Fens, Forests and Fields

The Land of the Fanns is delighted to announce that well-known author and social historian Ken Worpole has brought his considerable talent and thought to the new book which captures the essence of the area and sums up everything that the five year Landscape Partnership Scheme has been about: Fens, Forests and Fields.

Together with fellow contributors: photographer and artist Tamara Stoll and artist and walker Ali Pretty, the trio’s appreciation for the area and the people who live there shines out through their words and photographs. Ken Worpole’s essay celebrates the intriguing place that is the Land of the Fanns: a complex landscape, dissected by roads, rail, and industry that straddles the London and Essex border. This division has meant that local communities, proud and attached to their own part of the landscape, have never seen that landscape acknowledged and celebrated as anywhere worthwhile or meaningful. The Landscape Partnership Scheme’s aim was to reconnect people with places, to uncover the history and heritage of the area; to bring unity and cohesion across the communities making this area their home.

Ken is no stranger to Essex. His many books include two collaborations with photographer Jason Orton on the social history and landscape of coastal Essex: 350 Miles: An Essex Journey (2005) and The New English Landscape (2013). His essay for Fens, Forests and Fields recounts his new discoveries on his journeys through ‘the Fanns’, exploring the ebb and flow between London and Essex that has created this liminal landscape. In such a complicated border country, there are still to be found secret gardens and enchanted forests to amaze and delight. Ken conjures up a hidden landscape which had much to offer those wanting to walk and cycle during lockdown – and has now a role to play into a different future.

The inspiration for the book was the 100 stories gathered through walks and writing workshops over a two-year period collected from across the area in a Community Mapping project led by outdoor arts organisation Kinetika and artistic director Ali Pretty whose continuing commitment to walking, talking and making in communities has done so much to draw people together in a common task of celebrating where they live. Beautiful images of the 100 silk flags created by Kinetika with participants from the local areas to illustrate the stories, are a central feature of the book

Made up of three parts: the recent past; the present; and hopes for the area’s future, Fens, Forests and Fields includes a selection of these personal stories from the people who live and work in the 70 square mile area of the Land of the Fanns. Tamara Stoll joined Ken on cycle rides around the Land of the Fanns. A photographer who documents public spaces and communities, Tamara links photography with social exchanges and dialogue. For Fens, Forests and Fields, she photographed and interviewed 11 people who have an enduring and committed role in the landscape.

As the five years of the programme draw to a close, Fens, Forests and Fields is a fitting legacy of the people, places and commitment to the area of the Scheme. It captures the spirit of the place at a pivotal moment as the climate emergency and the aftermath of the pandemic force reflections on the past and a need to write a different future.

Story 68. Rainham Hall Community Garden

Benjamin Sanderson, Scheme Manager, Land of the Fanns said “I really hope that people will enjoy reading the fantastic tales in the book. It’s the culmination of a project that has genuinely captured the imagination of local people though walks, drawing, film making, storytelling and designing the silk flags. The words reflect personal understandings of the local landscape that help exemplify people’s attachment to it. For those already familiar with the landscape, it will hopefully offer some surprises and for people new to the Land of the Fanns, it will undoubtedly offer an insight into somewhere well worth discovering.”

Mary Wright, interim co-Chair, Thames Chase Trust said: “This collection of stories and reflections celebrates the historic landscape of the London fens and its rich heritage hidden beneath the many developments built to service the capital city. It records a range of memories that reflect the unique and varied landscape of this part of historic Essex. It is a gem that should be treasured.”

Stuart McLeod, Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:“We are delighted our support led to the exciting creation of Fens, Forests and Fields with Ken Worpole – a book that perfectly embodies the Land of the Fanns and its five-year Landscape Partnership Scheme. Thanks to National Lottery players, the project’s legacy is captured in a beautiful collection of words and images that will forever tell the stories of the people and places of this extraordinary area.”

Copies of Fens, Forests and Fields can be obtained for a suggested donation of £10 per book.  There are two different ways of ordering your copy:

  1. In person from the Thames Chase Forest Centre, Upminster
  2. Copies can be posted for an additional £4 each by donating via Just Giving (suggested £14 in total). Please follow this link

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

01708 642970

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