Beacons of the Past (2018-2023)

Beacons of the Past (2018-2023)

Chilterns Hillforts Beacons of the Past logo

The Chilterns Conservation Board has been delivering an exciting project, engaging and inspiring communities to discover, conserve and enjoy the Chilterns’ Iron Age hillforts and their prehistoric chalk landscapes.


The Chilterns has one of the largest collections of hillforts in the UK, yet many are poorly preserved, and little is known about them. Supported and part-funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this four-year project provided a real focus for community and public involvement through remote sensing and survey, practical excavation, and research, as well as a programme of events and educational activities.

A key component of the project was a “LiDAR survey,” covering 1400 km2, about which you can read more on our What is LiDAR page.

To find out more about our work on Heritage and Archaeology please visit our CHAP webpages.

About Beacons of the Past

Ancient hillforts have fascinated historians and archaeologists for centuries. Enduring and prominently situated, they have sparked the imaginations of generations through the glimpse they give us into our history.

Iron Age hillforts were constructed in the United Kingdom from around 1,000 BC until the Romans arrived. Steeped in mythology and folklore, they offer an intriguing insight into how communities might have lived together over two-thousand years ago.

Some think hillforts may have been built to mark a boundary between two distinct tribal areas. They might have been centres of ritual and ceremony. Some have evidence of roundhouses, which would point to their function as community dwellings and livestock enclosures. But who were these people? What did they do, and how did they live?

The project has helped people to connect with the prehistory of the Chilterns, and encouraged them to visit and enjoy the hillforts and their landscapes through practical research and conservation skills. As a result, Chilterns hillforts are better understood, in better condition and more accessible.

Currently we are working with over 1,000 volunteers to identify, record, and interpret the UK’s largest bespoke high resolution archaeological LiDAR survey.

You can join the team of discovery at We will build on these discoveries to better care for, understand, and enjoy our Chilterns heritage and landscape.

We would be delighted to hear from individuals, organisations and potential partners and welcome the following assistance:

  • Corporate sponsorship. Demonstrate your company’s commitment to local heritage conservation and your commitment to preserving and enhancing the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty through a one-off donation or sponsorship
  • Volunteer programmes and in-kind help: supporting the project doesn’t have to be limited to money. Practical support, either through corporate volunteering activities or in-kind sponsorship, could make all the difference

If you’re inspired by this important heritage project, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with Dr Wendy Morrison (Project Manager) tel 01844 355525,

Download a summary of the project below and read on to find out more.

Project summary
Chilterns ANOB

LiDAR Portal

Come and help us discover un-mapped archaeology across the Chilterns AONB! Learn more about how LiDAR data is collected and processed, and how you can ‘read’ it to discover archaeology hidden in the landscape.

The Hillfortian Times

Read the entertaining, informative Newsletter of the Beacons of the Past Project, The Hillfortian Times, written by Project Manager, Dr Wendy Morrison.

Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB

Outstanding Chilterns Magazine

Jam-packed with news and updates from the Chilterns National Landscape, now available to read online or find out where to get a printed copy.
Chilterns ANOB

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.