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REVEALED: The Newt’s owners Emily Estate allows fox hunting on even more of its land

Protect the Wild’s campaign, urging luxury hotel business The Newt in Somerset to end its ties with fox hunting, has uncovered more links with the criminal Blackmore and Sparkford Vale (BSV) Hunt.

The prestigious Hotel has allowed the BSV to meet on its grounds and has refused to confirm that it will ban the hunt in the future. Now we can reveal that Emily Estate (UK) Ltd – which lists its registered offices at The Newt – owns even more land in Somerset that is being used for the gruesome bloodsport.

Emily Estate includes not only the expansive grounds of the Newt – which prides itself on being the world’s best boutique hotel – but also a number of farms and woodland in the area, located in the Shepton Montague area, close to Castle Cary in Somerset. Much of the land and properties were bought between 2017 and 2019 for large sums of money. North Acre farm, for example, was sold to Emily Estate for £1.5 million.

 

BSV hounds in shepton montague
BSV hounds in Shepton Montague on 22 January 2024. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs

Emily Estate farms and woods used for hunting

In previous articles, we have outlined how the estate – owned by South African billionaire Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos – likes to portray itself as a wholesome, sustainable business, in harmony with wildlife. We do not believe that to be true. We’ve provided proof that the BSV has been hosted on the hotel’s land, and we’ve also outlined how The Newt’s estate manager has a number of connections with hunting and the BSV.

Protect the Wild can now confirm that Emily Estate allowed the BSV to hunt on a number of the estate’s properties as recently as January 2024.

On 22 January, both North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs and Weymouth Animals Rights were on the ground, following the BSV as it hunted through much of the area featured in the map below. The groups each made a HIT report – that is, a detailed account of the day – which they published on Facebook. By studying both the sabs’ reports, and also their photos, we can see that Lily Farm, Searts Farm and Lily Wood – all owned by Emily Estate – were used by the BSV that day. Furthermore, North Acre Farm – also owned by the estate – was likely used. Note that on this map The Newt is labelled under its old name, Hadspen House.

 

BSV movements on 22 January
Much of this area is owned by Emily Estate, and was used by the BSV to hunt foxes on 22 January 2024. ©Crown copyright 2024 Ordnance Survey. Media 044/24. The licence is valid until 31 December 2024.

 

North Dorset Sabs’ report described the latter part of the BSV’s hunting day on Emily Estate land:

“Moving southwest the BSV crossed East Street below Shepton Montague and drew Lily Wood southwest of Bratton Seymore next to the A371. Here there was brief excitement for the few followers who had bothered to stay. The hounds went into cry for all of thirty seconds but were pulled up when it was realised they had rioted on deer.”

Meanwhile, Weymouth Animal Rights’ account of the day stated:

“The hunt pursued southwest and were seen around North Acre Farm, with point riders positioned around the hill. After seemingly drawing a blank, they were next at Lily Wood, where supporters were lining the road. At this point, they were seemingly licking their chops in wait for the kill that had not yet been seen. No such luck for them.”

 

deer disturbed by the BSV
Deer flee from Lily Wood after BSV hounds riot on them on 22 January 2024. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs

 

Protect the Wild has also analysed the sab groups’ photos from the day, and has found that the BSV rode through Emily Estate-owned Searts Farm after leaving Lily Wood. And according to North Dorset Sabs, the BSV used the estate’s Lily Farm to load their hounds at the end of the day.

The sabs stated:

“That ended the day very early at 3.20pm and, defeated, the hunt moved forlornly back to their boxes not far away at Lily Farm. Sabs were over the moon!”

Despite this evidence, Emily Estate may insist that it doesn’t allow the BSV onto its land. Protect the Wild argues that if this is the case, then the estate is doing absolutely nothing about a criminal hunt trespassing onto its properties. It is, of course, highly likely that the estate has given the BSV permission to use its farms – after all, estate manager Susan Seager is a hunt supporter.

 

The BSV rides through Searts Farm on 22 January. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Sabs
The BSV rides through Searts Farm on 22 January. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Sabs

 

BSV hounds being loaded at Lily Farm on 22 January 2024. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Sabs

The Newt itself is used by the BSV – despite what the business says

Protect the Wild has contacted The Newt hotel itself numerous times to ask it to permanently ban the BSV from meeting on its land. It is common knowledge to locals that the hotel, with its lavish grounds, has been used on different occasions to host the BSV. But there has seemingly been a concerted effort by the hunt (or by The Newt) to remove any photo evidence of this from the internet. For example, professional hunting photographer Emma Harris had previously uploaded a folder of photos of the BSV on the Newt estate, but it has now been taken down.

The Newt finally responded to our campaign – but only after 11,000 people emailed the hotel, urging it to ban the BSV.  The reply was not only deliberately misleading, but skirted around the issue. It stated:

 

The Newt responds to PTW
The Newt’s response to Protect the Wild deliberately skirts around the issue.

 

Protect the Wild founder Rob Pownall replied, stating:

“The campaign has centred around a simple ask that the hunt not be allowed to meet or be hosted by yourselves and this isn’t something your email addresses in any way. When you say that ‘nor is any hunt of any description at all scheduled to occur on the estate’ does this mean that the Newt will publicly state that any hunt will not be allowed to meet on hotel land?

This is a very crucial point. It’s about stopping the hunt from meeting there and being wined and dined by the hotel as well as any potential hunting itself that may occur.”

It came as little surprise to us that The Newt ignored this question.

Pownall continued:

“But the point of this campaign isn’t about whether foxes are actually being hunted directly on hotel land but asking that the hotel stops allowing the hunt to meet there before going on to hunt elsewhere. So could you please clarify for me whether the hunt and indeed all hunts are to be banned on hotel land for the foreseeable future?”

Pownall’s question was, once again, ignored. In its vague email to us, The Newt has attempted to avoid reputational damage by trying to hoodwink both us and the public. Despite most photo evidence of the hunt at The Newt being removed from the internet, Protect the Wild found one photo of the BSV outside the hotel’s lavish building, dated in 2021:

 

bsv hapsden instagram
The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale is photographed at The Newt

 

Urge Emily Estate to ban the BSV from its land

Emily Estate has some nerve to make the claims it does, while at the same time giving access to the BSV to terrorise wildlife on its other farms and woodland. Protect the Wild argues that the business has been deliberately greenwashing its activities to its paying members, and has a responsibility to practise what it preaches and truly have “a deep respect for the land, the locality and all creatures living on it.”

  • It’s a common tactic to ‘hold the line’ – strenuously denying or spinning one issue because you fear ending up having to admit to more and (in many cases) worse transgressions. This revelation appears to make matters far worse for Emily Estate and The Newt, making their answers to earlier questions look even more evasive. They need to understand that we’re not going away, and that ‘holding the line’ typically – as in this case – ends up ‘digging an even bigger hole’.
  • Featured images by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs. You can donate to the group via Paypal here.

Until The Newt responds to our demands, we are urging you to join more than 13,000 people and sign our petition. You can add your name here. Members of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt have numerous criminal convictions, why would a reputable company want to be associated with them? The more people that make their voices heard, the harder it will be for Emily Estate to ignore that question.