Living in the landscape

For thousands of years, people have been living in the Chilterns, making changes to the landscape and in turn being changed and inspired by it.

We can see the traces of what ancient people were doing, left behind in earthworks, ruins, holloways, and the like. But it is only in the last thousand years or so that we can rely on written records and  begin to put names to some of the inhabitants and visitors to the Chilterns. Archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler once wrote:

…archaeology …must be ‘seasoned with humanity’. Dead archaeology is the driest dust that blows

The past comes to life when we not only experience the heritage around us, but also imagine the people who were walking in these hills and valleys before us.

Explore our map to discover notable historical figures and places in the Chilterns.

Royal connections

From famous artists to world-renowned authors, eminent politicians to kings and queens, the Chilterns has long been associated with famous (and infamous) people from the pages of British history.

aerial view of berkhamsted castleBerkhamsted’s connections with kings and queens through the ages stem largely from its royal castle, built by William of Normandy’s brother following the conquest of England. The castle passed through many royal hands between the 11th and 16th centuries including Henry II, Edward the Black Prince, Henry V, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Nowadays this picturesque ruin and green space in the centre of Berkhamsted is the ideal location for a picnic. Why not spend some time in a space once occupied by feasting kings and queens?

Royal connections to Berkhamsted

The market town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, at the northern tip of the Chilterns AONB, was frequented by King Henry VIII who enjoyed hunting in the surrounding countryside. In his youth was quite an athlete and it is said that he once tried to pole vault across the River Hiz. However, having become heavier than he realised, the pole snapped from underneath him and he fell into the river, much to the amusement of his servants. This event was, until recently, commemorated on the sign of the Buck’s Head pub in nearby Little Wymondley.

Royal connections to Hitchin

The Manor of Risborough was owned by royalty for over 600 years. Its most famous royal owner, whose name is now attached to the town, was Edward, the Black Prince. After his death, the Manor was handed down through royal generations until eventually in 1628 Charles I sold the Manor of Princes Risborough to the City of London in part repayment of his large debts.

Royal connections to Princes Risborough

Chenies Manor, near Amersham is a Tudor manor house, built around 1460. Henry VIII is said to have been entertained here. Queen Elizabeth I visited several times, and in July 1570, according to an entry in a wardrobe book, she lost some small gold fastenings called aglets from her dress. There is a huge oak tree in the grounds of the Manor, known as Queen Elizabeth’s Oak, under which it is thought she lost the jewellery. You can visit the house and its beautiful gardens which have been restored by the current owners.

Royal connections to Chenies Manor

The beautiful medieval village of Ewelme near Wallingford is known for its historic school (the oldest Church of England primary in the country), almshouses and restored watercress beds. Centuries ago the village contained a royal manor house which was visited by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The house is no more but the village is still well worth visiting – the church contains magnificent medieval monuments and the author Jerome K Jerome is buried in the churchyard.

Royal connections to Ewelme

Royal connections to other parts of the Chilterns

icon Royal connections to Aylesbury

William I demanded green geese and eels whenever he visited!

icon Royal connections to Benson

Once the wealthiest Royal Manor in Oxfordshire.

icon Royal connections to Bisham Abbey

A prison fit for two Queens.

icon Royal connections to Bradenham and Hughenden

Homes of Queen Victoria’s favourite Prime Minister.

icon Royal connections to the Chequers Estate

Did a first century King fight a battle against the Romans here?

icon Royal connections to Dunstable

One of 12 resting places for Queen Eleanor’s funeral procession in 1290.

icon Royal connections to Henley-on-Thames

This town and its surrounding country estates have a long association with royalty.

icon Royal connections to Marlow

Henry VIII might have courted Jane Seymour in picturesque Marlow.

Explore our map

Craftspeople and traditional activities

We are fortunate to have a number of craftspeople in the Chilterns keeping alive many of the traditional activities that were so important to industry in the previous centuries.

Our woodlanders lives and landscapes project is helping to find out how people – especially the women and children – who made their living in these woodland and home-based industries went about their daily lives.

Read more


Chilterns Historic Landscape Characterisation project

Although protected and designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), much of what we can see in the Chilterns is the result of centuries of human endeavour. In order to better understand and appreciate the historic value of this special landscape, the Chilterns Conservation Board, English Heritage and Buckinghamshire County Council completed a Chilterns Historic Landscape Characterisation project (Chilterns HLC) in 2009, covering the designated AONB and an area immediately around it.

The overall aim of the Chilterns HLC project was to improve understanding of the area’s historic landscape character and patterns. It resulted in a detailed report, describing the different landscape types found in the Chilterns with an analysis of how they have evolved over time. There are many maps and diagrams which help to explain how the landscapes we see today have come about. The project also published a booklet entitled ‘The Making of the Chilterns Landscape’ which is a summary of the main findings of the project presented in an accessible way.

The Changing Landscape of the Chilterns
The Making of the Chilterns Landscape
Chilterns ANOB
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
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Volunteering hub

Find out more about volunteering in the Chilterns - indoor, outdoor, practical or desk based there's something for everyone, whatever age or stage! Use our interactive volunteering hub to find the perfect opportunity for you.
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Chilterns ANOB

Outstanding Chilterns Magazine

Jam-packed with news and updates from the AONB, now available to read online or find out where to get a printed copy.
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Bookable experiences

We have carefully chosen our most immersive and memorable Chilterns Countryside Experiences to share with you here. Choose from Active Countryside, Chilterns Food & Drink, Countryside Learning and Chilterns Sightseeing. All are bookable online.
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