Chilterns National Landscape
The Chilterns is a landscape of remarkable beauty and distinctive character, with a unique interaction of geological, ecological and cultural heritage features. Its dramatic chalk escarpment is globally rare, and creates sweeping panoramic views, criss-crossed by ancient routes and hedgerows, trees, orchards and parkland, weaving across farmland.
Sunset at Hartslock Nature Reserve
Attractive villages with brick and flint cottages nestle in quiet valleys, while ancient beech woodlands, commons and meadows are peppered with historic hillforts and chalk figures. Water stored in the chalk emerges as springs that feed nine clear, sparkling, globally rare chalk streams including the Chess and the Misbourne. These habitats are home to some of the UK’s most endangered species, such as otter, water vole, reed bunting and brown trout. The Chilterns has nationally important concentrations of species-rich chalk grassland, harbouring scarce and threatened species, such as Chiltern gentian, wild candytuft, pasqueflower, silver-spotted skipper butterfly, and glow-worm.
Over half of the Chilterns’ woodland is ancient, including the Chilterns beech wood Special Area of Conservation (SAC, European designation). There are also significant box, juniper and beech-yew woods; veteran trees and relict wood pasture. Villages reveal distinctive cottages made from local brick, flint and clay tiles, and medieval churches, contrasting with grand stately homes with dramatic parkland. Local museums reveal a rich heritage of rural industry, including woodworking (‘bodging’) for furniture production, lace-making, windmills and watercress beds. More than 2,000 ha of common land, heaths and greens are rich in both wildlife and cultural heritage.
Walk Works walking group at Bix
The Chilterns is one of the most accessible National Landscapes, easily reached by tube from London, or by bus and train from the urban areas that skirt its boundaries. The protected area covers 883 km2 (324 square miles) of countryside stretching across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. Visitors can enjoy a network of 2,000 km of rights of way, including two national trails (the Ridgeway and Thames Path); two regional routes (the Chiltern Way and Chilterns Cycleway) and numerous ancient routes such as the Icknield Way, plus plenty of pubs, cafes and farm shops catering to walkers, cyclists and leisure visitors.