1984: Love of life, place and passing a personal test.

Saturday 18th August 1984

No cricket today because it is our last weekend before going back to work and Fiona has her Mum up for the weekend. My house is extra clean for the prospective M.I.L. (Mother – in  – Law) inspection and they duly arrived from Aylesbury after 12. The plan for the day was rough but involved a walk somewhere, some shopping and a good place to eat out.

The walk: MK is great for a long walk. Our route was from my house, through the new houses and downhill to Bradwell Abbey. Stop for a quick pint in the garden of the Prince Albert and on to the traditional photo at the concrete Cows.

concrete cows c 84

On the original Concrete Cows?

Then through the Abbey to Loughton Brook. Walk along the river to Lodge Lake and then uphill to the station. From there on to the shopping centre. They then did their team shopping. I had an hour or so in the Rose and Castle while they looked for little black tops in Monsoon and school shoes in John Lewis. They came back with food for the evening from Waitrose and a demand to use my cooker this evening. I just hoped it still worked, I know it will be clean enough as it has hardly ever been used. We walked out from the John Lewis, down to the Peace Pagoda and back round through Downs Barn to Linford Wood.

 peace pagode 83

 Peace pagoda C 1984

A walk through the woods and then back through the self-build estate to home by about 5. Home to sleep through the results of the Charity Shield (Everton 1, Liverpool 0)

 stedders asleep 83

 Asleep by 5.

We decided to sit in the back garden and I was grilled over a gin or tonic. I must have passed her test because they stayed quite late before Fiona took her Mum back to Aylesbury. For the record the ready-made cottage pie with new potatoes and green beans was easy enough. They are off to Waddesdon tomorrow and I will go and find some game to watch. I ought to get down to lesson panning but I have most of next week to do that.

People often ask why I am so determined to enthuse about Milton Keynes as a place to live. Days like this are one of the reasons why. It was a great place when I was in my free and single days. It was, and still is, perfect for someone who wants to walk long distances without the hassle of competition with traffic. I think you need to have lived here to really appreciate the subtleties of its planned environment. To have every house being within a few hundred yards of a significant open space is something to be envied in other cities. The mix of the very modern and adventurous, (i.e. in the home world housing scheme in Bradwell Common) with the ancient (toot and Abbey in Bradwell Village) is special and to be cherished. The two bedroom house I had was perfect for me to start on the housing ladder. The shopping centre was in itself a magnet for tourist shoppers across the country. It was a bit rough around the edges but what city wasn’t in the eighties. It was safe and forward looking rather than a reflection of a tired Thatcherite post-industrial landscape decline found in nearby towns.

 bradwell map 83 1

 The First half of the walk

The map was a genuine 1983 MK map. It was a sort of ritual to buy one every year and look at the changes as the city grew. The map was interesting for the annotations as to what was planned for the next development. On this map alone the following was happening along our route.

  • Bradwell Common was still being built – the Futuristic showcase estate at Homeworld had set a standard for self-building schemes. Next came the shops and new pub The Countryman) with the usual mix of rented and private housing. We lived with the laudable aim of the City having no East or West ends. And yes, to me, it was a new city.
  • The Bradwell Abbey site was to become the focal point for much of my local Geography teaching. The City Discovery Centre set up in the grounds of the abbey and Manor House and the resources of the planners were a gold mine for groups to study,
  • The lake at Loughton Lodge was in the process of being filled. Hence we appear to be walking through the middle of the lake.
  • The diggers were in and building the new estates at Great Holm and Loughton.
  • Rooksley had a site for Mini Grand Prix track labelled.
  • The national Badminton Centre had arrived at Loughton.

 bradwell map 83 2

 Continuing on this map:-

  • Only a third of the City Centre is built
  • The City Park led down to Willen Lake and the Peace Pagoda – MK has always had fantastic public art, sculptures and planned landmarks.
  • Linford Wood at this time was very rough and ready. It took some navigating and was yet to get the trails and guided / graded walkways of now sanitised times.

You will of course note the dates and reference to going back to work. School would have started again in the first week of September but as every teacher will know the last week of the holidays would be preoccupied with planning for the New Year. Exam results for the last year would be in and inquests would have begun. We were in the habit of writing off the last week and spending days in school setting up resources, printing, copying and generally trying to pre-empt the start of term. As the doting boyfriend this week would involve my introduction to middle school backing paper and display standards as Fiona demanded help and my height to assist in redressing the walls of her new classroom. I am convinced most women only ever wanted to know me because I could touch the ceiling of a house, reach into the darkest recesses of a cupboard or fill up and be given leeway when at a bar ordering drinks.

And finally a list:-

Ten things that Milton Keynies have to do that residents of other cities probably don’t.

  1. Buy a street map at least once a year.
  2. Plant a tree in the garden. If a new resident I was given a voucher to plant one by the development Corporation
  3. Drive along a new road that has just opened, (ticking them off mentally)
  4. Explain the difference, in Mk terms, between a boulevard and an avenue
  5. Tell non-locals how H and V works.( Horizontal and Vertical should really be easy but they are already confused by roundabouts poor souls)
  6. Sit in a park and listen to a concert at the Bowl. Better still play cricket in Bletchley when it is on. Fielding to Gary Glitter takes some beating.
  7. Go to a brand new school.
  8. Sit on the Concrete Cows.
  9. Paddle in the fountain at Queens Court. (Does it still exist?)
  10. Explain that Wimbledon F.C. wanted to move to Mk and have plenty of questions to answer as well.


1989       Blenheim

1990       USA Boston

1991       USA Malibu Santa Monica

1992       USA Houma

1995       USA Golf

1997       RTW Lamberhurst

1998       Leyton Orient H 1-2

1999       RTW

2001       Scunthorpe A 2-1

2003       RTW

2007       Crewe H 1-1

2009       Hartlepool A 2-1

2012       Oxford H 0-2

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