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A Bit of Fence History: The Ha-Ha Fence

Ha-Ha Fence at Castle Ashby in EnglandWhen considering a fence installation, Portland homeowners often cite privacy as their primary goal. As property sizes have decreased, the demand for barriers between neighbors has grown, but this wasn’t always the case. Long before the solid-style cedar fence came into popularity, many European homeowners preferred a less obtrusive fencing type known as the ha-ha.

While cedar fences are generally intended to block out a view – usually to shield the home from neighbors’ eyes – the ha-ha fence was designed to do the opposite. Ha-ha fences were constructed to blend in with the surrounding scenery and were all but invisible until one happened upon them.

Similar to retaining walls, ha-ha fences are built into a trench or ditch so they don’t interrupt the view, yet provide a one-way barrier in the front to keep livestock and other animals from entering the garden. Unlike the cedar fence, ha-has were typically made of stone.

Here’s a look at where ha-ha fences came from and how they’re still used today.

Origins of the Ha-Ha Fence

Before there were lawnmowers, the owners of large estates used sheep and other livestock to keep the grass in check. A ha-ha fence install was used to prevent the livestock from entering the lawn and garden of the home without blocking the vista for those who might be strolling the grounds.

They reportedly received their name from the sound of amusement and surprise people made when they reached the edge of the garden and noticed the drop-off.

Ha-ha fences were popular in 18th-century England, and references to them can be found in a variety of literature from the period, including the works of Jane Austen. Examples still exist today at castles and estates across the United Kingdom. There’s a long ha-ha separating the Royal Artillery Barrack Field from Woolwich Common in southeast London, as well as one at Castle Ashby in England (pictured). There’s even a low ha-ha at the Washington Monument.

Modern Uses

While not nearly as common in the United States, where the solid-style cedar fence is in high demand, ha-ha fences still have their uses, especially when privacy isn’t an issue. When planning a fence installation, Portland homeowners should first identify their needs and then choose the fencing style that best meets them. Here’s a look at situations in which a ha-ha fence might be ideal:

Large properties. Homeowners who want to divide their large properties into sections without obstructing the landscape may find a ha-ha fence install worthwhile, particularly if livestock are allowed to graze in the fields but are unwelcome on the grounds closer to the home.

Asian gardens. The ha-ha fence works well with the Chinese gardening principle of concealing barriers with nature, and many Asian-inspired gardens use small versions of this fence to separate beds or areas.

For more information on fence installations in Portland, contact Rick’s Fencing.

[Photo by: R Neil Marshman]

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