket, allowing unlimited entry until 31st December 2019, if you download the app onto your mobile phone. I hope you enjoy it.

    • John Adkins

      30 years ago we visited Hadspen House and I noticed some bamboo growing in the grounds, I thought this would be suitable for runner bean canes. We had move to our forever home in South Wales and I asked if we could buy some of the growing bamboo and the guy there said yes and dug a huge lump out. We planted it in our garden and for over 20 years we have been harvesting it for runners beans etc. This morning we went out and cut 24 canes for this years beans. I thought I'd look up Hadspen house to see if it still had a garden centre, seems not but looks a beautiful hotel now.

      • Mark Cadbury

        John, Hadspen House is a hotel, unfortunately not open at the moment. The gardens are called The Newt, and are a real treat if you get the chance to visit again, it's worth it, when they reopen, hopefully sometime soon.

  • Kathy May

    I am the sister of Sandra Pope and my dear brother inlaw Nori has passed away. He and my sister created the beautiful Colour by Design garden and brought the world to Hadspen Gardens. Even though he is gone and Hadspen Gardens that my sister and he created is gone his spirit lives on in the new Hadspen Garden creation. We loved you Nori and all of us whose life you touched are remembering you in every plant we see. xxKathy May

    • Mark Cadbury

      Dear Kathy

      That's very sad news, but he will be remembered for creating fantastic gardens with your sister, and his legacy will live on.


      • Jennifer Annette Titus
        Jennifer Annette Titus 22nd January 2021 at 2:02 am

        i too visited hadspen gardens back in "the day"in 1993. the highlight of my trip was meeting sandra and nori pope. they asked "where are you from?" I told them and they knew exactly where i came from. turns out, they are from vancouver island and planned on speaking in bellingham , washington the coming fall. we were so excited to have them visit our small town. i have many cherished photos of the garden. we remember speaking to the gentleman who was repointing the bricks in the kitchen garden. oh memories.

  • Chris Box

    I visited Hadspen Gardens several times while I was studying garden design and horticulture..years ago now! Sandra and Nori Pope were absolutely lovely and I learned so much from them. I'm so sad that their wonderful garden is no more.

  • Barbara Nelmes

    Visited Hadspen House and gardens with Historic Houses. Had a very enjoyable day with lunch. Would have liked to have been able to bring literature on the house home to read. Staff were very knowledgeable helpful and friendly.

    • Ashridge Nurseries
      Ashridge Nurseries 12th September 2021 at 8:51 pm

      Hello Barbara,
      I don't know of a book on Hadspen House specifically, although I imagine that Penelope Hobhouse would have written about it in her gardening books. I have not read it myself, but perhaps Color by Design by Nori and Sandra Pope might have something for you.
      Good luck!

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