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Volunteers wanted to help record histories and stories of Land of the Fanns

25 Nov Volunteers wanted to help record histories and stories of Land of the Fanns

The Land of the Fanns Landscape Partnership Scheme is seeking new volunteers to train in oral history interviewing. These volunteers will be vital in recording memories of people who have lived and worked in the Land of the Fanns, collecting tales of ways of life that are disappearing and that reveal how the area has changed over time.

The five-year Land of the Fanns Landscape Partnership Scheme’s aim is to inspire people to discover and explore their local landscape, strengthening attachment to the land and enhancing enjoyment of it, by revealing the heritage and natural beauty all around. Spreading over east London and south west Essex, the Land of the Fanns is a fascinating and diverse landscape full of environmental and historic hidden gems. It is also full of people with histories and stories about the land and its heritage.

The Land of the Fanns oral history project will be a lasting legacy of the scheme and will capture the stories of ordinary people who have helped to shape the land, who know of forgotten places and histories that are important to communities and need to be recorded.

Volunteers will be trained to interview people to gather the most important and interesting aspects of their stories. The training involves using and maintaining simple recording equipment, guidance on how to prepare for interviews and necessary permissions and data protection regulations. Once trained, volunteers will be introduced to interviewees. The training is informal and interesting and free. Out of pocket expenses will be paid to all volunteers. Training will be given in small groups at Thames Chase Forest Centre in Havering. Due to the ongoing restrictions and to adhere to safe distancing, the training sessions are for up to six people in a large airy room. Plastic face shields will be supplied.

The project will compile a lasting record of people’s stories such as that of Maggie Pollock, a local Thurrock resident, remembers playing as a small child in the grounds of Belhus Mansion in Belhus Park, Aveley. The house was uninhabited and forlorn but there were several large oak trees in the extensive grounds and grazing cows.

The house was demolished in 1957 so Maggie’s memories recall a part of Thurrock’s lost heritage.

All the stories such as Maggie’s will be transcribed and archived at both the British Library and the Thames Chase Forest Centre, and be used for future generations to discover and explore the lives of those who lived in the Land of the Fanns.

Valina Bowman Burns has undertaken the training and is ready to record stories when she is able to after lockdown. She said: “I really enjoyed the Oral History training. It was great to have a chance to ask questions. The notes handed out were very thorough and useful for referring back to. The workshop was well organised and felt safe – with every consideration given to social distancing. The provision of face coverings that still allowed us to communicate effectively was a thoughtful touch.”

To find out more about the Land of the Fanns and how you can get involved in environmental and heritage projects, please go to