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Sunday, 28 September 2014

The 7 Wonders of Milton Keynes: booklet

You’ve read the blog series (1, 2, 3 & 4), now enjoy the [e-]booklet.


The 7 Wonders of Milton Keynes: Part 4

Following on from Part 1Part 2 and Part 3

6. Green spaces
Photo by myself

Milton Keynes has a reputation for being a man-made concrete jungle lacking in character, but this is not entirely truthful – it is certainly not lacking for green spaces. Yes, the town as a whole was formed from scratch, building in a linear grid-like system but the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (or the MKDC) had no intention of building a concrete city. Milton Keynes, taking its name from the village of the same name, was to be a ‘city in the trees’. They had planned for no building to be higher than the highest tree – which is still the case for most of Milton Keynes, although not Central Milton Keynes. This was at a time when high-rise flats and towering office blocks were common in most inner cities and towns. Milton Keynes, however, was designed with garden city ethics in mind and an integrated green landscape throughout the town.

Milton Keynes is a town built around its parks, lakes, rivers and woodland. From the popular central Campbell Park to the many different lakes and river valley parks, the town is not short of natural places. The roads are lined with trees and there are even hundreds of plants inside the shopping centre! In Newlands, near the Willen Lakes, there is a cathedral but not your typical cathedral – it’s made of trees. Designed by a landscape architect named Neil Higson in 1986, the tree cathedral uses different species of trees to form the different sections of a traditional cathedral. For example, the Chapter House is a tapering mound, dressed with laurels and from the top of this, the tree cathedral can be viewed.

Much of the parkland and green spaces within Milton Keynes, around 5,000 acres of rivers, valleys, woodlands, lakes, parks and landscaped areas, are cared for and managed by The Parks Trust. The Parks Trust is an independent charity, separate from the council which means that green spaces can be managed and protected without having to compete for council funding. Parks Trust managed green spaces include: Caldecoote, Furzton, Lodge and Willen lakes, Linford and Shenley woods, Campbell Park and Ouzel Valley Park, Stony Stratford Nature Reserve and the Great Linford Brick Kilns.

However, it’s not just the trees and parks that help to make Milton Keynes a green place. The award-winning eco-homes at Oxley Woods in the south west of Milton Keynes, are a prime example of green living at its best – and that goes for the UK in general, not just Milton Keynes. Designed by one of the architects behind the iconic Pompidou Centre in Paris, Richard Rogers, Oxley Woods homes have an innovative, energy-saving design. They exceed the government’s sustainability targets and have carbon emissions 50% lower than other new properties in the area. Milton Keynes is also a ‘plugged in place’ aiming to increase the use of electric cars within the town. There are several charging points in Central Milton Keynes, with hopes to install more. And it’s not just the cars in Milton Keynes that are electric, eight new electric buses – the first of their kind in the UK – are now running between Wolverton and Bletchley. How is that for a green city?

Photos by myself

7. Culture
Photo by myself

There is a saying that goes something like “What’s the difference between Milton Keynes and yogurt? Yogurt has culture.” Which, while mildly amusing, is both completely untrue and insulting. There is in fact a lot going on; from theatre and art to live music, museums and more, Milton Keynes is not short of non-shopping based things to get involved in.

The Point, named because of its red metal pyramid frame, in Central Milton Keynes was home to the UK’s first multiplex cinema. It opened in 1985 and included 10 screens, however, when the Xscape opened with its own more deluxe multiplex cinema in 2002 cinema fans went there instead. The Point did continue to house a cinema, first with easyCinema – think easyJet but with films instead of flights – and now with Odeon. But, in March 2014, it was announced that Milton Keynes council had voted in favour of demolishing the building. It will be sad to see such an iconic building go – a pyramid shaped one too! – but never fear, there is plenty more to do here…

Milton Keynes is home to a 1,400 seat theatre showcasing a variety of small and large West End productions, touring opera, ballet, drama and classical music concerts as well as the seasonal pantomime in December. In addition to this, there are also performance spaces in Bletchley, Leadenhall, Stantonbury and Wolverton. Next to Milton Keynes Theatre is a public art gallery presenting free exhibitions of international contemporary artwork. The Milton Keynes Gallery also hosts Friday film nights and often has live music on Saturdays. As well as the art within the gallery, Milton Keynes has several art trails and is home to one of the largest collections of publicly-sited art in the UK, with more than 200 pieces of public art.

