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Secretary of State Michael Gove visits Thames Chase in Upminster

PUBLISHED: 13:34 01 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:48 01 March 2019

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MP

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MP

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Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP visited Thames Chase in Upminster yesterday to see the work of volunteers in restoring London’s lost landscapes and making green spaces accessible to all.

Arranged by Hornchurch and Upminster MP, Julia Lopez, the visit was to showcase the Land of the Fanns project - a five-year project to restore, discover and celebrate the landscapes in Havering and Barking and Dagenham.

Described as the “grandest prospect in England” by writer Philip Morant in the 1970s, the Land of the Fanns area is full of environmental and historical gems.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MPSecretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MP

From places such as Rainham Marshes which is home to 10 per cent of the UK population of water vole, to the rich histories of royal residence within the Havering hills - the project hopes to get residents involved with restoration projects.

The word Fanns comes from the Saxon word for fen which means a low marshy land or low lying district. This describes much of the Land of the Fanns landscape which is historically an area of fens, forests and farming.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MPSecretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MP

The name of the project is also inspired by Leslie Thompson, who described the area in her 1957 novel as “The Land that Fanns”.

The projects are split into five categories; restoring and reconnecting the Land of the Fanns, understanding the area with community mapping and archaeology projects, attachment to the area with volunteer and community projects and enjoying the area with conferences and a potential Arts Festival.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MPSecretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MP

The Secretary of State met with Mary Wright, acting chair of the forest’s trust, and scheme manager, Benjamin Sanderson, to learn about the work of Thames Chase in promoting woodland creation, biodiversity and the restoration of derelict land.

The trust is passionate about improving accessibility to the countryside for everyone, and Mr Gove officially opened the forest’s new changing places facility which makes it easier for families with disabled children or relatives to enjoy the outdoors.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MPSecretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MP

MP Julia Lopez said: “The exciting plans of Thames Chase to restore degraded land and reconnect the countryside to nearby communities could be a blueprint for industrial landscape regeneration across the country.

“Their efforts show that we can gain countryside as much as we risk losing it and fits with the government’s wider agenda to restore the English countryside to its former glory.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MPSecretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MP

“Ensuring too that our local forest is a place that everyone can enjoy, including those with disabilities, makes a huge difference to families’ quality of life’.”

Mr Gove spoke to members of the Positive Parents group, instrumental in bringing the changing places facility to Thames Chase, and opened the facility designed to make enjoying the natural environment accessible to everyone.

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