A tour of Milton Keynes

See how Britain’s most famous new city was shaped

NEAREST LOCATION

Milton Keynes

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

4.25 miles (6.8kms)

ASCENT
0ft (0m)
TIME
2hrs
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Easy
STARTING POINT
SP842380

About the walk

During the 19th century this area of Buckinghamshire began to expand rapidly, largely due to the dawning of the railway era that brought industrial prosperity to places like Newport Pagnell and Wolverton. The opening of the M1 in 1959 sealed the area’s future as the site for a new city, which would be required to meet the demands of the business world and its employees, and to accommodate a quarter of a million people. Its name would be Milton Keynes. Contrary to popular opinion this was not a marketing gimmick, based on the amalgamation of two serious-sounding surnames, but in fact the name of an ancient village already in the area. Some 3 miles (5km) east of the current centre it still exists, now called Milton Keynes Village, and, ironically, it remains relatively untouched by the new city.

Monorails and concrete cows

Initially it was envisaged that Milton Keynes would consist of high-density settlements connected by monorail to a commercial centre – an innovative move, and a far cry from the old concept of garden suburbs previously favoured by Outer London planners. However the monorail system was eventually shelved in favour of a dispersed network of housing, within a US-style grid pattern of roads (for example, North 10th Street). The city became notorious for its number of traffic roundabouts and its ornamental concrete cows, which over the years have become both loved and hated icons of the city. They were commissioned by the town council to symbolise the fact that the new city of Milton Keynes would feature more open green space than found in traditional cities. Its detractors responded by labelling them concrete cows for a concrete city, where its townsfolk would need such models to know how real cows once looked.

Today, over 50 years after the construction began in earnest the name Milton Keynes is still loaded with misconceptions and prejudices; however, its tree-lined boulevards give it a Continental air, and students of modern architecture will enjoy its office buildings which are in a constant state of flux and ownership.

This walk is best done on a sunny summer Sunday, when not only can you still enjoy all the leisure and shopping facilities of the city, but you can also picnic and perhaps watch cricket in the park. Parking spaces are also much easier to find and a lot cheaper than on weekdays.

Walk directions

With your back to the railway station, aim slightly left, line up with a row of flagpoles and make for two underpasses. Keep ahead along Midsummer Boulevard, passing the sculpture on the left. Make for the next subway and cross Witan Gate and Upper 5th Street. Go under a third subway, and swing left just before the fourth subway to visit the domed Church of Christ the Cornerstone. Keep the church on your left and continue to Silbury Boulevard. Ignore the subway to the right and pass under the one straight ahead.

Turn right through a subway and pass Milton Keynes Library. Pass North 9th Street and you will see a pair of letter boxes which were painted gold in 2012, to celebrate the long jump Olympic gold medal of local resident Greg Rutherford. A little further on pass a statue of the Lloyds Bank black horse icon. Swing right and pass under the road to approach the shopping centre at Deer Walk. Don’t enter the complex here, but instead turn left and walk along to the next entrance, at Eagle Walk. Go straight through, and emerge at Midsummer Boulevard. Turn left to Field Walk, and turn right here to cross the boulevard. Bear left to reach Milton Keynes Theatre, and adjacent, the MK Gallery, the city’s modern art collection. Continue ahead under the subway and cross the footbridge into Campbell Park.

Skirt the round pond and make for the 20-ft (6-m) high 'Light Pyramid' by American artist Liliane Lijn,installed in 2012 on the point known as the Belvedere, with panoramic views over Bedfordshire. Follow the path left down the hill. On the right is the city’s open-air theatre. At the circular tree seat continue straight on, signposted 'Cricket Pavilion', and turn left at the totem pole. Continue down the hill, with the cricket pitch and pavilion to your right, and at the next circular tree seat turn left to follow the Art Trail signpost, back towards the city centre. Running parallel to the path are a series of pretty gardens with park benches, which you can divert into and out of at will. Just before you get back to the round pond is the Labyrinth. Retrace your steps back across the bridge, along Midsummer Boulevard, as far as Midsummer Place.

Midsummer Place is the city’s premier shopping centre with some 50 retailers and an attractive open-air 'square', beneath which stand the original Concrete Cows, created in 1978 (replicas stand elsewhere in the area). Leave the shopping centre and turn left onto Saxon Gate. Walk along to Avebury Boulevard, glancing left to see Xscape. Turn right to follow the boulevard. Just after crossing Grafton Gate, veer right onto Elder Gate, then left to return to the station.

Additional information

Paved walkways, boulevards and park paths

City centre and park

Aside from Campbell Park, probably not most dogs' idea of fun

OS Explorer 192 Milton Keynes & Buckingham, or street map from tourist information centre

Car park at Milton Keynes Station

Milton Keynes Station and shopping centres

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WALKING IN SAFETY

Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.

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About the area

Discover Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire is a land of glorious beech trees, wide views and imposing country houses. Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli savoured the peace and tranquillity of Hughenden Manor, while generations of statesmen have entertained world leaders at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s rural retreat. Stowe and Waddesdon Manor are fine examples of even grander houses, set amid sumptuous gardens and dignified parkland.

The Vale of Aylesbury is a vast playground for leisure seekers with around 1,000 miles (1,609km) of paths and tracks to explore. Rising above it are the Chiltern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covering 308sq miles (798sq km). They are best appreciated in autumn, when the leaves turn from dark green to deep brown. In the southeast corner of the Chilterns lie the woodland rides of Burnham Beeches, another haven for ramblers and wildlife lovers. Although the county’s history is long and eventful, it’s also associated with events within living memory. At Bletchley Park, more than 10,000 people worked in complete secrecy to try and bring a swift conclusion to World War II. Further south, an otherwise unremarkable stretch of railway line was made infamous by the Great Train Robbery in the summer of 1963.

 

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