The quest to explain to you exactly what the effect of an Ha-ha looks like continues. I posted about the history of Ha-ha some time ago, here, and on the Ha-ha at Stowe, here but earlier this week one of my correspondents emailed to ask me to explain again as he had not quite grasped the concept, and had difficulty envisaging one when he recently re-read Mansfield Park. I am happy to oblige….
I visited Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, above, a few weeks ago. This is the magnificent Adam designed home of the Curzons now owned by the National Trust and the images of the ha-ha that exists there might finally do the trick. So here goes…
The ha-ha runs around the whole of the house and its pleasure grounds, creating a sort of island within the parkland.
As we know, the ha-ha is a sunken fence, one that very importantly prevents livestock from entering the formal gardens of the great house. It is a ditch, sunk beyond a retaining wall, and the great advantage of this type of border enclosure is that, visually, the view from the house is uninterrupted by walls fences or hedges. This allows the owner or visitor to the house to gaze over the acres of parkland, in the safe and secure knowledge that the livestock -cattle, deer and sheep- are being prevented from grazing close to the house.
At the formal entrance to Kedleston there is an ironwork fence attached to the retaining we all of the ha-ha, which you can see above
But this, as you can see from this picture take from the entrance to the house, is not particularly visually intrusive. Note the sheep are firmly kept the other side of the ha-ha.
The Ha-ha continues around the pleasure gardens, and from this point on does not have the additional railings found a t the formal entrance facade.
This, above, and below is part of the retaining wall beyond the stables.
You can clearly see how the land has been cut away from the retaining wall: the bench on the right is almost level with the top of the retaining wall.
The rear of the house has views over lawns to the rising hills of the parkland…
You can see the ha-ah- but only by noticing the difference in the grass colour. The cultivated lawns as opposed to the less well tended parkland (complete with sheep) are of a slightly different hue .
But this difference lessens the further away from the ha-ha you are, as you can see from this photograph:
A small summer-house has been built upon the ha-ha at one point in the garden.
This is a delightful building, and when you enter it, you can, by looking through the windows,see the slope of the ha-ha falling away dramatically from the retaining wall :
You can see how dramatically the parkland falls away from the wall: this prevents any animals in the park begin able to jump over the retaining wall and enter the pleasure gardens.
And of course, it is really the view from the house that is important: this view is of the lawns at the rear of the house, leading towards the ha-ha onto the rising hills of the parkland
I do hope this helps you visualise exactly what is the effect of the ha-ha on the landscape,and how ingenious it was.