The Land of the Fanns Training Project

The Land of the Fanns is an evocative name for the area near Upminster and Brentwood where London and Essex meet. (The term ‘Fanns’ is derived from the Saxon word for fen, which meant ‘low marshy land or low-lying district’.)  The landscape of fens, forests and farms, rich in geological, natural and cultural heritage has been continually evolving since the last Ice Age as a working landscape underpinning London’s growth.

The area is currently part of a landscape partnership scheme, funded by a Lottery grant, and the project aims to restore, discover and celebrate the last remaining landscape of London as it once was.

Land of the Fanns

Land of the Fanns

The Gardens Trust is supporting the research and recording project, which will run over the next couple of years, helping volunteers learn how to ‘read’ a historic landscape on site visits and use archives for research. The team will then produce basic Statements of Significance to help conserve these landscapes for the future. The project will include several preliminary training workshops for volunteers, at sites that will include Stubbers, Belhus, Thorndon and Warley. Consultant Twigs Way will be running these workshops from September to November 2019.

If you would like to find out more or get involved in this exciting project, please email or  visit their website here.

The following letter was published in The Times, 29th March 2019, along with an article by David Sanderson, after a campaign by John Phibbs to try to halt the destruction of documents related to public parks in the possession of the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It was unfortunately, too late to save the archive:

National Scandal at the National Lottery Heritage Fund

The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) has been giving grants for the restoration of thousands of our public parks since 1996. In so doing it has miraculously challenged inner city blight and urban dereliction. It has changed lives, and it has acquired an unrivalled hard-copy archive of these parks, their history and design, the trees that are growing in them, their ecology, and the way they are used by the public today. This archive cost fifty million pounds to create and was a complete and unique record of 25 years of endeavour but the NLHF has just destroyed it, claiming high costs of storage and difficulties with copyright. These claims are not robust. Offers were made before and during the shredding of the archive to take it on at little or no cost in order to preserve it. The NLHF would not say where it was stored, would not give access to it, would not detail the financial and legal opinions on which the decision was based and continued regardless with its programme of destruction. The NLHF should be asked what right it has to act against the national interest.


Dr James Bartos, chair, The Gardens Trust; Christopher Boyle QC, chair, The Georgian Group; Dominic Cole VMM OBE, President, The Gardens Trust; Stephen Daniels, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Geography, University of Nottingham; Lady Mary Keen, Garden designer and journalist; Hal Moggridge OBE VMH, Colvin and Moggridge; John Phibbs MBE; John Sales, VMH, Vice - President The Gardens Trust, Vice-President RHS.

Plus a further 148 signatories (many from Essex Gardens Trust).

The letter has however raised the question of copyright, ownership, and the need for co-ordinating policies of Conservation Management Plans with National Organisations and Lord Aberdare is due to raise questions in The House of Lords on 24th April. 

The roman boathouse at birkenhead in the wirral, usually acknowledged as the world’s first publicly funded civic park, the times/alamy photos.

The roman boathouse at birkenhead in the wirral, usually acknowledged as the world’s first publicly funded civic park, the times/alamy photos.

The resulting article has also helped to raise awareness of the national importance of public parks:

David Jacques, a former English Heritage inspector, said that for 25 years he had been warning the fund about the historical importance of the information that was being gathered and the need to ensure that it could be preserved for posterity.

“Public parks are actually one of Britain’s great gifts to the world,” he said. “Birkenhead Park [in Merseyside] is the first [civic park] in the world.”

He said that the archive would have been invaluable for organisations looking to redesign or refresh existing parks as well as for historical research.

John Phibbs, a historic landscape adviser and expert on Capability Brown, said it was “cultural vandalism”.

“No one was in any doubt about its value,” he said. “The archive includes not only all the correspondence relating to each project but also detailed accounts of each covering the history, ecology, archaeology and social context as well as an analysis of the design.”’

The Gardens Trust Annual Conference 2019

The Annual Conference will be held at The Queen’s College Oxford on Friday 6th to Sunday 8th September. The weekend will provide an opportunity to revisit some of the gardens and writings of Mavis Batey, a founder of the Garden History Society. the forerunner of the Gardens Trust.

the gardens trust Annual conference 2019, oxford.

the gardens trust Annual conference 2019, oxford.

There will be talks and visits to College Gardens and the Botanic Gardens and visits to two major private estates. The guest speaker on Saturday night will be Robin Lane Fox. Full details here.