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Beacons of the Past: Hillforts in the Chilterns Landscape


About the project

The Chilterns Conservation Board is developing 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 conserved, and little is known about them.  

Supported and part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, this project will provide a real focus for community and public involvement through practical excavation work, technological and survey research and a programme of events and educational activities.


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.

Particularly exciting is the LiDAR survey – this will be the first time the entire Chilterns will be the subject of such innovative technological exploration. We don’t know what the survey will reveal – but the results might support future projects as we continue to seek to understand this ancient landscape.


Why do we need help?

The Heritage Lottery Fund has funded the first, or ‘development’ phase of the project. Over the next few months, project lead Cathie Hasler will finalise the practicalities of project delivery and draw up a funding bid which will seek further support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the delivery phase.

Before the bid can be submitted, we must now secure some £100,000 to match the funding provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund before June 2017. The project will be a four-year programme to commence in Autumn 2017. We are trying to raise this amount in a number of ways, including local authority funding, trust and foundation support, corporate sponsorship and individual donations.


How can you support us?

We would be delighted to hear from individuals, organisations and potential partners to help us make the project a reality. As well as financial support, we’re keen to hear from people, organisations and community groups who might be interested in:

  • 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
  • Help us connect to people who can make our vision a reality. Could you put us in touch with people who be willing to advocate our work and help secure the funding we need to deliver the project?

If you’re inspired by this important heritage project, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with the Project Development Officer, Cathie Hasler, telephone 01844 355525, or email chasler@chilternsaonb.org.

To download more details about the project, please click here

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