Happy #LoveMK Day. I’ve lived in Milton Keynes for 11 years, plenty long enough to say it’s a great place to live, work, play and plan. Why? Let me spell it out for you:
On #LoveMK Day it’s only fitting to share a love story, right? Except this isn’t just about my love for the place I live, but about my love for a boy. A romantic story with Milton Keynes at its heart. Of course, I thought Richard was a random stalker when he first tweeted at me (in response to a pic I posted of Caldecotte Lake) in the first half of 2009.
Of course, I’m talking about Richard Bateman (he’s the guy behind the 2018 remake of the red balloon advert you’re likely to see featuring prominently on the #LoveMK hashtag). We met almost a decade ago on Twitter and we’ve been making memories ever since.
Our first date was hosted by the Wavendon Arms and our time together has been peppered with Milton Keynes landmarks… we planned our first holiday on the grassy banks of Linford Manor in glorious sunshine; we nervously let our dog, Ralphie, off the lead for the very first time at Riverside Meadow, Newport Pagnell, and spent more hours walking around Bury Field than I care to remember. Richard first watched me play netball on the outdoor courts of Walton High and his business, westfourstreet, was started from the spare room of our Caldecotte flat.
We celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple in a snow-filled Wavendon in 2010 (anyone else remember how cold that winter was?) and our first trip out of the house as parents of two small children in December 2013 was around a VERY muddy Linford Lake. And we’re still making memories in MK, our home, a place we think holds lots of future opportunities for our children. Which leads nicely to…
I is for inspiring
Ever heard of Bletchley Park and the codebreakers? Then you’ll know that Milton Keynes has more to it than dual carriageways and roundabouts (including that horrific one at Bletchley!); it has some proper history, the stuff worthy of making TV programmes about. Aside from its inspiring history, it has a buzzing future and you’ll get a taste of both at Milton Keynes Museum.
L is for layout
For those not in the know, Milton Keynes sits on a grid system, a bit like New York, albeit it named in a more obvious way. We have V roads and H roads (that’s V for vertical and H for horizontal) and they’re numbered from 1 to 10 (ish). They have proper names too, but are always accompanied by the letter and number (V10 Brickhill Street, for example), making it pretty easy to navigate once you’ve sussed out which direction you’re going in. Newbies will tell you everywhere looks the same, but once you get used to it, it’s very handy. As well as the grid system, there’s the city centre, a hub of bars, restaurants, shopping and leisure facilities split into smaller sub-areas like The Hub, Intu MK, Centre: MK, Theatre District and Xscape – you can get anything you want, within reason, here. And then nestled amongst the housing estates dotted across the V and H roads, you’ll find what we call local centres, mini city centres comprising all the basic facilities you need. It’s all very handy. MK is built for convenience and easy access, with loads of parking spaces. I like convenient, therefore I like Milton Keynes.
T is for 10 minutes to anywhere
Generally, it takes no longer than 10-15 minutes to get from A to B in MK. Which supports what I said above – very convenient. I’ll happily take an abundance of roundabouts and dual carriageways over one-way systems and a sporadic sprinkling of speed cameras. Okay, so I HAVE gone into the back of a car on to separate occasions but if you’re paying attention, navigating MK is perfectly safe…
O is for open spaces
I grew up in Shropshire and it’s pretty damn, well… pretty. But I kid you not, from my front door in Milton Keynes I have access (by walking) to more green and open spaces than I did back in the shire. Ralphie is spoiled for choice on his walks and if we decide to hop in the car and go a bit further, there’s even more. Take a wonder along the canal at Great Linford, for example, and you’ll soon forget you’re not in the middle of the countryside. Tongwell Lake’s another of our favourite spots.
N is for nightlife (plus)
As a 38-year-old full-time working parent of two children, I’m not really qualified to talk about ‘nightlife’ on any great scale. My late 20s (I can just about remember them…) were spent frequenting the local pubs, clubs and restaurants as I found my way around MK as a newbie resident. I didn’t have to totter too far in my heels (now replaced with flats), I could always get a dirty kebab (or equivalent) before calling it a night and never failed to get a taxi home. Well, there was that one time…
Now my free time is more civilised (save for the wiggly slide marathon at Mead Open Farm the other week), I’m spoiled for options, whether it’s date night, girl time or a quality hangout with the smalls. There are two big cinema complexes and loads of places to eat – the popular chain restaurants as well as loads of village-y style pubs nestled away in the prettier parts of Milton Keynes or just on the fringes. I’m thinking The Swan, the other Swan, and the other, other Swan off the top of my head.
K is for kids
E is for enterprise
Did you know that Milton Keynes is the 22nd best place to launch a startup? Or, if you read the 2016 Cities Outlook report, MK has the second highest number of startups per 10,000 population. To me that says MK is good for the economy, offers job opportunities, is creative, enterprising and innovative. Hubby is proof of the pudding here, a local boy come good. Starting your own business is a big thing and, supported by the local MK business community, he’s grown in confidence and capability. MK has the buzz of enterprise but the warmth of a rural village. It’s thriving and it’s friendly. And close to London. I was pretty much laughed out of Shropshire when I told the school careers woman I wanted to be a journalist. I think much more is possible in MK.
Y is for…
Okay, so I’m struggling with Y. Read on peeps, nothing to see here.
N is for netball
I’ve been playing netball since I can remember and have always found teams to play in wherever I’ve been living. We all know when you put competitive women in a sports hall and throw a ball in the air it can get a bit bitchy. But I have the pleasure of playing for and with the nicest bunch of netballing ladies ever. And it just so happens that they’re pretty awesome at netball too. Go Panthers Storm!
E is for education
Milton Keynes is home to The Open University, making education accessible to all, wherever you live and whatever your circumstances. I know this because I work there and see first-hand the impact it makes. It reminds me every day that education is really important, and access to it even more so. A new Milton Keynes University is planned for 2023 too, offering yet more educational opportunities.
S is for smart
Milton Keynes is a smart city. Officially. And because it’s late and I have Homeland episodes to catch up on, you can read all about it here.