The Chilterns is an ancient landscape with traces still visible today of many eras and previous settlers. The area is littered with Bronze Age barrows and field systems, Iron Age forts, medieval churches and deer enclosures, 18th century sawpits in the woods and 20th century military trenches. All create layers of civilisation and settlement which provide a timeline for the evolution of the landscape and help define what is different and special about the Chilterns.
The concept of the historic environment is wide ranging and holistic encompassing all physical manifestations of mankind’s activities from earliest prehistory to the present day. It includes buried archaeological remains and palæo-environmental deposits, relict sites surviving as earthworks or ruins, historic buildings and villages, landscapes still in contemporary use such as farms and field boundaries, industrial and military structures, ancient woodlands and commons and country houses with their associated parks and gardens.
Much work is going on at local and county levels to record the historic environment of the Chilterns, conserve it and help people to understand and enjoy it.
Although protected and designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), much of what we can see in the Chilterns is the result of centuries of human endeavour. In order to better understand and appreciate the historic value of this special landscape, the Chilterns Conservation Board, English Heritage and Buckinghamshire County Council completed a Chilterns Historic Landscape Characterisation project (Chilterns HLC) in 2009, covering the designated AONB and an area immediately around it.
The overall aim of the Chilterns HLC project was to improve understanding of the area’s historic landscape character and patterns. It resulted in a detailed report, describing the different landscape types found in the Chilterns with an analysis of how they have evolved over time. There are many maps and diagrams which help to explain how the landscapes we see today have come about. The project also published a booklet entitled ‘The Making of the Chilterns Landscape’ which is a summary of the main findings of the project presented in an accessible way.
Read about the latest history and archaeology news and projects from across the Chilterns