What’s in a name? Well in our case, it’s rather a curious story…the story of a small critter who caused a big scene.

Hadspen House had been the seat of the Hobhouse family for more than two centuries, until 2013 when we became its latest custodians. Little did we know that all the while, another resident had been quietly enjoying the estate.

Restorations and reimaginations of the house and gardens began in earnest in 2014. Italo-French architect Patrice Taravella, who also designed the gardens of Babylonstoren, had sketched and created his plans for our gardens, linking the house to the original walled Parabola through a series of pathways and planting. But when ground broke, plans were scuppered by some unsuspecting amphibians: newts of the Great Crested, Smooth and Palmate varieties.

Newts, as it turns out, are a protected species in Europe – and they are not fond of landscaping works. We carefully relocated them while the works continued, which delayed building progress for quite some time; but we were glad to protect our amphibian friends and housed them back in specially-built lily ponds, filled with lily pads for hiding under and ladders for climbing over.

We take great care of our newts and estimate that over three thousand live here. The Great Crested, the UK’s biggest, can grow up to seventeen centimetres long and live for fifteen years. Its skin is black and warty with a bright orange belly, patterned with spots as unique as a fingerprint. Spending part of the year on land, newts possess an incredible ability to regenerate, retaining their structural properties – quite fitting for an estate that continues to regenerate itself, don’t you think?

The next time you visit, see if you can spot any newts lurking under the lily pads…