enquiries@tywigateway.org.uk Parc a Gerddi yr Esgob, Abergwili, Sir Caerfyrddin SA31 2JG

The Ha-ha

What is a ha-ha?  It’s actually a formal landscape feature, commonly used in the 18th century, comprising of a long terrace wall and ditch.  Bishop’s Park ha-ha runs between Y Parc and Y Waun Fawr – and is one of the longest in the UK .  By keeping out the grazing animals but not interrupting the view, the ha-ha makes the valley landscape appear part of the garden.

The name comes from the noise of surprise made when people realised that the wall and ditch was like an invisible fence – ah hah!

Take care not to get too close!

Wildlife in the Ha-ha

Before the Trust took over the site the ha-ha was heavily shaded by overhanging tree canopies, and occasional trees also growing within the meadow. The edge of the canopy line was dominated by common nettle and Himalayan balsam, and the majority of the ditch itself was bare ground.

A large proportion of the overhanging trees that were shading out the ha-ha ditch were ash trees suffering from ash dieback. These and other weed trees including hawthorn, rhododendron and sycamore were removed in 2019 to open up the views and vistas out across the Tywi Valley and enable the ha-ha masonry wall to be repaired.

A fairly diverse and dense flora survived in the one previously unshaded section of the ha-ha ditch that remained – along the side of the walled garden. They include nodding reed canary grass, great sweet-grass, water-pepper, gipsywort, water mint, water forget-me-not, fool’s water-cress and some nodding bur-marigold and meadowsweet.

In 2020 mud and plant material was removed from this section of the ditch and relocated along the previously bare sections of ha-ha. This has resulted in the spread of this great range of interesting wetland plants.

Habitat suitable for water vole was limited to this short section of unshaded ditch along the base of the walled garden with stonework cavities potentially suitable for use.  In 2019 pathways used by voles and some feeding remains were recorded during a thorough search on 24th July but no latrines or nests were located. A follow up survey was conducted on 9th September 2019 and confirmed no evidence of water vole presence. Have they arrived now we’ve cleared the overhanging trees and shrubs?  We’d love to know!!