View all dates
The Chilterns are the long stretch of rolling hills stretching in a south-west to north-east line just to the north of London. They are mainly formed from chalk, being one of the long chalk arms which stretches over the south-east of England, the most famous being the South Downs which end abruptly in the white cliffs around Dover and Eastbourne.
The downs are famous for the alternation between the open meadows of their upper slopes, and the woodlands which cloak the valleys and the hillsides. The most famous of these are the great beech woods, which have been important to the local economy for hundreds of years as the source of wood for furniture, but which are now visited by thousands of walkers and nature lovers every year. The best time to see these woods is in the spring, when the bright green leaves of the beech trees are just coming out.
The Chilterns are a recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which means they have legal protection against development, and though most of the area is farmland, over 20% is woodland. This is far higher than the national average of 13%, and makes the Chilterns one of the most forested places in England.
For walkers the Chilterns have an ancient history, since people have been using this high chalk escarpment to cross southern England for thousands of years. The Icknield Way runs through the area, a route of over 100 miles that was in use at least as early as the Iron Age. You can still see parts of this clearly visible in the landscape, especially noticeable as white lines of bare chalk running over the hills.
The modern day Icknield Way Trail runs as close to the original route as possible, and frequently links up with the other long distance Chiltern trails of the Ridgeway and the Chiltern Way to create a great set of walk options for visitors. The 87 mile Ridgeway is the most famous of these, and has the distinction of being one of our National Trails. As well as these paths, the Chilterns has in total over 2000 kilometres of public rights of way for you to enjoy, making it easy to link up open downland, woodlands, and the villages nestled alongside the chalk streams.
The northern slopes of the Chilterns are a steep scarp, dropping off into the Vale of Aylesbury abruptly, and giving the best views. The southern slopes are more gradual, dropping down slowly towards London, where the streams of the hills eventually join the Thames.
The Chilterns may not have the remote and wild mountain scenery of the Lake District or North Wales, but their miles of paths and their accessibility from London mean that they’re a great escape for walkers who may only have one day to spare. The attraction of walking sections of the Icknield Way, one of the oldest surviving routes in the UK, is an exciting prospect, and being in the eastern half of the country, at least you have a better chance of having the weather on your side.
Author: Alex Kendall
JOIN US IN THE CHILTERNS THIS AUTUMN, BOOK HERE >>>