The ha-ha wall at Langley Country Park was once part of a very important historic English landscape garden designed by Capability Brown. It was originally built in the 1700’s for the 3rd Duke of Marlborough to keep grazing livestock out of the gardens without interrupting the view. Although only small sections of the original wall remain, the bricks are a soft red multi stock that have been bedded in a traditional lime mortar. Historically the ha-ha wall was part of the pleasure grounds to the Langley Park estate.
Through the transfer of land, it is now part of the larger public space known as Langley Park Country Park. Tucked away in a little corner of South Buckinghamshire it still retains its historic charm and functions as it was intended when constructed in the 1700s.
Unfortunately, whilst it remains in its historic form, it is once again suffering from its location within an historic landscaped garden. When originally built the trees that were planted would have been saplings. It is those trees from over 250 years ago that have set seed to produce the vast array of mature trees that are now present around the wall, and still maintain the historic landscape that it was originally designed to be.
In 1996 a programme of repair works funded by English Heritage were undertaken to address issues of failure within several sections of the wall. This was a comprehensive programme and resulted in large sections either being replaced or repaired. The severest sections of deterioration and failure were removed and replaced with new foundations and new sections of walling and built-in bricks that were approved by English heritage at the time.
Unfortunately, some 25 years on we are now in a situation where parts of the wall have failed and require further intervention. These interventions are based around two factors, health and safety, and ongoing maintenance. Health and safety factors relate to sections of the wall which are suffering from foundation movement and forces from localised tree roots. This has manifested itself in several movement cracks, shearing and leaning of the wall, so much so that it has been deemed unsafe and a section was fenced off from the public before its complete collapse. Maintenance factors relate to areas of repointing and brick replacement needed to stave off further decay.
Whilst there was a major programme of works in 1996, the wall has now failed in one section and is showing signs of deterioration in others. It would be fair to state that conservation methods have evolved since 1996 and the mortar that was used then for the previous repairs would not be considered suitable for repairs to brickwork today.
The ha-ha wall is suffering from the usual physical defects that one would expect to find in historic brickwork that has been built on unstable sub soil, surrounded by trees, and sited in an elevated position. Historic movement, poor pointing, deteriorated bricks, and modern cementitious repairs are all present.
We are planning to restore this important feature from Spring 2024 onwards, beginning with the 20m area that has completely collapsed.
We have commissioned a structural engineer to design the new foundations and the contractor carrying out the repair work next year is highly qualified in the field of historic brick and flint conservation and will be following the guidance of a structural engineer who has designed the best way to repair the wall and give it longevity.
An ecologist will be contracted to oversee the project to make sure that no wildlife is harmed during the rebuild. You will notice that a substantial area has been cleared in preparation for the works which was completed under the watching eye of the ecologist with hand tools and then strimming.
No public access will be blocked during this work and if you have any questions please ask a Ranger or the construction team who will be happy to help.
Your pay and display charge and commercial filming in the parks are helping to fund these important restoration works, alongside the day-to-day maintenance of Langley Park Country Park.
Thank you for your patience.