Spreading over east London and south west Essex, the Land of the Fanns is a fascinating landscape full of environmental and historic hidden gems. The five-year Land of the Fanns Landscape Partnership Scheme aims to reconnect people to this area, uncovering the landscape, strengthening local attachment to,and enjoyment of it. Fanns comes from the Saxon word for fen meaning ‘low marshy land or low-lying district’ which perfectlydescribes much of this landscape, historically an area of fens, forests and farming.
Now in its fourth year, the scheme’s projects are starting to offer significant opportunities for people across the area to learn moreabout the natural history and heritage of this often overlooked and undervalued landscape on the edges of London and the south west of Essex.
Two such projects which will have a lasting impact on the landscape and opportunities for local people are those taking place in the Essex County Council owned country parks at Thorndon and Weald inBrentwood.
Councillor Simon Walsh, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change Action, said: “The project will see the commissioning of historic landscape research, in which the Essex Records Office and park community volunteer groups will be involved, to help piece together the valuable information about the sites’ past, including previous owners, land use and changes that have occurred over the centuries. This history will be told through a series of Interpretation boards and walking trails, planned for installation in late 2021.’’
Both Thorndon and Weald Country Parks are ancient landscapes;fragile fragments of the original woodlands and natural environments that once made up much of the Land of the Fanns in the past. Originally part of the estate owned by the Lords Petre, Thorndon Country Park was enclosed in 1414 around the old Thorndon Hall, the foundations of which can just about be seen today in Ruin Wood.
Its landscape includes diverse habitats including ancient trees andpasture land grazed by rare breed cattle and goats. Weald Country Park’s 520 acres of woodland, hay and wildflower meadows, deer park, open grassland and lakes were first designated a deer park in the 12th century and were once home to a great Tudor mansion. Fallow deer are still to be found in the park’s deer enclosuretoday.
With the help of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this two-year programme aims to increase the public’s appreciation of these historic landscapes by improving access along key pathways. Essex County Council also plan to provideinformation about the history and characters of the parks over the centuries to bring the past to life. These developments offer a crucial opportunity to help bring new people from the local community to the parks to learn more about the landscapes and their stories, and provide new walking routes to encourage exercise too.
Benjamin Sanderson, Land of the Fanns Scheme Manager, said:“The value of these open spaces for people’s health and wellbeingcannot be underestimated. We are living through a time when we need access to open space and nature more than ever and what better place to start than these fantastic country parks.”
Essex County Council is one of nine partners in the Land of the Fanns Landscape Partnership Scheme. The other partners are: Forestry England, Thames Estuary Partnership, Brentwood Borough Council, London Borough of Havering, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham, Thames21 and Thurrock Council. Thames Chase Trust is the lead partner in the project.
To find out more about the Land of the Fanns and how you can get involved in environmental and heritage projects, please go to www.landofthefanns.org. To discover what’s happening in Essex Parks, please go to www.explore-essex.com