The establishment of the new town of Milton Keynes was part of the post-war expansion of housing in England. A large area was designated for the town, which swallowed up the existing towns of Bletchley, Stony Stratford and Newport Pagnell and a number of villages, including the village of Milton Keynes from which the new town took its name. Building began soon after the Development Corporation was established in 1967 and the town is still expanding. According to Wikipedia by 2011 it had a population of nearly 250,000, compared to around 53,000 in the same area in 1961. Milton Keynes is often called a city rather than a town but this is technically incorrect as it has never been granted city status.
In 1978 Liz Leyh, a Canadian artist working in the town, created a set of six concrete cows - three adult cows and three calves - which quickly became identified with the town. Both Milton Keynes and its concrete cows have tended to be seen as something of a joke, and people who don't know it imagine a highly developed characterless modern town pretending to be rural. In fact from the beginning the town was planned with the intention that there would be large amounts of green space. Linear parks connect different parts of Milton Keynes, and it is supposed to be possible to walk pretty much anywhere in the town without having to leave the network of footpaths (or redways) which run through these. Milton Keynes still divides opinion, but everyone I know who lives there (including my eldest daughter) enjoys the mix of good facilities and countryside on their doorstep. This article from 2017 celebrating the town's 50th anniversary lists 50 reasons to love Milton Keynes, some more tongue-in-cheek than others.
The concrete cows have been the victims of various pranks and vandalism over the years, and there are now two sets, the originals and a set of replicas. The cows in my photographs are the replicas, which live in a field somewhere in the town (I can't actually remember where!) doing their concrete bovine thing. The originals were for some time on display in the centre of the shopping centre (mall if you are American) and are now at the Milton Keynes Museum.
Most of Milton Keynes may be modern but once you start exploring there is plenty of history still to be found. We started the walk during which we stumbled across the concrete cows (we weren't looking for them!) at Bradwell Abbey, a former medieval Benedictine priory which is now the home of the Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre and of this statue of a medieval monk.
Typical of the Milton Keynes mix of old and new is that when we got back to Bradwell Abbey we found these sculptures by German designer and sculptor Bernard Schottlander.
It seems that some of the planners within the Milton Keynes Development Corporation were in tune with the 60s zeitgeist. One of the town's quirks is that Midsummer Boulevard, the central road running through what is now the shopping centre and the main city park, was designed so that it lines up exactly with the rising sun on the summer solstice.