The National Bowl is an open-air venue for large scale music events, with a capacity of 65,000. Previous performers have included Bon Jovi, Eminem, Robbie Williams, Green Day and The Prodigy. On a smaller scale, The Stables in Wavendon, provides high-quality jazz, blues, folk, classical and world music across two stages. The venue also hosts workshops and an annual summer camp for young aspiring musicians. Up until about 2010, The Pitz Club at the Woughton Centre in Leadenhall hosted gigs for less mainstream tastes, with music ranging from punk and ska to heavy metal. Now The Craufurd Arms in Wolverton caters to those with a more alternative music taste as well as hosting a comedy club once a month.

Milton Keynes has two main museums: Bletchley Park – which holds both the museum of wartime cryptography and the national museum of computing – and the Milton Keynes Museum – which includes collections of rural life that existed before the new town. As well as these museums, Milton Keynes has a Discovery Centre at Bradwell Abbey which, along with providing a wealth of information in its library, is also the location of several medieval buildings including a Grade 1 listed chapel. Also nearby, in Bancroft – also home to the famous concrete cows – are the remains of a Roman villa. One of the original mosaics from the villa is displayed in CMK shopping centre.

The town has also been home to the Milton Keynes International Festival, since 2010, which takes place once every 2 years and is spread over ten days in July. Featuring a world-class programme of extraordinary events in unusual places and public spaces, incorporating music, dance, comedy, cabaret and more. 89% of people, asked in 2012, thought that the International Festival was helping to raise the profile of Milton Keynes and 98% felt that it had a positive impact on their opinion of the town.

So, do you still think Milton Keynes has no culture?

Photos by myself

This project has been a long time in the making – mainly because I don’t actually live in Milton Keynes anymore (to take any more photographs) but also because life is busy. So, I am sorry to the people that I intrigued way back in March (?!) with this idea and then wasn’t too quick about pursuing it.

There is an [e-]booklet version of this, coming soon, with more photographs – plus it actually makes use of my editorial design skills – but first of all I wanted to post my words in a series of blog posts…

Friday, 26 September 2014

The 7 Wonders of Milton Keynes: Part 3

Following on from Part 1 and Part 2

4. Grid System & Roundabouts
Photo by myself

Mention Milton Keynes to almost anyone and what immediately comes to mind is roundabouts – if they’ve actually heard of MK that is. It’s not surprising really as Milton Keynes does, in all honesty, have an awful lot of roundabouts. But more often than not, when someone [who doesn’t live or has never lived in Milton Keynes] speaks of the roundabouts they do so with a tone of contempt. Yes, we have a lot of roundabouts in Milton Keynes but teamed with the grid-like system of roads, the roundabouts do actually work quite well.

The Milton Keynes Development Corporation (or the MKDC) planned major roads to be laid out in a grid pattern – grid roads – with the spaces between the roads – the grid squares – housing different neighbourhoods or estates. Most estates have their own local centres meaning, to a certain extent, they can act as self-contained communities. Roundabouts are used at intersections of grid roads which are efficient at dealing with high volumes of traffic. Except in Central Milton Keynes where mostly traffic lights are used.

The major grid roads are dual carriageways meaning that you can travel to one end of Milton Keynes to the other, by car, fairly quickly – certainly quicker than in other towns. This of course means it is risky for pedestrians to cross the grid roads, but there are underpasses for exactly this purpose situated frequently along grid roads. These underpasses often connect one estate to another and have signs to tell you what estate you are entering. Something that makes MIlton Keynes’s road system different to other towns and cities is that there are long stretches of trees planted alongside the roads and often in the centre of roundabouts. This is one reason why pollution levels are lower in Milton Keynes than other towns and cities of a similar size.

Photos by myself

5. Redways
Photo by myself

Milton Keynes has a special system of public footpaths and cycleways, some that run alongside the grid roads and some through and around parks and housing estates. These are known as redways – although the paths themselves are not really very red, some may have been once but are now mostly a faded brown or grey colour. Rumour has it they were originally called rideways but this was mis-read and the term ‘redway’ stuck.

Where redways intersect with roads, usually within housing estates, yellow bollards are used to indicate that pedestrians and cyclists on the redway should give way to road traffic. At other points on the redway network, the paths run underneath roads instead of across using underpasses. Underpasses are usually marked with the name of the estate you are entering. These signs are teamed with blue and white signposts that indicate nearby estates – ensuring you are never lost. The blue and white signposts also show major points in Milton Keynes like Central Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnell and Wolverton – depending on where you are – that may be a little further away.

