The Land of the Fanns Landscape Partnership Scheme comes to a conclusion in 2022. Partners and participants came together on Wednesday 27 April to celebrate the Scheme’s successes and reflect on how much has been achieved over the past five years. The venue was Langtons Hall at Langtons House in Hornchurch. Early on in the scheme, Langtons was a recipient of funding from the Land of the Fanns for a fantastic project to create new wildlife friendly features including a pond and woven willow structures in the gardens.
Attendees from across the environmental sector and representatives from heritage sites in the area heard from speakers and enjoyed visits to sites that have benefited from Land of the Fanns investment. Scheme Manager, Benjamin Sanderson, welcomed everyone and opened the event with a personal summary of the Scheme’s achievements and highlights (see here for presentation). Will Oliver, Catchment Partnership Development Officer from Thames21 gave a fascinating overview of the way catchment partnerships have flourished under the Land of the Fanns and the importance of rivers to the wider ecology of the area (presentation can be found here). We then heard reflections on the historic environment in the Land of the Fanns from Landscape Architect, Christopher Laine, of Historic England. His talk illustrated the brilliant work done by volunteers to uncover and record important heritage features in order to protect them for the future (presentation here).
David Bigden, Director of Thames Chase Trust, talked about the legacy of the Land of the Fanns and how the Trust will take forward the partnerships and connections made during the Scheme’s lifetime. He stressed the importance of people and the need to look forward to generations yet to come (presentation here).
There followed a lively panel discussion led by representatives from Museum of London Archaeology, Forestry England, Thames Chase Trust and Twigs Way, an independent heritage consultant. The discussion focussed on some of the Scheme’s achievements and also challenges for the future.
Head of Land and Nature at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Drew Bennellick, summed up how impressed he was at the success of the Scheme. The National Lottery Heritage Fund have been the major funder for the project.
After lunch, four vintage coaches from the London Bus Company took attendees out to different sites so that everyone could witness first hand some of the successful projects supported by Land of the Fanns. The buses were one of the highlights of the day, attracting much attention and many photographs. The trips, which were led by representatives from organisations involved in the projects, went to Forestry England’s Pages Wood in Upminster, Eastbury Manor in Barking which is managed by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Essex Wildlife Trust’s Chafford Gorges Nature Park in Thurrock and Essex County Council’s Weald Country Park in Brentwood.
At Pages Wood, the largest of Forestry England’s sites in Thames Chase, visitors saw how improvements to the floodplain, new wetland features, several new sculptures and improved access over larger parts of the site had been made with support from Land of the Fanns.
The grade I listed Elizabethan manor house, Eastbury Manor, which spans six centuries of history, is owned by the National Trust and managed by London Borough of Barking & Dagenham. The visit showed the results of a collaboration between Barking and Dagenham Council and South Essex College to create period costumes that would have been worn by previous occupants of the house.
Managed by Essex Wildlife Trust, Chafford Gorges has benefitted from new interpretation panels along various trails to help visitors engage with the wider site. The tour explored parts of this expansive site to learn more.
Finally, at Weald Country Park in Brentwood, the tour enjoyed the site’s spectacular views and green space. Supported by Land of the Fanns, Essex County Council have delivered improvements to access around the lake, new signage and interpretation and developed a new Parkland Management Plan.
The celebration also saw the launch of Sue Smith’s new book, The Land of the Fanns and its history. This comprehensive account of the area draws together the interesting, surprising, amusing and sometimes shocking tales of the local area. For the first time, from Dagenham to Langdon Hills, from Havering Ridge to Thameside, the natural heritage, pre-history and history are told here, helping everyone from 9 to 90 to enjoy and value this fascinating area. To purchase the book, click here.
Returning from the site visits for tea and cake, the celebrations continued with the screening of four legacy films. These have been made to capture different aspects of the Scheme and were inspired by the interpretive themes developed early on including the hidden gems of the landscape, links to the history of trade and commerce, land and water and a crossroads landscape. The films are a great legacy featuring many of the volunteers and partners involved in the projects. To see the films, click here.
Everyone agreed it was a very fitting way to mark the end of such a diverse and multi-faceted project.
To see the programme for the day and find out more about the legacy projects from the Land of the Fanns, click here.