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Fens, Forests and Fields – the Land of the Fanns publishes new book with essay by Ken Worpole

28 May Fens, Forests and Fields – the Land of the Fanns publishes new book with essay by Ken Worpole

The Land of the Fanns has this week announced that well-known author and social historian Ken Worpole has contributed to the new book which captures the essence of the area and sums up everything that the five year Landscape Partnership Scheme has been about: Fens, Forests and Fields.

Together with fellow contributors: photographer and artist Tamara Stoll and artist and walker Ali Pretty, the trio’s appreciation for the area and the people who live there shines out through their words and photographs. Ken Worpole’s essay celebrates the intriguing place that is the Land of the Fanns: a complex landscape, dissected by roads, rail, and industry that straddles the London and Essex border. This division has meant that local communities, proud and attached to their own part of the landscape, have never seen that landscape acknowledged and celebrated as anywhere worthwhile or meaningful. The Landscape Partnership Scheme’s aim is to reconnect people with places, to uncover the history and heritage of the area; to bring unity and cohesion across the communities making this area their home.
Ken’s essay for Fens, Forests and Fields recounts his new discoveries on his journeys through ‘the Fanns’, exploring the ebb and flow between London and Essex that has created this liminal landscape. Ken conjures up a hidden landscape which had much to offer those wanting to walk and cycle during lockdown – and has now a role to play into a different future.

The inspiration for the book was the 100 stories gathered through walks and writing workshops over a two-year period collected from across the area in a Community Mapping project led by outdoor arts organisation Kinetika and its artistic director Ali Pretty. Beautiful images of the 100 silk flags created by Kinetika with participants from the local areas to illustrate the stories, are a central feature of the book

Made up of three parts: the recent past; the present; and hopes for the area’s future, Fens, Forests and Fields includes a selection of these personal stories from the people who live and work in the 70 square mile area of the Land of the Fanns. Tamara Stoll joined Ken on cycle rides around the Land of the Fanns. A photographer who documents public spaces and communities, Stoll links photography with social exchanges and dialogue. For Fens, Forests and Fields, she photographed and interviewed 11 people who have an enduring and committed role in the landscape.

Benjamin Sanderson, Scheme Manager, Land of the Fanns said “ I really hope that people will enjoy reading the fantastic tales in the book. It’s the culmination of a project that has genuinely captured the imagination of local people though walks, drawing, film making, storytelling and designing the silk flags. The words reflect personal understandings of the local landscape that help exemplify people’s attachment to it. For those already familiar with the landscape, it will hopefully offer some surprises and for people new to the Land of the Fanns, it will undoubtedly offer an insight into somewhere well worth discovering.”
Mary Wright, interim co-Chair, Thames Chase Trust said: “This collection of stories and reflections celebrates the historic landscape of the London fens and its rich heritage hidden beneath the many developments built to service the capital city. It records a range of memories that reflect the unique and varied landscape of this part of historic Essex. It is a gem that should be treasured.”
Stuart McLeod, Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are delighted our support led to the exciting creation of Fens, Forests and Fields with Ken Worpole – a book that perfectly embodies The Land of the Fanns and its five-year Landscape Partnership Scheme. Thanks to National Lottery players, the project’s legacy is captured in a beautiful collection of words and images that will forever tell the stories of the people and places of this extraordinary area.”
To purchase a copy of Fens, Forests and Fields, please email
Ken Worpole will be in conversation about Fens, Forests and Fields at the Essex Book Festival on Tuesday 15 June. The event will be broadcast online. More details can be found here: Events – Essex Book Festival
To accompany this talk, Ken will be leading a cycle ride through ‘the Fanns’ on Thursday 17 June.