Society’s half-century of support for the Chilterns

Ashridge House and Chapel (C Smith - Chilterns Society Photogroup)
Ashridge House and Chapel (C Smith - Chilterns Society Photogroup)

The Chiltern Society has spent the last 50 years protecting our own area of natural beauty through conservation, volunteering and even art

A society comprising 7,000 members and hundreds of volunteers is celebrating 50 years of helping to preserve one of England’s greatest beauty spots – The Chilterns.

The Chilterns - Ivinghoe Beacon. Photo: Chris Smith PNL-140829-144429001

The Chilterns - Ivinghoe Beacon. Photo: Chris Smith PNL-140829-144429001

The Chiltern Society – established in 1965 – covers a 650 square mile area across Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire which is about twice as large as the Chilterns Area ofOutstanding Natural Beauty.

The society is dedicated to maintaining the uniqueness of the Chilterns in the face of growing pressures on British countryside.

Among the society’s greatest accomplishments is its help in reintroducing the red kite to the Chilterns area 25 years ago – one of the most successful conservation projects ever carried out in the UK.

The society’s chairman David Harris reflected on the group’s successes over its half-century in its latest newsletter, saying: “Over the last 49 years we have continued to try to protect and care for the Chilterns in a variety of ways, either by direct action, in terms of volunteers maintaining paths, woodlands and historicsites, or by encouraging people simply to get out and enjoy the countryside via a range of interest groups such as walking, cycling and photography.

Red kite above the Chilterns. Photo: Gerry Whitlow PNL-140829-144350001

Red kite above the Chilterns. Photo: Gerry Whitlow PNL-140829-144350001

“Here we are five decades later, and the need for the Chiltern Society has never been greater.

“The pressure for more housing, driven largely by the tremendous growth of London’s population, still shows no signs of abating; if anything, unless something is done, the problem will only get worse. The latest ‘must have’ is of course HS2... Our Executive Council and volunteers are working to address these threats as best we can.”

Combatting the HS2 threat through art is just one faction of the group – The Chilterns Society Photogroup which itself has around 200 members and has been going for 15years.

Photogroup chairman Barry Hunt said: “We are very much a social-oriented group – we are not competitive.

“One of our many objectives is to establish a photo archive of the whole of the Chilterns – there are already well over 7,000 photos in there now.”

Three members spent many months photographing parts of the railways throughout the Chilterns area, resulting in a selection of 68 photos which make up the latest album for the PhotoGroup’s photo archive of Chiltern’s life.

In autumn of 2014 the photogroup took on the iconic Ashridge House – now the Business School – and its gardens as its latest photo project and addition to the comprehensive archive.

The archive itself comprises thousands of photographs in nearly 200 locations in the Chilterns, and aims to record the special character, qualities and amenities of the Chilterns for the benefit of later generations.

Its website is accessed by several thousands of UK and overseas visitors, many of whom have ancestral links to the region.

Many of the Society’s photos come from members’ outings, outings, but most are from volunteers undertakingspecific projects.

Among the events planned for the Chiltern Society’s half-century celebrations are the sale of the Red Kite, a red hybrid tea rose, developed by Harkness Roses of Hitchin especially for the occasion. The flower is being offered to members exclusively.Additionally there are plans to host a celebratory garden party, details of which are to be confirmed.

For more about the Chiltern Society, its work and anniversary, visit