There are so many places I want to see. I have a bucket list of foreign travel as long as my arm but there’s one place in Britain that I’ve always wanted to visit – Milton Keynes.
There aren’t many people, I guess that would aspire to this ambition. Milton Keynes has a reputation for being a soulless, plastic, artificial and depressing town, a product of mid century concrete cancer. The main reason I wanted to go there was to see the famous iconic concrete cows. The image of cows (three cows and three calves in fact) had been indelibly imprinted across my mind from early childhood, as we zoomed past junction 14 on the M1 to visit family in Leicester. It was the only thing I knew about the town. Sorry, I should say city. The locals refer to Milton Keynes as a city and not a town. (The population incidentally is around 255,000)
I also wanted to visit Milton Keynes to compare it to Crawley. I work in Crawley and have heard so many wonderful stories from families about the town’s history. Both are new towns built in the 1950s and 1960s to relocate populations in poor and bombed out areas following the second world war. The development corporations planned the towns very carefully and land was set aside for business. Back in those days there were factories in Crawley actually making things! Before they were eventually moved to the Far East.
My opportunity came. A friend lives in Milton Keynes. We’ve always met up in London but he’d recently had a triple bypass and can no longer travel far so I drove up to see him. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to get to Milton Keynes from Sussex. It took two hours. Okay, there were no road works and it wasn’t rush hour. I was just lucky. “The great thing about Milton Keynes” my friend said “is that it’s easy to get out of.” “Rather like Crawley” I replied. We laughed but he went on to tell me about all the positives of living in Milton Keynes. Being in the centre of the country it quickly became an ideal distribution centre. Amazon, for example have a massive distribution centre there. It’s Britain’s fastest growing city in terms of business. More than 10,000 companies have chosen to re locate there because of its location and excellent roads. It has the highest number of start ups.
With virtually full employment you would imagine that property prices are high. After all Milton Keynes is in Buckinghamshire, one of the Home Counties and it’s still commuter belt for those working in London.I was surprised therefore to look on Rightmove and see how much cheaper the houses are compared to the Crawley area. My 4 bed house in Haywards Heath is worth £460,00 but I could buy this in Milton Keynes and have plenty of money left over: http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-56406073.html
As we approached the city (which looked nothing like a city) from a country lane off the M1 I was amazed at how lovely the place is. It looks rather like an American town and my friend told me that American business men and women love it. I love America and Milton Keynes for me was America in Britain. It’s well planned. The road system forms a grid. The roads are wide and tree lined. There are pathways and undulating fields right in the city centre with sheep grazing. The Parks Trust manages the parks and they were landscaped to a high standard.
I asked my friend where the concrete cows are. He looked blank. He had no idea but many tales of how the cows have been vandalised due the BSE crisis, stolen, beheaded and painted pink and turned in skeletons for Halloween one year. Other than abusing concrete cows Milton Keynes has a low crime rate.
I was sorely disappointed. I’d come all this way to see the cows but they weren’t here. The cows, for your information were created in 1978 and were a leaving present from the MK Development Corporation, which oversaw the building of the new town in the 60s. My task for the day was to find out just where these cows were. I asked a waitress. She said they were at the football stadium. Another waitress said they used to be in the shopping centre but didn’t know where they went to from there. We asked several other people but nobody knew where the cows are. They are now on display at the Milton Keynes museum. I only found that out the next day when I researched it on the internet!
I was very impressed by the award winning shopping centre. It’s huge and spacious and there are real trees and plants and lock up mobile phone charging points. The sound of bird song and running water came from microphones high up. There is a central arena, a vast area which is used for French markets, ice rinks, shows and concerts.
Milton Keynes is a great place to visit for a few days. The shopping centre has an indoor ski slope with real snow. It reminded me of the one in Dubai! Find out more here: https://www.snozoneuk.com.
It also has indoor sky flying in a specially built wind tunnel. I didn’t try it but it looked amazing. Click this link to find out more. https://www.iflyworld.co.uk/locations/milton-keynes/
Milton Keynes has so much going for it. From the Open University to the great entertainment to its excellent provision for the disabled. Maybe I’ve found the place to move to! Or am I destined to remain in Haywards Heath forever?