The Chilterns AONB is a landscape of remarkable beauty and character that possesses unique geological, ecological and cultural heritage features.
The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covers 883 km2 (324 square miles) of countryside stretching across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. It is a living, working landscape, which has been shaped by people for centuries. It is home and workplace for more than 80,000 people and around 1.6 million people live within 8 km of it.
One of 38 AONBs in England and Wales, the Chilterns was designated in 1965 and extended in 1990 in recognition of its fine landscapes and unique features. The underlying chalk rock gives rise to a steep chalk escarpment and hillsides of velvety, flower-rich downland. Attractive villages with brick and flint cottages nestle in quiet valleys, while woodlands, commons and meadows are criss-crossed by ancient routes and peppered with historic hillforts and chalk figures. Water stored in the chalk emerges as springs that feed clear, sparkling chalk streams like the Chess and Misbourne.
Find out how we protect this wonderful and unique landscape in our What we do section.
Beyond the Boundary: We are are working closely with Natural England to explore the case for and against extending the boundary of the protected area to cover the wider Chilterns AONB. Find out about the project, and how this could benefit people and the landscape on our Boundary Review page.
Did you know? Nearly two-thirds of the AONB is farmland and over one-fifth is wooded. Chalk downland was once extensive too; but it now only covers 1% of the AONB, mostly in small fragments.
Discover the Chilterns landscape
About the AONB
The features and qualities that make the Chilterns special are considered so important, nationally and internationally, that they require protection.
The chalk that lies beneath your feet in the Chilterns supports a set of unique features and landscape character types.
Nature and wildlife
From rare orchids to majestic otters, the diversity of the flora and fauna of the Chiltern Hills is incredible.
Trees and woodlands
One of the most wooded areas in England, the Chilterns is famous for its beech woods and rich woodland heritage.
Rivers and wetlands
Rivers and wetlands are precious habitats in the Chilterns, with crystal-clear chalk streams and the River Thames as highlights.
Farming has created a mosaic of arable and grassland habitats in the Chilterns, stitched together by hedgerows, trees and woodlands.
Grasslands and heaths
The Chilterns AONB supports important wildlife-rich chalk, acid and neutral grasslands, as well remnant heathlands often found on common land.
The Chilterns AONB has over 2,000 hectares of common land, heaths and greens, rich in wildlife and cultural heritage.
History and heritage
Thousands of years of human activity have influenced the Chilterns, leaving behind a legacy of archaeological sites, buildings and routeways.