More than concrete cows: Six things you need to know about Milton Keynes on its 50th birthday

Oliver Gill
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Concrete Cows
You can't beat concrete: The infamous cows in the fields surrounding Milton Keynes (Source: Getty)

Us Brits love history. But 50 years ago today we did something that cut against the grain.

The UK's cities, towns and villages are generally steeped in history. From black and white houses, old castles and local churches, you can trace the roots of many areas back for centuries.

Today, however, is the birthday of Milton Keynes.

On 23 January 1967, Housing Minister Anthony Greenwood read an Act of Parliament to give the area a new town designation town order. It's "perfectly placed" in the heart of England, roughly equidistant from London, Birmingham, Leicester, Oxford and Cambridge.

Read more: Why London is far from the UK's fastest-growing city

Wind forward 50 years and the town is home to 270,000 residents and 11,000 businesses. A train journey to the town, 45 miles from London, can take as little as half an hour from the capital.

Somewhat predictably, the Milton Keynes – or MK as it likes to be know – public relations machine was in overdrive; showering City A.M. with titbits of information about the town that sits between Newport Pagnell and Leighton Buzzard.

Here are our top six nuggets:

1 – Concrete? No, it's a green and pleasant land

A grey jungle of faceless concrete buildings? Well, not quite. The 119 square miles Milton Keynes covers is actually 40 per cent green space. "No-one in MK is ever more than half a mile from a park," the council boldly claim.

Read more: Tottenham boss happy for club to relocate to Milton Keynes

More than 22m trees and shrubs are planted in the area with 250m daffodils also reported to be in the ground.

Old Milton Keynes
(Source: Getty)

2 – Watch out for puddles

Birmingham may be the King of Canals – allegedly with more waterways than Venice – but Milton Keynes will have people saying "Mamma Mia" when they find out the town has more bridges than watery Italian romantic mecca.

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Milton Keynes also boasts the smallest canal lock in the country and has more shoreline than Jersey – with 15 lakes and 11 miles of canals.

3 – On the culture list

Hot of the heels of the likes of Hull and Glasgow, MK is on the 2023 list for European Capital of Culture.

Other countries running MK close for the much-celebrated award include Dundee and Leeds. The winner will get the added prize of sharing the title with an as yet un-named Hungarian city.

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Tay Road Bridge
Dundee, home of the Tay A92 road bridge, is one of MK's competitors (Source: Getty)

4 – Blumin' outsiders: Coming in, taking our jobs...

MK is a strong attraction for many and draws in a whopping 13 people every single day.

Meanwhile 18m people live within 60 minutes travel from Milton Keynes – which is handy for the 1,300 people who work at Network Rail's headquarters in town.

Read more: Orange barmy army: Network Rail heaps praise on Christmas workers

By 2026, almost 300,000 people will live in Milton Keynes. This will have jumped to 325,000 by 2037 according to the Office for National Statistics.

5 – The heart of business

The self-titled "Potential Silicon Valley" has business oozing from every pore. The home of the original distance-learning institution – the Open University – is also the centre of many successful businesses.

Read more: The Open University MBA - transforming your career

Meanwhile it is also the home of the favourite of rock n' roll axe-masters the world over: Marshall amplifiers.

Marshall Headphones Presents Jason Lee Parry's EXILE Gallery With Performances By J Mascis And The Family Rain
(Source: Getty)

6 – Sporting prowess

MK Dons – the controversial result of Wimbledon F.C. upping sticks and moving over in September 2003 – is perhaps one of the best known sporting teams in the town.

However, what many don't realise is the town has its very own Formula One team as well – Red Bull.

Read more: Red Bull: Relax, we don't want West Ham to be "RB London"

Perhaps its most famous individual sports people is one of the three stars of the London Olympics "Super Saturday" – long jumper Greg Rutherford.

15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 - Day Four
(Source: Getty)

Councillor Pete Marland, leader of Milton Keynes Council summed up the birthday sentiment:

People came to MK to be part of something new where everyone could shape their place called home.

This created a community keen to progress and move forward. We’re incredibly proud of the progress that MK, its residents, businesses and organisations have made in its first fifty years and we are as ambitious and optimistic for the future.

As originally designed, nothing stands still in Milton Keynes and we’re ready for our next phase of growth.

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