There are around 170 miles of redways in Milton Keynes, mostly scenic and free from fast moving motor traffic. Concrete jungle? What concrete jungle?

Photo by myself
Map(s) courtesy of Destination MK
Part 4

This project has been a long time in the making – mainly because I don’t actually live in Milton Keynes anymore (to take any more photographs) but also because life is busy. So, I am sorry to the people that I intrigued way back in March (?!) with this idea and then wasn’t too quick about pursuing it.

There is an [e-]booklet version of this, coming soon, with more photographs – plus it actually makes use of my editorial design skills – but first of all I wanted to post my words in a series of blog posts…

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The 7 Wonders of Milton Keynes: Part 2

Following on from Part 1

2. The Peace Pagoda
Photo by Russell Wilkins

Willen Lake is situated in the north of Milton Keynes and comprises of two lakes. The South Lake is home to water sports, fishing, a miniature railway and adventure golf as well as an hotel, restaurant/pub, gym and cafĂ© facilities. Whilst the North Lake is a designated nature reserve with a rich and varied bird population – there’s a bird-hide for all your bird watching needs. The lake is home to many different bird species including, but certainly not limited to; heron, mallards, wigeon, common terns, kingfishers and woodpeckers. As well as bird-life, you will find a Native American inspired stone circle – the Medicine Wheel – and a pagan maze, the Labyrinth.

Willen Lake North is also the location of the first Peace Pagoda to be built in the Western world. A Peace Pagoda is a Buddhist monument designed to bring together people of all races, united in their search for world peace. Peace Pagodas were built in Japanese cities including Hiroshima and Nagasaki where atomic bombs took the lives of more than 150,000 people at the end of World War II. There are now more than 80 Peace Pagodas in Europe, Asia and the United States. It is impossible to visit Willen Lake and not stop to admire the Peace Pagoda – unlike anything else in Milton Keynes, and indeed the whole of the UK.

The Peace Pagoda at Willen Lake was completed in September 1980, with an inauguration ceremony that was attended by religious leaders and peace-loving people from all over the world. It was built as a symbol of world brotherhood and the ceremony was lead by Nichidatsu Fujii, founder and teacher of the order of Nipponzan Myohoji. Next to the Peace Pagoda is the Nipponzan Myohoji Monastery. This Buddhist monastery consists of a temple, shrine and a beautiful traditional Japanese garden. Surrounding both the temple and pagoda are one thousand cedar and cherry trees, planted in remembrance of all victims of all wars. At the top of the hill between the pagoda and the temple stands the One World Tree which has prayers, messages of hope and small ornaments attached to it as memorials for loved ones lost.

Photos by myself

3. MK Rose
Photo by Mark Coster

Campbell Park is located in the very centre of Milton Keynes, next to the shopping centre – stretching from the Theatre District end of Central Milton Keynes to the Grand Union Canal. The park is a mixture of gardens, water features and woodland, with views across into Bedfordshire from one of the highest points in Milton Keynes. Campbell Park also contains many sculptures, including a totem pole, light pyramid and the distinctive Chain Reaction. These can be discovered, along with many other artworks, on the Milton Keynes Art walk.

There used to be a fountain at the shopping centre end of the park, as a sort of gateway to the rest of Campbell Park, but it became quite run-down and dated. In November 2013, a new piece of public art, The MK Rose, was officially ‘opened’ where the fountain had been. It was created by internationally renowned installation artist Gordon Young as a place of celebration, commemoration and contemplation.

The MK Rose is a calendar of dates important to the people of Milton Keynes. The calendar is represented by 140 pillars arranged in the geometric design of a rose – hence the name – with some left blank for future dedications. Dates include international events such as Midsummer’s Day and Armistice Day, as well as Milton Keynes specific dates. Some of the Milton Keynes specific dates are: 23rd January (1967) – Formal Designation of Milton Keynes as a New Town, 6th May – Wolverton Railway Day and 21st September (1980) – Inauguration of the first Peace Pagoda in the Western Hemisphere (Willen Lake).

Photo by Mark Coster
Part 34

This project has been a long time in the making – mainly because I don’t actually live in Milton Keynes anymore (to take any more photographs) but also because life is busy. So, I am sorry to the people that I intrigued way back in March (?!) with this idea and then wasn’t too quick about pursuing it.

