🔒 Boer war heroine honoured at Koos Bekker’s cider farm in England

LONDON — The South African billionaire, Koos Bekker has managed to turn his Franschhoek wine farm, Babylonstoren into a major selfie destination. And now it seems he is taking it global. He and his wife Karen Roos have bought a historic mansion, Hadspen House in Somerset, England and is turning it into a cider farm and they are doing it in true South African style. You can spend the day munching on a bit of cheese, drink cider or apple juice, look at the deer and breathe in a bit of fresh country air about two and a half hours drive from London. It is near Glastonbury, the summer music festival spot attracting musicians and mud squelching supporters every year at the end of June. A little bit of digging revealed why he had his eye on this estate, it used to be owned by the Hobhouse family, relatives of Emily Hobhouse, who brought the concentration camps in the Boer war to British attention. It is now called the Emily Estate and they are opening in the English Spring. – Linda van Tilburg

By Thulasizwe Sithole

Naspers chairman, Koos Bekker has almost completed his project of transforming a beautiful country house in Somerset, England into a cider farm and tourist destination. Initially the buzz was that Johnny Depp was buying Hadspen House, but it was Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos who snapped up the property.

Judging from his application to the South Somerset District Council, the house and its 121 hectares will have a luxury hotel, garden café, spa, visitor centre, deer park museum and there will be a farm shop and a cider mill. And added to this, the Estate has also applied for permission to build a Roman villa and a museum. The cider mill will produce “juices and ciders from orchards on the estate.”

According to the plans submitted to the local council, “cider production will be of a small commercial scale producing a premier craft product with total volumes in the region of 75,000 – 100,000 litres per year using apples grown on the estate and the surrounding area.” And in the tradition of South African wine farms, there will off course be tasting.

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The estate is called the Emily Estate as it was bought by the Hobhouse family in 1785 in whose ownership it remained for two centuries. Emily Hobhouse brought the suffering of Boers, especially the women and children in the concentration camps to public attention in the UK and was instrumental in the British government’s decision to reform its policy.

The Emily Estate also plan to create a museum dedicated to Emily Hobhouse in Cornwall. The Cornish Times reports that the estate has been given permission to restore The Chantry, a vicarage in St Ives in Cornwall where Hobhouse was born. “The firm applied for listed building consent for external and internal works to house and stable yard buildings including the removal of modern features and the reinstatement of original materials and design.”

Bekker’s Emily Estate is actively advertising for staff for his new enterprise; the plan is to create 76 new jobs in Somerset. Advertisements in the local press and on national websites include openings for a night manager, guest relations host, housekeeper, cheesemonger, cider maker’s assistant, graphic designer and retail team member inviting people “who would love to work on an English country estate steeped in heritage, surrounded by beautiful gardens.”

Bekker’s English cider version of  Babylonstoren, the wine farm he turned into a successful venture in the Western Cape, will be opened in the English spring, that is around March or April this year.

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