Land of the Fanns Group Picture
Thames Chase Forest Centre

In December 2016, the Heritage Lottery Fund confirmed an award of £1.35 million to the Land of the Fanns Partnership.  Comprised of the Thames Chase Trust, LB of Havering, LB of Barking & Dagenham, Brentwood Borough Council, Thurrock Council, the Forestry Commission, Thames21 and the Thames Estuary Partnership, our partnership is now setting up a five-year programme of activity to restore, discover and celebrate one of the last remaining landscapes of London as it once was.  In total, the value of the 5-year programme is £2.4 million.

Our landscape

Our landscape spans about 70 square miles, located partly in East London and partly in South Essex along the north bank of the River Thames.  It extends from Dagenham in the west, to Stanford-le-Hope in the east and Brentwood in the north, to Purfleet in the south and includes settlements such as South Ockendon and Orsett.  Along its southern boundary the landscape flanks the River Thames which has had a significant influence on the historical development of the area.  There are also a number of tributary rivers running north-south: the Mardyke, Ingrebourne and Beam.

Shaped by the last Ice Age and historically an area of fens, forests and farming, our landscape hosts an unusual variety of niche landscapes including highland, lowland, marshes and river valleys.  Each of the 11 Landscape Character Areas identified in our Landscape Conservation Action Plan (see downloads) has attracted its own history, collectively making up a surprising landscape of diverse heritage with sites of national importance often overlapping with the national story.  From places such as Rainham Marshes, home to 10% of the UK population of water vole, to the rich histories of royal residence within the Havering Hills.  From the largest reed bed in London in the Ingrebourne Valley to the historic connections with the celebrated River Thames, this crossroads landscape is full of surprises. 

It is also a dynamic landscape which has experienced decades of fragmentation and damage due to major road building, settlement growth, quarrying and land fill.  Half in London, half in Essex, it is further divided by administrative boundaries.  As the landscape has increasingly lost its sense of identity over time, development decisions have been taken against a backdrop of weak information about the landscape, its sense and its meaning, further compounding the problem.  What remains are communities feeling instinctively allied to his landscape, despite its form no longer easily understood and no overarching narrative to support a joined-up appreciation.

Why the Land of the Fanns?

Under the banner of the ‘Land of the Fanns’, our scheme draws inspiration from 19th century parish records of a more unified landscape celebrated in Leslie Thompson’s book The Land that Fanns (1957).  Derived from the Saxon word for fen, the ‘Fanns’ evokes memories of a lost watery landscape alluded to through places such as Bulphan (or Bulfann), Fanns Farm and Dry Street.  Whilst we have taken this phrase and used it to cover an area encompassing more than just historic fenland, the title still retains a ring of truth about it.  Indeed, the wider landscape owes so much of its character to a marshy origin that it becomes appropriate.  By adopting the historic name coined locally for our area, the ‘Land of the Fanns’ also captures the essence of our ambition: to reunify our landscape and spark renewed attachment to it.  

Sue Smith has provided further information on Land of the Fanns, available here.

By taking our landscape, partners and communities on a 5-year journey to build understanding, strengthen attachment and celebrate what is special about our area, we seek to reunify and champion our landscape.  Equipped with a renewed understanding and appreciation of its significance, this work will continue long after this Scheme ends.

Further reading  

The Landscape Conservation Action Plan (LCAP) is the manifesto for our Scheme.  A summary version is also available.

Supporting documents include:

  • Landscape Character Assessment
  • Audience Development Plan
  • Skills & Training Audit
  • Interpretation Strategy

These documents are available for download to the right of this page.

Do you have anything to add to this page? Click below to submit your content.

Submit a word document, photograph or pdf. (Size limit 2MB)