There is an [e-]booklet version of this, coming soon, with more photographs – plus it actually makes use of my editorial design skills – but first of all I wanted to post my words in a series of blog posts…

Monday, 22 September 2014

The 7 Wonders of Milton Keynes: Part 1

This project has been a long time in the making – mainly because I don’t actually live in Milton Keynes anymore (to take any more photographs) but also because life is busy. So, I am sorry to the people that I intrigued way back in March (?!) with this idea and then wasn’t too quick about pursuing it.

There is an [e-]booklet version of this, coming soon, with more photographs – plus it actually makes use of my editorial design skills – but first of all I wanted to post my words in a series of blog posts…

The 7 Wonders of Milton Keynes

I haven’t always been the biggest appreciator of Milton Keynes, my hometown and where I have lived almost all of my life, up until this point. Particularly when I was living in Cornwall, studying for a degree in Graphic Design at University College Falmouth, I found it hard to think of my hometown fondly (excluding my family and cat of course!). But let’s face it, it is hard to appreciate anywhere half as much when you live in Cornwall. However, upon returning to Milton Keynes when I finished my degree in July 2012 – it’s also really hard to get start a graphic design career in Cornwall! – I have learnt to like and maybe even love certain aspects of Milton Keynes. Now I think I am proud to call it my hometown.

It really gets to me when people bad-mouth Milton Keynes. It is one thing when I, or another long-term resident, berates it a little – which we do, we’re human. But it is something quite different when those that have never lived here, only visited briefly or, in some cases, never been at all bad-mouth MK. It is unfair when people refer to Milton Keynes as concrete jungle or judge it entirely on the central shopping centre. There is an awful lot more to Milton Keynes than that, which is what I hope to prove in this project – The 7 Wonders of Milton Keynes.

First, I want to give a little bit of background as to how this idea formed and developed. The title itself came from a conversation I was having with a fellow Milton Keynesian on Twitter. I can’t remember specifically what the conversation was about but I believe it was with @paulmullett. I thought it would make for an interesting blog post or nice design project – maybe a poster series – compiling what I considered to be the 7 Wonders of Milton Keynes. So, I set about short-listing my favourite things in MK. However, this is not something I did alone. I put out word on Twitter of my planned project and got lots of positive feedback and suggestions – so thank you to all those that got involved. Not everything made the final 7 but a lot of things that others suggested I agreed with.

So without further ado, these are what I personally feel are the 7 Wonders of Milton Keynes.

NOTE: I should point out that throughout this project I refer to Milton Keynes as a town. This is because it is in fact a town. Although residents and visitors alike often refer to Milton Keynes as a city and although its population is over 220,000, Milton Keynes is officially a town. Even despite the town being planned as a ‘new city’, it is still, for now, a town.

1. The Concrete Cows
Photo by Gemma Smith

Other than the infamous sprawl of roundabouts, the Concrete Cows in Bancroft are probably what Milton Keynes is best known for. Well, that and Xscape, an attraction that draws in visitors from all around the UK – not to mention the imposing shape it creates on the Milton Keynes skyline. But the Cows have been here for far longer than Xscape and will probably always remain the symbol of this town.

The Concrete Cows were created in 1978 by, artist-in-residence, Liz Leyh using scrap materials, fibre glass and concrete. Some said the Cows were a dig at the preconceived notion of a ‘new city’ that would consist entirely of concrete. And that the children within the city would grow up not knowing what real cows looked like. Of course, that’s ridiculous because there are real farms with real cows less than 2 miles of their concrete counterparts – plus the Cows themselves are located in a real field.

Over the years the Cows have not gone unnoticed, they have suffered much graffiti and a little humiliation. However, some graffiti has been more inventive and memorable than mere vandalism. The Cows have been painted pink, reincarnated as zebras and embraced halloween as skeletons. They were also beheaded, Damien Hurst-style, for a short while and one of the calves was once kidnapped and held ransom – but he was safely returned.

Photos by myself
Part 2, 3, 4

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Inherited Stamp Collection

I don’t know much about it, but my nan used to work for a ‘stamp company’, in London, in the 1950s. This meant that both she and my granddad were collectors of stamps. I have now inherited this stamp collection, although I know nothing about stamps really.

The first day covers – a postage stamp on a post card or stamped envelope franked on the first day the issue is authorized for use within the country or territory of the stamp-issuing authority – are particularly interesting and appeal to me as a designer. I also like how most of the addresses (not actually addressed to either of my grandparents – must find out who C.A. Marsters Esq. is or was) are clearly typed on a typewriter.

I realise a lot of these are pretty wonky – my poor scanning skills.
These pages of the world stamp album were very difficult to scan, so I only did a few.