Funny Ha Ha
You know it never occurred to me that there would actually be a ha-ha in Ha Ha Road. I always assumed that it was a leftover from the grounds of Charlton House and it would be long gone.
Nevertheless I was walking along it the other day (hands up – it was first time I had ever walked along there, normally I’m driving) and was absolutely amazed to see that the ha-ha not only exists but is in damn fine condition.
It appears to be nothing to do with Charlton House; everything to do with Woolwich’s military presence.
I confess I’m surprised – I tend to associate ha-has (holding-walls with a ditch or sharp drop one side, usually erected as invisible barriers between formal gardens and the rest of the landscape, preventing animals from chomping the flowers, but without nasty fences – hugely popular in Capability Brown’s day) with grand old country piles, rather than army security. I guess it must just come from less hisk-risk times.
It flanks the Barrack Field of Woolwich Garrison, and the brick gateposts of what must have been a rather splendid entrance are still there, as are some curved stone curbs. I can’t tell whether the ditch that leads into Charlton Park Lane is a continuation of the ha ha that’s not been so well looked after, but I am absolutely delighted to see that the bit along Ha Ha Road is in such good nick.
There’s a story that goes round that ha has are called that because when unsuspecting people failed to look where they were going and fell down the ditch everyone else found it hilarious. A nagging doubt about this is going through my mind – I have a feeling there’s a much duller reason for the name – a corruption of the French word for it or something equally prosaic. Maybe Capability Bowes can help me out here?