“What adds to this garden is that it is not bound by walls, but by a ha-ha, which leaves you the sight of a beautiful woody country, and makes you ignorant how far the high planted walks extend.”


This sentence, written by Viscount John Perceval when visiting Stowe in Buckinghamshire in August 1724, might have been written about Emo Court.


A ha-ha is a type of sunken fence or boundary to a garden or park. It is designed so that the view of the grounds (usually from the house) is not interrupted, and the ha-ha is invisible until you are near to it. Sheep and cattle and deer may have grazed on the field going down to the lake at Emo Court, and it was essential to keep them away from the house.


The ha-ha at Emo Court is simply a trench about six feet deep faced with stone on the vertical inner side, and with a grassy slope on the side towards the field. The Jesuits may have added the fencing.


The origin of the word ‘ha-ha’ is uncertain but Horace Walpole in 1780 wrote that the name is derived from the reaction of people encountering a ha-ha during their walk: “The common people called them Ha! Has! to express their surprise at finding a sudden and unperceived check to their walk.”


               Ha-ha at Stowe                                   Ha-ha at Emo Court