Nature for health
Being outdoors is vital for our health and well-being, and the Chilterns countryside offers a natural tonic for the soul.
In the Chilterns AONB, you can get active outdoors in so many ways and on so many levels: from gentle health walks and mindfulness relaxation, to more challenging climbs and adventurous activities. These activities offer exciting and novel ways to increase your physical fitness or mental well-being. You can also make friends and share experiences by joining an outdoor activity group; there are dozens of groups in the Chilterns catering for all tastes and abilities.
Walk, run or ride together
There are lots of opportunities for walking in the Chilterns AONB, whether following a route off our website, or popping to a well-known beauty spot. But if you’re unsure where to start, or want some company along the way, a walking group or event can be just the thing to get you going, give you company and lift your mood.
Chiltern Explorers is a walking social group on Meetup. They offer a wide range of guided walks across the Chilterns and further afield. Their walks often start at tube or railway stations, or free car parks. They are relaxed and enjoyable, often ending with a well-deserved pub break!
The Chiltern Society organises a popular programme of walks and rides throughout the year, designed to improve both physical and mental health. Anyone is welcome to join in their half-day, day or special interest walks. Most walks are around 5 miles long and there are 2 or 3 walks on offer every week.
Chiltern Young Walkers is a friendly and sociable walking group aimed at people in their 20s and 30s. Make friends, join hikes or get social at their regular pub outings and events.
Dadima’s CIC is a friendly, not for profit, intergenerational walking community that encourages walkers of all ages and cultural backgrounds to feel welcome in the countryside, and features some inspiring educational speakers. View the 2023 programme and FAQs page.
The Ramblers website has lots of information on walking on its website and lists regular events. You can use the search function to find a walk, group or event near you.
Park runs operate throughout the Chilterns AONB. They provide 5-km (and sometimes 3-km) outdoor courses in lovely settings that will lift your mood as you go. Run at your own pace and with friends and family. Visit the website to find one near you.
The Ramblers also organises hundreds of free Health Walks each week across the Chilterns AONB. These volunteer-led walks have something for all abilities. They are sociable and fun, and you don’t need any special equipment to join in, just comfortable shoes.
Stretch mind and body
If you are looking to stretch your mind and body, rather than just your legs, there are some wonderful centres and activities for art courses, yoga and complementary health in tranquil settings in the Chilterns.
Have a go at Nordic Walking – stand taller, breathe more freely and put your phones away as you swing your arms, plant your poles and increase your fitness and mindfulness. Breath of Fresh Air offers sessions and courses.
The Coaching Barn between Wallingford and Goring offers a space for creativity and a place to bring people together to learn new skills. It offers arts and crafts courses for both adults and children, as well as regular events and options for hire.
The Missenden School of Creative Arts runs weekend, weekday and Summer School courses in art, craft, textiles and general interest, held at Missenden Abbey. Get creative in beautiful a beautiful Chilterns setting!
Walx offers walking sessions in the Chilterns with a difference. Total Body Walking tests strength, Explorer Walx take in scenery and Wellness Walx provide gentle relaxation and flexibility. Book on a one-off or Open Walx or become a member for benefits and reduced rates.
Where Inspiration Blooms offers art, horticulture, pottery and well-being courses in a stunning barn setting just outside the market town of Chesham. There are family friendly courses and kids’ camps, as well as a workshop for hire for parties and events.
Relax in nature
Listen to the gentle bubble of a brook, feel the swish of long, wavy grass, and bask in the filtered sun of dappled woodlands. Calm your mind and relax in nature away from the hubbub of daily life. Explore our interactive map and take some time for you and the family.
Explore the waterways of the Chilterns AONB. There are lots of riverside walks, picnic spots and nature-spotting opportunities along the River Thames, the Grand Union Canal and the River Chess.
Take in some wide, open views to blow the cobwebs away. The northern Chilterns is a rolling landscape of chalk grassland slopes with spectacular views. Head to the Pegsdon and Deacon Hills for a 3.5-mile walk taking in ancient earthworks and Knocking Hoe Nature Reserve.
Enjoy a picnic at a beauty spot or a hidden gem. Remember to take your litter home! Wendover Woods is great for families, with an adventure playground and short trails. For quiet reflection, there’s Warburg Nature Reserve, tucked away in a hidden corner of Oxfordshire.
Explore some lesser-known paths. Take a look at our series of Social Distance Friendly Walks across the Chilterns AONB, avoiding crowded ‘honey-pot’ locations and narrow paths where possible. Between 2 and 6 miles long, the walks start in market towns or villages, with good public transport links or parking facilities, and many are stile-free.
Go nature-spotting. Taking time in nature to observe animals, plants and seasonal changes can be very therapeutic. Watchers have to slow down, take care and be mindful of their surroundings – all good things to help us breathe a little deeper and a little slower. Try birdwatching from one of the many hides at College Lake Nature Reserve or enjoy the changing seasons at Ashridge Estate.
There are dozens of other outdoor activities to help get you healthy in body and mind, such as litter picking, trail running, geocaching, orienteering and much more.