The Land of the Fanns in 100 stories

Land of the Fanns drawing workshop in Upminster. Picture: Jo Beal

Land of the Fanns drawing workshop in Upminster. Picture: Jo Beal - Credit: Jo Beal

Across rural Brentwood and Essex, the Land of the Fanns project aims to restore the landscape and revive cultural heritage.

The Land of the Fanns is a low-lying area to the north of the River Thames, including parts of Greater London, Essex and Thurrock.

Shaped by the last Ice Age and historically an area of fens, forests and farming, the idyllic scenery is made up of highland, lowland, marshes and river valleys such as the Thames tributaries and a range of hills that include the Havering Ridge, the Brentwood Heights and Langdon Hills.

The word 'fanns' is a Saxon word for fen which means a low marshy, water-logged land, which would have been referenced in place names such as Bulphan (or Bulfann) and Fanns Farm.

The inspiration for the name of the scheme taken is from the Leslie's Thompson's 1957 book The Land of the Fanns, which celebrated "a land of low hills and scattered villages and, between them, a countryside of mystery and an elusive charm."

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The scheme partners Thurrock, Brentwood, Essex County, the London boroughs of Havering and Barking and Dagenham councils as well the Forestry Commission and various Thames-based trusts. After receiving funding of £1.35million from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2016.

Broadly speaking, its aim is to restore cultural heritage and protect the landscape. Since its inception, the scheme has completed many short and long term conservation projects to teach people about the cultural heritage of the land of maintain it.

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One of its latest projects, the Community Mapping project, asked residents to submit tales, histories, myths and legends about the landscapes where they live, in the area of the Land of the Fanns. It could be an old windmill for example, where a resident knows the tales of who used to run it and when.

Although these stories may not have national interest, they have a relevance and importance to the community. The project hopes to get 100 stories and then create silk flags to represent them and use them to shape a walking route for the Walking Arts Festival,

Throughout March and April, Kinetika, a partner of the Lands of the Fanns scheme, will be holding story telling workshops and silk flag-making workshops, which will help devise the walking routes and inspire walkers to talk about their personal connections to the land.

As a series of 10 walks, the Walking Arts Festival which will start in Eastbrook end, on May 28, will visit the notable places in the landscape referenced in stories, such as Langdon Hills, Bedfords Park, Thorndon Country Park, Rainham Marshes.

For more information on workshops and the walk schedule, visit the website.

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