About the AONB

The Chilterns is a landscape of remarkable beauty and distinctive character with a unique interaction of geological, ecological and cultural heritage features.

What is an AONB?

‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)’ is a formal designation for an area of land that is of national importance for its natural beauty. AONBs have the same level of landscape quality and the same level of protection as our National Parks. Protection falls under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act and the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW2000). The single purpose of AONB designation is ‘to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area’.

AONBs are living, working landscapes that contribute more than £16 billion every year to the national economy. Over two-thirds of England’s population live within half an hour’s drive of an AONB and about 150 million people visit the English AONBs every year, spending more than £2 billion.

The National Association for AONBs promotes the conservation, enhancement and enjoyment of the UK’s AONBs and protected areas. Its membership is made up of AONB partnerships and boards, local authorities, environment organisations and individuals who care deeply about the UK’s outstanding countryside.

Chilterns ANOB

What is natural beauty?

The term ‘natural beauty’ is enshrined in the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. Although seemingly obvious, legislation makes it clear that natural beauty is not just the look of the landscape, but also includes the landform and geology, the plants and animals, the landscape features, and the rich history of human settlement over the centuries.

An area is designated as an AONB if it meets criteria that relate to natural beauty. This set of ‘special qualities’ includes things like the natural or man-made landscape, relative wildness, distinctive geology or habitats, and cultural heritage.

What makes the Chilterns special?

Panoramic views across a dramatic chalk escarpment – a globally rare landscape type interwoven with intimate valleys and rolling fields.

A rich natural tapestry

Ancient hedgerows, trees, orchards and parkland weaving across farmland.

Chilterns ANOB

Unspoilt, tranquil countryside.

One of the most accessible protected landscapes in Europe, with relative tranquillity, unspoilt countryside and dark skies on the doorstep of 10 million people.

Chilterns ANOB

Scarce and threatened species.

Nationally important concentrations of species-rich chalk grassland that is home to scarce and threatened species, such as Chiltern gentian, wild candytuft, pasqueflower, silver-spotted skipper and glow-worm.

Chilterns ANOB

Chiltern Gentian, (c) BBOWT

One of the most wooded landscapes in England.

Over half of the woodland is ancient, including the Chilterns beech wood Special Area of Conservation (SAC, European designation). There are also significant box, juniper and beech-yew woods; veteran trees and relict wood pasture.

Chilterns ANOB

Nine precious chalk streams.

A globally scarce habitat and home to some of the UK’s most endangered species, such as otter, water vole, reed bunting and brown trout.

Chilterns ANOB

A diverse archaeological landscape.

Ancient parish boundaries, medieval field patterns, iron age hillforts, and remnants of woodland heritage like sawpits and charcoal hearths.

Chilterns ANOB

Bulstrode Camp

Ample common lands.

More than 2,000 ha of common land, heaths and greens, rich in wildlife and cultural heritage.

Chilterns ANOB

Highly accessible.

A network of 2,000 km of rights of way, including two national trails (the Ridgeway and Thames Path); two regional routes (the Chiltern Way and Chilterns Cycleway); and numerous ancient routes like the Icknield Way.

Chilterns ANOB

A rich industrial heritage.

An industrial heritage of woodworking, quarrying, brick making and food production with windmills and watercress beds.

Chilterns ANOB

Distinctive buildings.

Made from local brick, flint and clay tiles; attractive villages and notable buildings including stately homes and monuments; and a wealth of medieval churches.

Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB

Chilterns AONB Boundary Review

We are currently working with Natural England  to explore both an extension to the Chilterns AONB and ways in which the management and governance arrangements for the AONB could be developed.

What does the Chilterns AONB boundary mean?

The Chilterns AONB boundary can be seen on the map below. It shows the area that is designated under the two Acts of Parliament that protect special landscapes. It helps people to understand which places need careful consideration with regards to planning, development or land-use change. It is, however, a living and breathing boundary. Wildlife does not recognise it, and needs to move freely across it in order to thrive, and change outside it can have an effect within it. So, the Chilterns Conservation Board work both within it and throughout the surrounding area to ensure that their projects and work engage with the much wider community surrounding the boundary, and any outside development or land management is sensitive towards the AONB.

  • The Chilterns AONB boundary is currently under review in the hope that an extension can be secured. Find out more on our Boundary Review page.
  • The boundary of the Chilterns AONB does not stop us working with partners outside the area to enhance both the protected zone and the area beyond. Our Mend the Gap programme, for example, works across the Chilterns and the North Wessex Downs AONBs to enhance areas that have been negatively impacted by the electrification of the Great Western Railway.

 

Chilterns ANOB

Chilterns AONB map

Managing the Chilterns AONB

The Chilterns AONB is managed by the Chilterns Conservation Board who oversee the work to conserve and enhance this beautiful and unique landscape. Their guiding tool is the Chilterns AONB Management Plan, which sets out the vision, policies and actions for the management of the AONB from 2019 to 2024. It describes how best to conserve, enhance and enjoy the Chilterns, helping all those with a responsibility for the AONB to care for it for current and future generations. It influences and shapes key policies, plans and processes affecting the area, such as development and transport plans.

The Chilterns Conservation Board is responsible for putting together the AONB Management Plan in consultation with local communities, public bodies, partners and agencies. The Board promotes the implementation of the Plan by a wide range of organisations and individuals with an interest in the area.

 

The Chilterns AONB Management Plan

Click below to find out more and download the Chilterns AONB Management Plan.

Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB

Chilterns AONB Management Plan

The Chilterns AONB Management Plan 2019-24: Caring for the Chilterns forever and for everyone contains a comprehensive summary of the key issues facing the AONB and the management policies and actions needed to conserve this special place.
Chilterns ANOB

Plan your trip to the Chilterns!

Search the interactive map: select from a list of categories to bring up icons showing the location and information of walks, bike rides, places to visit, tasty local products and plenty more across the Chilterns area
Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB

About us

Find out all about the Chilterns Conservation Board, our staff and our publications.

Board Meetings

Here you can find records from previous Board meetings and information about future ones.