Garden and Landscapes / Infrastructure

The Significance of the Ha-ha

Today I would like to introduce a garden term you may not be too familiar with, the Ha-ha.

Ha-ha is a type of trench that most thought about in the 18th century, England. It was designed with two views in mind: one side would show no signs of sudden drops in terrain as to not disrupt the viewing of the land, and on the other side would be visible enough for livestock and deer to realize they could not proceed any further. This type of land manipulation was essential when creating coveted natural landscapes while simultaneously keeping animals in a controlled area.

The ha-ha, a sunken wall and ditch, played a key role in the development of the naturalistic park. Built at the edge of a pleasure grounds surrounding a house, the ha-aha made a virtually invisible barrier that kept the cows and sheep in their pastures yet allowed uninterrupted views from house into park of from park into distant countryside. It meant that pleasure grounds, park and landscape could seemlessly become one. It is probably French in origin. Charles Bridgeman is generally credited with it’s introduction, but the first reminants of a ha-ha had already been installed at Levens Hall in Cumbria in 1689.

“The contiguous ground of the park without the sunk fence was to be harmonized with the lawn within; and the garden in its turn was to be set free from its prim regularity, that it might assort with the wilder country without. ” – Horace Walpole

Walpole surmised that the name is derived from the response of ordinary folk on encountering them and that they were, “…then deemed so astonishing, that the common people called them Ha! Has! to express their surprise at finding a sudden and unperceived check to their walk.” Some of these ha-ha could measure up to 8 feet deep and that is one nasty fall!

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