The Chiltern Hills span the area between Wessex in the South West and Hitchin in Hertfordshire - across much of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. These rolling hills feature swathes of habitat-rich grassland, broken up by ancient beech, ash and box woodland.
Just a short hop from London by train or in the car, this landscape is popular with ramblers and cyclists, while foodies can discover historic market towns.
According to the British Geological Survey, the Chilterns are part of a large geological formation which spans the area between the English Channel and Norfolk. They started forming around 145 million years ago.
Humans started living in the hills between 11,700 to 4,000 BC (Mesolithic), the hills' authority has said, when nomadic hunter-gatherers started to catch and eat red deer and fish. There is also evidence of Neolithic (4,000-2,000 BC) life in the Chilterns. with a barrow or burial mound at Whiteleaf Hill. Paths like the Icknield Way were trodden as early as 650 BC, during the iron age.
Over more recent centuries, patchwork fields, woodland and farmland developed, which became an important source of food under the Tudors (1485-1603 AD).
When the industrial revolution rolled around, the Grand Union Canal cut through the Bulbourne Valley in the late-1700s - between London and Birmingham. There are canal-side stops in and around the Chilterns, at Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring, Aylesbury and Cheddington.
In 1965, the Chilterns became an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to formally recognise its unique landscape and wildlife. The Chilterns Conservation Board is responsible for conservation and improvements in the AONB with the National Trust responsible for looking after some of the estates and parkland.
Towns and villages lie low, at the bottom of gentle hills and escarpments - with ridgeway walks.
Flora and fauna edit
There are large beechwoods with mature trees, some more than 40m tall. Wild box and juniper also grow in the hills.
Look out for otter, water voles, brown trout and the Adonis blue butterfly which are native to the Chilterns.
Get in edit
The Chilterns lie north-west of London.
By car edit
It depends where you want to go in the Chilterns, but the AONB is well connected, on the UK motorway network. Major routes into the AONB and its surrounding towns includeː
- from London, Watford, Yorkshire, Leicester and Milton Keynes
- London Orbital
- from London, Heathrow Airport, Cardiff, Bristol and Swindon
- from London, Uxbridge, Birmingham, Warwick and Oxford
- Junction 1 towards for Chalfont St Peter and Amersham
- Junction 2 for Beaconsfield, Amersham and Chesham
- Junction 4 towards High Wycombe and Princes Risborough and for Marlow
- Junction 6 B4009 for Watlington, Wallingford and Princes Risborough.
- from London, Barnet, Stevenage, the North East and Peterborough
- Junction 8 for Hitchin.
- from Reading into Pangbourne, Streatley and Wallingford.
- from Windsor and Slough into High Wycombe, Amersham and Chesham.
- from London and Oxford into High Wycombe.
- from London, Watford, Bicester and Aylesbury into Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring.
- from London, Rickmansworth and Maidenhead into Chorleywood, Amersham, High Wycombe and Marlow.
- from Denham and Aylesbury to Amersham and Wendover.
- from Leighton Buzzard, Luton, Cambridge, and Letchworth into Hitchin and Dunstable.
- from Luton, Kettering and Bedford into Barton-le-Clay.
- from Ware and Stevenage into Hitchin.
By train edit
Into Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Saunderton, Princes Risborough and Little Kimble use Chiltern Railways from London Marylebone, Wembley Stadium, Bicester North, Banbury, Warwick Parkway and Birmingham Moor Street.
Into Chorleywood, Chalfont and Latimer, Amersham and Chesham use Metropolitan Line or Chiltern Railways from the City of London, King's Cross St Pancras, London Marylebone, Rickmansworth and Aylesbury. Chesham is only.
By plane edit
London Heathrow Airport and Luton Luton Airport are close to the Chiltern Hills with good road connections to Chiltern towns and villages. There are direct rail connections from London Gatwick Airport to destinations in the AONB.
Fees and permits edit
Most land is privately owned. You cannot camp on common land or other land without the owner's permission.
Some car parks may charge.
Get around edit
A network of small routes pass along the length of the Chiltern Hills. The roads are suitable for all cars and motorbikes, but some larger vans and HGVs may struggle on more rural roads.
It is not easy to travel across the Chilterns by train or bus, and some public transport journeys may require a change in Central London.
The Ridgeway edit
The Ridgeway runs from Ivinghoe Beacon in the north east to Overton Hill in the South west.