by Tom Mulvihill, The Telegraph, April 17, 2018
Having won the hearts of countless visitors to the Cape Winelands with Babylonstoren – the much lauded Cape Dutch farmhouse turned boutique hotel – businessman and hotelier Koos Bekker will be hoping to earn similar adulation for his new venture: an English manor house in rural Somerset.
The South African magazine magnate has bought 17th-century Hadspen House, close to the small market town of Castle Cary and erstwhile home of the prolific Hobhouse family (including the Liberal politician, Arthur Hobhouse, who was one of the founders of the England and Wales national parks system).
There are several encouraging parallels which point towards Bekker replicating the success of Babylonstoren, a historic farmhouse set amidst the Cape vineyards surrounding Stellenbosch.
Bekker took ownership of the then-working-farm in 2007 and three years later reopened it as a hotel, combining the heritage architecture with contemporary style and supplementing the dramatic setting with a destination restaurant, as well as a spa and pool.
Much along the same lines, planning applications submitted to Somerset South District Council detail a number of potential developments at Hadspen House, including a ‘pool barn’, a spa, a restaurant, a garden café and approximately 30 guest rooms in the Grade II-listed main house, which is expected to open in 2019.
Several outbuildings have also been listed for redevelopment, including a granary, a stable block and a cider press.
Further plans are afoot to restore Hadspen’s 300 acres of parkland, which includes a walled potager and an Arts and Crafts garden designed by the writer and presenter Penelope Hobhouse.
The grounds will be open to the public for the first time since the house was put up for sale in 2012, along with a new, purpose-built garden museum.
The new park at Hadspen also draws further comparisons with Babylonstoren, which is famous for its eight-acre kitchen garden: to date the only Royal Horticultural Society-partnered garden in Africa.
The Caterer has also reported that day-to-day operations will be run by Andrew Foulkes, the award-winning general manager formerly of the Abbey Hotel in Bath.