Celebrating Community Action in the Land of the Fanns

Over the last three years, the Land of the Fanns Landscape Partnership Scheme has awarded over £70,000 in grants to a variety of community groups, small charities, schools, environmental and heritage groups from its Community Action Fund. This funding has helped many smaller projects get off the ground and in addition has helped the Scheme in achieving its aims of connecting people to their local landscapes, restoring and protecting heritage and benefitting wildlife.

Across the Land of the Fanns area, which spans Havering, Barking & Dagenham, Brentwood, Thurrock and South West Essex, 21 projects have been funded by the Community Action Fund. The maximum grant award for any individual project has been £5,000.

The first round of Community Action funding in 2018, saw three projects successfully receive funds and deliver projects via the Community Action Fund. These were Bulphan Village Community Forum, who applied to have an interpretation panel made and installed at the beginning of the Mardyke Way in Bulphan; Drapers Maylands Primary School, which received a grant to fund an orchard and pond dipping project, and Havering Wildlife Project who wanted to run a bat project and needed new bat detectors.

January 2019 saw the second round of funding with five successful applications which were from Thurrock Local History Society, Friends of Dagnam Park, Grays Convent School, Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Trust and Riverside Community in Thurrock. These projects ranged from exploring the history of Thurrock’s cement industry to helping with the refurbishment of the new Hornchurch Aerodrome Heritage Centre.



John Matthews of the Thurrock Local History Society said “The CAF enabled us to talk to people – particularly at the Orsett Show, and record their memories of Thurrock’s cement industry. Personally, I have benefited from training in geographical presentation of results in the form of a clickable heritage map. We produced a booklet which is available in the Thameside Library. We also designed virtual interpretation boards which will be maintained and updated by the local history society and added videos to YouTube. In part, the results of our project have fed into other Land of the Fanns projects, such as Fifty Fabulous Features.”

July’s round of funding that year saw Havering Volunteer Centre awarded a grant to run interactive events and workshops, and the Discover Metropolitan Essex project secure monies to develop its network. Shelley Hart, CEO, Havering Volunteer Centre said “The funding allowed us to respond to the community’s needs and implement projects that fulfilled them. We had a very diverse range of people get involved and by listening to the community, we were able to get people to engage and it was great to see people take part and have fun, learning and meeting people. The legacy of the funding will be that we bring the community together more so everyone has a chance to learn about each other and that although others may appear different, there are so many similarities between people. We engaged lots of volunteers as a result. People are now aware of the Land of the Fanns project, what is it about, the impact this makes on our community, the environment around us and how we can make small changes for a better future.”

In 2020, theatre company Rendered Retina, Eastbury Manor Rangers, University of Essex and Thorndon’s Friends Group were all successful in their applications. In the final round of funding in July 2020, a further six organisations applied and received grants. These included Conservators of Shenfield Common, Thurrock Museum, Friends of Bedfords Park Walled Garden, Essex Rock and Mineral Society, Essex Gardens Trust and Weald Country Park. These projects ranged from the revival of a Tudor herb garden, a theatre piece about recycling, restoration of ponds and wildlife habitats, geology and archaeology and the conservation of one of the rare Humphrey Repton Red Books on designed landscapes.

Sarah Demelo, from the University of Essex said of this project: “The funding has allowed us to build up a great relationship with the conservators at the Essex Record Office (ERO). We have had several site visits to see the progress on the Red Book for Stubbers where we have looked at the other original Red Books held in the ERO including the ‘Red Book for Hill Hall, Theydon Mount’ and the ‘Red Book for Stanstead Hall, Mountfitchet’ to compare them to our Red Book for Stubbers to research the similarities and differences between them all. This has allowed the University of Essex and the ERO to make some possible discoveries about the Red Book for Stubbers which would make it unique amongst the extant Red Books.

An exact replica will be made of the restored Red Book for Stubbers. This will allow our audiences to get the experience moving the overlays to reveal the before and after landscapes. The original Red Books are far too fragile for a lot of handling and the overlays are the most frequently damaged element of the books.”

Bedfords Park has seen a significant impact from the funding: “The main legacy of the project is that we have created a vibrant and varied habitat in an area which was just damp soil and pernicious weeds,” says Lois Amos, volunteer at Bedfords Park Walled Garden.

“We have increased biodiversity within the walled garden and indeed probably the surrounding woodland and park. The pond and habitats we have created have inspired us to do even more for biodiversity and consider our garden wildlife in everything we cultivate, sow and plant. This project has brought pleasure to visitors and volunteers alike and given us the opportunities in the future to develop activities like school visits, workshops and better interpretation of other areas.”

The breadth of the projects funded and the variety of the organisations applying for the funding demonstrates the huge number of people involved in preserving, recording, improving and protecting the natural and build heritage in the Land of the Fanns.

Patricia Sinclair, chair of Essex Gardens Trust said “The CAF grant has had a huge impact for us. The core of our small charity is to protect heritage gardens and landscapes, and this funding (added to the sum that Essex Gardens Trust (EGT) was providing) enabled us to engage a superb and experienced landscape consultant, Twigs Way, who had been working with the team already, and who then continued to upskill the researchers to produce an EGT Thurrock Inventory. This document will now go into the planning system where it will help to defend important green spaces from inappropriate development. Heritage gardens and landscapes that we have researched but, sadly, cannot be included in the Inventory as they are no longer sufficiently extant, will be included in a publication of ‘lost’ gardens.” 

Thames Chase Trust, Pike Lane
Upminster, Essex RM14 3NS

01708 642970

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