The Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have been described as the jewels of the English landscape and the North Wessex Downs, the third largest AONB, is no exception. Its predominant feature is its underlying chalk geology and it covers one of the most continuous tracts of chalk downland in England. As well as its treasures in the form of chalk and ancient woodland, the North Wessex Downs also has a fascinating human history, stretching back some 5,000 years. The archaeology of the area is both rich and varied, with a number of impressive monuments, including the Neolithic stone circle at Avebury - which forms part of a World Heritage Site, the truly beautiful Uffington White Horse and the magical Wayland's Smithy, plus a myriad of Bronze Age barrows and Iron Age hill forts. Despite being located in southern England - a densely populated region - the North Wessex Downs is surprisingly unspoilt and sparsely populated, giving it a true sense of the idyllic England of old. Hidden amongst the folded contours of this chalk countryside are picture-postcard villages with thatched cottages, historic churches and magnificent stately houses, while out on the open downs breathtaking views stretch over rounded chalk hills, with wide open skies above.