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I wasn’t planning to visit The Newt in Somerset again this month, but the meet-up rules had been relaxed, and I was due to pass over my previous camera to my bridge partner, Daphne. It had been she who had told me about The Newt when it opened in 2019, but my one planned visit there in August had been thwarted by bad weather (which led to my London friend Mary and I going to the nearby Haynes International Motor Museum instead).

Daphne and I had not seen each other since 5th March, the last bridge club meeting before my Morocco trip. Greeting each other with a socially distanced hug, we exchanged carrier bags via the boot of my car, and started up the entrance path.

The Newt is now charging again, but Daphne and I were already members, so we were able to bypass the ticket building to get in.

Near the top of the path to the ‘Threshing Barn’, it was sad to see that a magnificent beech tree was being removed. It was diseased on the inside apparently.

There is still a theoretical one-way system, and we were channelled through the barn.

Along withe the charges have been restored the gift shop, and the ability to buy beverages and ice-cream.

We partook of neither, and indeed our intention was to avoid the most frequented parts of the gardens. We turned off left therefore to the Marl Pit and the Marl Pit Copse.

I have just realised. This is built to the same design as the neolithic Sweet Track, dated very precisely by dendrochronology to 3807 BC, and situated perhaps 20 miles away on the Avalon Marshes/Somerset Levels.

On a day that was to become very hot indeed, it was wonderfully fresh, with the sunlight trickling down through the trees. I hadn’t explored this area on my two previous visits.

We continued into the deer park with no real expectation of seeing any deer, but we did just get a glimpse.

We went on to the walkway to Museum of Gardening, itself closed of course. In any case I’m told you must allow at least two hours to do the museum justice. It has a refreshment area to keep you going.

Looking down from the walkway…
… which Daphne is doing.
It sinews around.

From the museum, we walked to the end of the grounds of the Newt, though beyond is still part of the whole estate. I do not recall this dovecot (if that is what it is) beyond the boundary being there in January. It is built in the same style, stone and roofing as the rest of the new build at the Newt.

We ambled back. (Ambling is now allowed as ‘The Rules’ no longer require that you be outdoors only for essential shopping, and exercise.)

Until I saw this photo, taken, obviously, by Daphne, I thought my hair must need cutting.
The Kitchen garden, the almost invisible so-called Bathing Pond (that is apparently what it was used for, but not now), the Long Walk, and Hapsden House, now a luxury hotel.

Returned from the Deer Park, we ventured a little into the more crowded ‘pretty’ areas, but did not plunge in.

This was filled with tulips on my last visit, three weeks previously. I wonder what will be there on my next visit.
We stayed at the top…
… and walked along this people-less path …
… to the Cottage Garden.
Once through the arch I looked back

Finally there was the ‘Woodland Walks and Mound ‘ area, which I had not seen on previous visits.

I almost got my ducks in a row.

We climbed The Mound, of which I forgot to take a photo. It’s basically an upside-down pudding bowl with a gentle spiral path to get to the top.

But the top was a little crowded so we didn’t stay long.

It was time to go – once I had bought my Newt in Somerset cyder (sic) – leaving by the one way system exit, which meant passing the diseased beech on its other side. It had lost a few more branches, which were being removed one by one. No ‘Timber….!!!!’ was to follow i was told when I asked. It might have been worth staying to watch if so!

Daphne and I had had much digital and telephone contact in the twelve weeks since we had seen each other, but there is nothing like actually being with a friend and together doing something you both like. And now restrictions are to be relaxed further as from tomorrow, another bridge friend is immediately taking advantage of that and has invited three of us round to her garden, not of course for bridge – which would not be within guidelines, sensible, or practical – but for a good old chinwag, socially distanced of course. We will even each take our own beverages.