The character of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty comes not just from its rolling hills, fields and woods but also from the attractive villages, farm buildings and individual houses found throughout it. In the past great use was made of locally-produced materials such as clay tiles, bricks, flint and timber to build cottages, houses and barns. By being made out of natural materials found in the landscape, these buildings have blended in with their surroundings and complement the beauty of the countryside around them perfectly. The mellow clay tile roofs and distinctive brick and flint walls of the cottages have a clear Chilterns character, as do the black weather-boarded barns with their great doors.
The Chilterns also has a good number of notable individual buildings including stately homes, monuments, mausoleums and historic windmills. There is a wealth of medieval churches in the villages, many of them built using flint.
Today, with the great pressure for development around and sometimes within the AONB, it is more important than ever that new buildings reflect and complement the nationally-protected landscape around them. The Chilterns Conservation Board and Chiltern Society run an annual Buildings Design Awards competition to encourage and recognise great examples of design and construction.
It is the consistent use of local materials which has created the special and distinctive character of buildings in the Chilterns. Bricks and tiles were readily available, produced by hundreds of brickmakers from clay dug out of the fields and woods. Flints are abundant, found in the chalk of the hills and the overlying clay. The heavily-wooded nature of the landscape meant that timber was easily-sourced. The chalk geology of the area means that stone is not locally-available but a particular form of hard chalk called clunch has been quarried in the Chilterns since medieval times and has been used in houses and churches.
The Chilterns Conservation Board has produced a detailed Buildings Design Guide for the Chilterns plus some Technical Notes on Flint, Brick and Roofing Materials to assist anyone who is extending, restoring or building a new property in the AONB.