The Horses of Crossness.
Filmed at Southmere Green, Abbey Wood in April 2007, this short documentary for the BBC tells the story of the distinctive black and white horses that are found grazing on patches of land from Abbey Wood down to Greenhithe and beyond. “I wondered whom they belonged to and what their history was,” Judy explained. “Making this film seemed the ideal way to find out about them.”
Advised by BBC South East, Judy and Matt Merritt wrote a shooting script, supervised the shoot and the editing of the film. Taking part were the owners of many of the horses grazing on Crossness marsh, Moses and Bubbles Brazil. Coming from a family that has kept horses on the marshes for generations, they explained how Henry V111 had originally given the land to travelling families. Horses bred on these marshes have over the centuries been bought by Royalty as well as keeping London on the move in the days before the motorcar. The reason so many of the horses are black & white because gypsies prize decoratively marked animals. There were horses living wild on the marshes even before Romany people settled there though, although their orgins are unclear.
Steve Whitbread from The London Wildlife Trust was on hand at the film-shoot to explain how the horses are essential to the ecology of the marsh, as their grazing encourages wild plants and flowers. Once Erith, Crayford and Dartford marshes were part of one great Thameside marsh, but today only small pockets of this vital habitat remain. Rare creatures such as bank voles and great crested newts rely on the marshland for their survival. A detailed model made by local photographer John Wylie allowed the film-makers to show how the planned Business Park on Southmere Green will drastically reduce this precious green space in the heart of Thamesmead.
Matt and Judy hope that people in the South East watching their short film will add their voices to the protest to save the marsh for future generations of people, wildlife and of course the horses. The film was broadcast as part of the regional news programme on BBC South East on Friday, 1st June 2007.