Essex Life|February 2020
The Land of the Fanns – an intricate landscape famous for trade, commerce and industry – is an area of south west Essex and the urban fringes of east London, that were once part of Essex. A landscape often misunderstood, it occupies the spaces between suburban Brentwood, Basildon, Grays and Romford; a crossroads landscape often traveled through and impacted by centuries of human intervention. But it also offers hidden delights that reward the visitor through further exploration.
In 2016, a pioneering partnership of local authorities, Forestry England, Thames21 and Thames Estuary Partnership, led by Thames Chase Trust, was awarded a £1.36million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to deliver a five-year Landscape Partnership Scheme in this area.
The scheme aims to manage positively the historic landscapes in this area and will also work on engaging local communities in an appreciation and celebration of the heritage on their doorstep while hoping to build lasting partnerships, better equipped to protect and maintain it into the future. Now into its third year, the scheme is at its mid-way point with many projects showing progress and delivering positive outcomes.
27 projects make up the Land of the Fanns Scheme and they concentrate on a number of key heritage components, each reflecting a critical part of the story of the natural, archaeological and built heritage of the area. The Land of the Fanns, covering approximately 185km2, is a region of contrasts with established urban zones lying next to valuable fragments of historic landscapes and unique natural habitats. At its heart is Thames Chase Community Forest.
The area's natural heritage is determined by its underlying geology. Retreating ice sheets of the last glaciations left a geological footprint which placed the River Thames where it lies today and created flat clay lowlands and gravelly uplands. The uplands around Brentwood and Langdon consist of farmland, ancient woodland, flower-rich grasslands, small heaths and watercourses. Thick clay deposits on lowland areas around Rainham and Hornchurch are somewhat flatter and wetter with countryside characterized by fen, grazing marsh, rare Thames terrace grasslands and reedbeds.
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