Patio Ha Ha Ah Ha

The paved “terrace” (Estate Agent’s description) that runs along the back of the house is significantly raised due to the gently sloping nature of the site. This means we have a Ha Ha where the patio abruptly ends and drops down to the grass level. The Ha Ha gives us uninterrupted views of the garden estate while sitting on the terrace drinking tea and eating scones, without the worry of livestock or the lower classes venturing from the grass and onto the aforementioned dais.

Unfortunately, the edge of the patio has several loose slabs only ready to flip you onto the garden should you step on them and the whole length of the wall is covered in ivy-gone-rampant.

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Like all ivies, it must have stared with a single, little plant in a 9cm pot and lots of good intentions, however, left unchecked for a few years and you end up having to deal with this:

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At this point I had already started pulling some of the ivy away and also cut it from the edge of the Ha Ha so that it didn’t start rooting between the paving slabs. It also allowed me to see just how bad the ivy was. It had rooted and layered into every available little crevice so it was one plant and hundreds of plants at the same time. There was nothing for it but to start yanking it out by hand, starting from one end and working along the whole length of the Ha Ha.

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As the ivy reluctantly came away, it revealed a lovely layered stone wall, the cracks of which at one time must have been planted with all manner of rockery plants, some of which have just about managed to survive the ivy invasion. Soil must have been piled against the bottom – probably for more planting – but this only served as a place to layer more ivy and root invasive carex grass and other weeds.

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Removing the ivy from the Ha Ha reveals a complicated history of patio construction. We believe the visible patio is actually Patio version 2 with Patio version 1 underneath, supporting v2. If you lift up the top layer of slabs you expose…another layer of slabs, which must have been the original patio. This explains why the layered stone wall doesn’t come right up to the current patio level, but stops short of the top, with the rest filled in with unsightly cement, topped with a meandering line of block paving to support the edge slabs. We’ll never know quite why it wasn’t finished off properly, or why it was decided to use a method of supporting the current patio that is actually against current building regulations. We’ll never know why a lot of things in the house and garden are the way they are and what ever possessed it to be done that way. It’s just one of those things.

Dodgy DIY aside, restoring the patio is one of those “Big Jobs” and it’s likely to be some time before it happens, but at the moment, with the ivy removed from the Ha Ha and the soil and weeds removed from the base of the wall, it might be possible to restore the rockery plants that this was obviously built for and restore the original glory of the Ha Ha.

Patio Wall Close-up
Rear Terrace

After alternating sunny spells and thundery showers to gradually clean the stones and wash away excess soil, the Ha Ha is finally back to a reasonable condition, reasonable enough for me to look online for rockery plants, now that I’ve finally finished pulling all those ivy roots out with the electrical pliers.

12 Comments


  1. Very handsome it looks, now that you’ve pulled the ivy away! And how lovely to find an entire, new gardening zone just waiting for you underneath. I believe your wall will provide more planting area than my entire garden… You should also win the award for best blog post title of the day.

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    1. Hi Stacy, it is a lovely rock wall, once all the ivy was cleared and the rain washed the stone. There’s still a little bit of tidying up to do but nothing like as much work as it was to pull the ivy off. It seems to have gone for good as it hasn’t re-grown so I must have done a thorough job. Since I’ve got quite a lot of other things on the list, I’m probably going to leave the wall as-is for the moment until I’ve had a chance to read about rockery plants and choose a load to go in. I’ve not had this kind of planting environment before so I need to do a bit of research first.

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  2. You are going from strength to strength Sunil. I love the way things are looking already. Most Americans have never heard of a Ha Ha. Perhaps they will look it up! Cheers my gardening friend.

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    1. Hi Lynn, a Ha-Ha is a very “English, Large Country House” thing and with the rope-linked posts the terrace doesn’t technically end in a Ha Ha (but that can be remedied easily enough), though there’s no pretensions here.

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  3. What is a Ha Ha? There is no literal American translation for this except for “to laugh” and I don’t think that applies here! I Googled it but the kind of wall they describe doesn’t seem the same as your patio wall. But whatever it’s called, it will look stunning full of rockery plants. 🙂 So glad there weren’t any dead bodies or zombies under all that ivy!

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    1. Hi Tammy, there are a few differences between a Ha-Ha and the patio wall, one of them being that the patio wall is decorative while a Ha-Ha tends not to bother. While we (sadly?) found no zombies under the ivy, we picked out countless tennis and other balls. If the iyvy wasn’t attached to the wall it would have rolled about on its own accord!

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  4. Ha, Ha, I laugh with joy as to how you have a garden that keeps, (maybe best to use the term undesirables) away. Not only are you going to have a marvellous large garden,in the near future your house looks fantastic. Thanks for the cheer up Sunil.

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    1. Hello Alistair, thank you for the encouragement! I’m continuing to bring both the house and garden up to scratch together. There’s been a lot of outside work in general and I’m almost looking forward to a bit of calm in winter, not that the bad weather will slow down all the indoor jobs that need doing too!

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  5. Hello Sunil! Been away for a week’s holiday, and came back to find this post. Oh! What lovely stones that rock wall is made of! My mother loved alpines, and the smaller the better (including the flowers) – magnifying glasses out!! I think I have inherited the love of the small flowers, although it’s perenials I love, not alpines. But there are several Ist class alpine nurseries in the country, so possibly worth sending for catalogues for those winter months…… in the meantime, I see a lovely californian poppy found the space to breathe there!

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    1. Hi Mrs Mac, hope you had a good holiday, it seems as though you’re always on holiday! I know very little about alpines so some of the winter is going to be spent catching up on reading. Having taking so much time and effort to reveal the stone wall, I’m not in a hurry to cover it up again with plants so it might be a while before the Ha-ha gets my attention (other than just keeping it weeded).

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    1. Hello Jason, we should do yes, but they would only chew up the landscape fabric and leave a mess on the grass!

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