Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Milton Keynes

I knew Milton Keynes was a 'new town', but I didn't really know what to expect and I have been surprised. I'm still trying to decide if I like it or not.

Milton Keynes is slightly older than I thought, it was formally designated a new town in January 1967 I thought it was about 10 years later than that.

Seeing it from the canal we have passed very little in the way of housing or industrial it is mostly green with parks and trees, which makes for a very pleasant journey through. We stopped off just before Campbell Park and had a lovely stretch of the canal all to ourselves, but just around the corner there are plenty of other boats so not completely isolated. The towpath here doesn't seem to be used much as there is a fantastic foot/cycle path between the avenue of poplar trees which run along the canal.

A pleasant stroll through the avenue of poplars heading for the centre
I can see you - the umbrella gave it away

The original plan for Milton Keynes was that no building should be taller than the tallest tree, however that seemed to have changed in 2006 as The Hub was built and has fourteen stories as it was felt that Milton Keynes needed 'landmark buildings' 

Map of Milton Keynes

The town itself is made up of grid squares, with each square having its own name. There are three main boulevards which form the basis of the central area's grid. The major roads are approximately 1 km intervals and run horizontally and vertically and all these roads have numbers preceded by either H or V. Roundabouts were built at all the intersections as it was thought they were the most efficient way of dealing with large amounts of traffic. The major roads are all dual carriageways with the remainder being single but with grassed areas the whole length so that they could be made dual if needed. The edges of each grid square have been landscaped and densely planted. As of 2006 the urban area of Milton Keynes has 20 million trees. However the one thing the roads are all missing is pavements but there are no need as the footpaths and cycle routes are all separate to the roads and cross either above or under them. On our mile walk to the centre from the canal we didn't use one road, although we crossed over and under a couple, it was a very pleasant walk through Campbell Park and arriving at a very airport looking building, which turned out to be the town centre.

Passing an outside stage in Campbell Park

View from the top

You can see for miles

The light pyramid 
Approaching the centre
We entered the town centre by the massive John Lewis shop and passed by an inside woodland with floor to ceiling windows and loads of seating, we were then into the centre proper with shops as far as you could see both sides. It soon became apparent to us that the centre design was the same as the roads, there are two main aisles with smaller ones to the sides joining them up and each side having many exits out to the parking areas. After just getting over all the indoor trees and plants we came across the beach, well I was just speechless and just stood looking at the scene before me not quite believing what I was seeing. James bought me back to reality by saying "now surely that deserves a photo, doesn't it!" On we plodded, stopping off in McDonalds to get a milkshake James spotted an outdoor area with seating, when we got out there we realised it wasn't just an outdoor seating area but you could have a game of Jurassic Park crazy golf whilst there. 

One of many indoor tree areas
The beach, complete with helter skelter 
This giant deck chair had a notice saying max 3 adults or 5 children
Crazy golf

We continued on through the rest of the shops, down one side, to the end where you go outside and then there is another smaller indoor area with more shops. We guessed this may be an extension of the main shopping area. In the centre of this indoor area was an outside space with a very sad looking, but just alive, tree with the concrete cows of Milton Keynes. Good job they're painted black and white as otherwise they look nothing like cows.

There are signs of life on the tree

We thought surely there must be an outside town centre or High Street or something, James had mentioned there were no estate agents, they must be out there somewhere! We did walk down a little further and came across a few in what I think is the business centre. By this time it started to rain so we headed back inside and down the other main aisle. We also came across a large market area just outside the main shopping centre. 

Just the other side of the canal, in the opposite direction to the centre is Willen Lake where there are sailing boats, kayaks and pedalos for hire at very reasonable rates. There is also a large park area for older kids built to look like a three storey fort complete with high wires. There is another park for the smaller children with all the usual play equipment. 

Kids kayak course
Also sailing going on

And pedalos available to hire
So Milton Keynes is excellent for shopping whatever the weather and also it is all on one level so no lifts or stairs to contend with. It certainly lacks character and interesting buildings that you would normally get in a high street. There are plenty of parks and green areas and it is great for walking or cycling. It would be interesting to see the residential areas, as apart from a few rows of houses we passed on the canal we haven't seen any sign of housing, which seems surprising as we have walk/cycled the mile or so into the centre and also getting on for the same distance the other side of the canal to the lake, not passing one house. 


  1. My first view of Milton Keynes was also by canal, but this was back in 1975 on my first ever canal trip (on holiday with my parents). I didn't know then that I would end up working in MK from 1981 to 1990. There are three substantial old towns subsumed into Milton Keynes: Bletchley, Stony Stratford and Wolverton - each of these has traditional high streets. Most of the residential estates have their own local shops. I loved living and working there (and wouldn't mind coming back!)

  2. Hi Halfie
    It does seem a very practical and organised town, didn't realise Wolverton and Bletchley were part of MK, although we didn't stop off and go to them, maybe next time. I think if you got used to shopping at Milton Keynes anywhere else would seem a chore. Must be great doing christmas shopping, everything under one roof.