The Land of the Fanns began in earnest with the projects which started in the summer of 2017. However, planning for this complex programme began even further back, over 10 years ago in 2011. And still, if you look at the origins of the partnerships and landscape regeneration projects that have evolved in this area, which Land of the Fanns is just one of, then you would need to look even further back, over 30 years, to the establishment of Thames Chase Community Forest in 1990.
On reflection it’s amazing how quickly time has seemed to pass. With so many challenges within partner organisations, including Covid, during this time and still so much having been achieved. It certainly highlights the creativity, resilience and commitment of delivery partners and stakeholders that have made this possible.
Broadly speaking, the original objectives for the Scheme were a combination of aspirations for engaging the local community with the special nature of the Land of the Fanns and recording, restoring and conserving some of the distinct wildlife and heritage assets of the landscape. As the Scheme Manager, understanding the pride and connection of the local community with the heritage of the area has been one of the biggest rewards.
There was a strong focus on the origins of the landscape with links to the ice age, the river Thames and fenland and what has happened to shape the landscape we see today through the history of industry, agriculture and human settlement. Whilst these connections have been made by many of the projects, it has often been what some may perceive as everyday and what may go unnoticed that has ultimately been highlighted and has captured some of the hidden gems of the landscape of the Land of the Fanns.
The key to achieving the vision and objectives has undoubtedly been through partnership working between all stakeholders. Engagement of this kind has been critical to the success of the programme and has set the seeds for the future legacy.
The list of partners has grown over the course of delivery with a stakeholder list of over 200 people representing over 80 different organisations working on heritage and environment projects across the landscape.
The Scheme has helped forge new and successful partnerships through the delivery of projects. And existing partnerships have been strengthened, made possible by the influence of Lottery funding. Complex projects have also brought about closer working relationships with multiple partners, where community, statutory and non-statutory organisations have come together bringing added value through advice, fundraising and technical support.
The scheme has also succeeded in bringing smaller groups together. Working alongside various friends of parks groups, museums and history societies the Land of the Fanns has sought to demonstrate that the valuable work each of these individual sites does in terms of the management, protection and promotion of local heritage, is all part of a joined-up network where there are things in common across the wider landscape. The Community Action Fund has been especially valuable in this respect providing a source of accessible funding to help bring 20 smaller community led projects to fruition.
The challenge for delivery has not only been in the number, but also the diversity and complexity of projects covering environment, heritage, culture and arts. Perhaps the biggest challenge was that even the best laid plans are subject to change. With so many moving parts to the programme and then keeping all the balls up in the air at the same time, this has been inevitable.
Many of these challenges were highlighted in the mid-term review with a vivid description of managing the programme being something like wrestling a large unruly octopus. Although I have never wrestled an octopus, the description seemed very apt, the programme often seeming to have a mind of its own.
The impact of the pandemic has been a major challenge in the delivery of the programme, not just for the Land of the Fanns but all partner and stakeholder organisations. For the Land of the Fanns it required re-focusing the outputs for individual projects and a drastic change to the way in which projects were delivered. Although capital works were largely unaffected, much of the engagement work, meetings and contact with partners since the beginning of 2020 went online. That’s not to say without some degree of success, with volunteer numbers increasing throughout 2020 and 2021.
The numbers engaged with the Scheme speak for themselves, from 4,517 participants in talks, events and activities to 2,793 days of volunteer time. The project recorded the professional, skilled and unskilled volunteer time, using the approved Heritage Fund values for each to calculate the overall in-kind contribution to the project, Unskilled: £50, Skilled: £150 and Professional: £350. At the end of the Scheme this equates to a total value of £323,978, which is a 150% increase from the original target.
Without the involvement of this exceptional number of volunteers from the local community, the Scheme would not have been able to deliver on its original ambitions.
Match funding success
Fundraising has been another strength of the Partnership. The Partnership has succeeded in raising over one million pounds in match funding to help support the development and delivery of the suit of projects.
Match funding has come from a diversity of sources representing the various themes of individual projects and I am truly grateful for the support from all match funders for their support.
And so to the legacy and what this actually means for the Land of the Fanns.
I am immensely proud of what the Land of the Fanns has achieved and of all those who have contributed towards its success. The Land of the Fanns has achieved its goal of strengthening the foundations of new and existing partnerships. The seeds of so many projects have been set and capacity has certainly increased through the level of understanding within the local community to help support future delivery.
The role of Thames Chase Trust as the legacy body is clearly to continue to hold the partnership together, to continue to develop and deliver a shared vision for the environment and heritage across the landscape.
Land of the Fanns has been an enabler throughout the past 5 years, bringing partners closer together and bringing projects to fruition through funding from the Lottery. It’s how partners can hopefully use this momentum to continue that will be key to a successful legacy.
Many of the threats and challenges to the protection and restoration of local heritage remain – development pressures, changes in funding for agriculture, rapidly expanding communities, climate change and the nature emergency. It’s the capacity within the local community and through partnership work that has increased to enable more to be done to offset the potential impacts this may have. It’s this kind of engagement that has been so critical to the success of the programme and has undoubtedly set the seeds for the success of the future legacy.
On behalf of the Land of the Fanns team I’d like to thank all the partners, volunteers and stakeholders who have been involved in the Scheme over the past 5 years.
Thank you also to Thames Chase Trust, as the lead partner, for hosting the Land of the Fanns Project Team and to the London Borough of Havering, in its role as the accountable body. Thank you also to the members of the Strategic Board for their continued support for the Project and helping to make it a success.
Thank you to all our funders, including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, for their generous support for the Land of the Fanns.
Finally, last but not least, thank you to the Land of the Fanns team for all their hard work, dedication and support over the last 5 years. I wish you all the best and success for the future.
Land of the Fanns Scheme Manager