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Beacons of the Past: Hillforts in the Chilterns Landscape

The Chilterns LiDAR Portal is Launched!

Come and help us discover un-mapped archaeology across the Chilterns AONB! Learn more about how LiDAR data is collected and processed, and how you can 'read' it to discover archaeology hidden in the landscape. Click the image below to launch the Portal! 




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By being on the mailing list you will be the first to hear about volunteering opportunities, workshops, and other ways that you can get involved in the Project. You will also receive our quarterly Beacons of the Past e-newsletter. Signing up doesn't mean you are committing to anything, and you can unsubscribe any time you like.

Castle Grove Camp (Wyfold Castle) CR P1020455

Castle Grove Camp, Checkendon. A typical Chiltern hillfort, hidden in the beech woods.
Photo credit: Claire Ready

You will can also find out about the project's events through the website here, and through Social Media, on twitter with the hashtag #Chilforts and on our Chilforts Facebook page 

About the Project

The Chilterns Conservation Board is delivering an exciting project which will engage and inspire communities to discover, conserve, and enjoy the Chilterns' Iron Age hillforts and their prehistoric chalk landscapes.

The Chilterns has one of the largest collections of hillforts in the UK, yet many are poorly preserved, and little is known about them. Supported and part-funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this 4 year project will provide a real focus for community and public involvement through remote sensing and survey, practical excavation, and research, as well as a programme of events and educational activities. A key component of the project is a "LiDAR survey," covering 1400 km2, about which you can read more, and see its extent, on this page.

For further information about the project, contact Dr Wendy Morrison at the Chilterns Conservation Board, tel. 01844 355525  wmorrison@chilternsaonb.org




Above is a map of the sites on which the project will be focusing. The majority of these are Iron Age hillfort sites, with one or two exceptions.

Below is an overview of the project, and to the left you will be able to find more pages relating to the project. We will be adding to this information as the project moves along and we discover more about the Chilterns Iron Age past.

Download a summary of the Beacons of the Past project 

Why is this project important?

Ancient hillforts have fascinated historians and archaeologists for centuries. Enduring and prominently situated, they have sparked the imaginations of generations through the glimpse they give us into our history.

Iron Age hillforts were constructed in the United Kingdom from around 1000 BC until the Romans arrived. Steeped in mythology and folklore, they offer an intriguing insight into how communities might have lived together over two-thousand years ago.

Some think hillforts may have been built to mark a boundary between two distinct tribal areas. They might have been centres of ritual and ceremony. Some have evidence of roundhouses, which would point to their function as community dwellings and livestock enclosures. But who were these people? What did they do, and how did they live?

What will the project do?

The project will help people connect with the prehistory of the Chilterns, and encourage them to visit and enjoy the hillforts and their landscapes through practical research and conservation skills. As a result, Chilterns hillforts will be better understood, in better condition and more accessible. Currently we are working with over 1,000 volunteers to identify, record, and interpret the UK's largest bespoke high resolution archaeological LiDAR survey. You can join the team of discovery at https://chilternsbeacons.org. We will build on these discrtoveries to better care for, understand, and enjoy our Chilterns heritage and landscape.


Environment Agency LiDAR data strips away the trees covering Sharpenhoe Clappers, Beds., showing the earthworks which have been interpreted as possibly a "promontory" hillfort.

How can you support us?

We would be delighted to hear from individuals, organisations and potential partners and welcome the following assistance:

  • Corporate sponsorship. Demonstrate your company’s commitment to local heritage conservation and your commitment to preserving and enhancing the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty through a one-off donation or sponsorship
  • Volunteer programmes and in-kind help: supporting the project doesn’t have to be limited to money. Practical support, either through corporate volunteering activities or in-kind sponsorship, could make all the difference

If you’re inspired by this important heritage project, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with Dr Wendy Morrison (Project Manager) tel 01844 355525,  wmorrison@chilternsaonb.org 


Cholesbury Hillfort


Castle Grove Camp


Totternhoe Castle

Data and imagery copyright Chilterns Conservation Board

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