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Living in Milton Keynes, I personally love our concrete cows. They're kind of quirky and have, over the years, become a bit of place for jokey fun.
There are six in total, three adult cows and three calves, and they are indeed made of concrete. They're painted black and white in the style of Friesians, and are placed in a small grass area kind of where you might expect to see cows. There's paths close by for walking and cycling so you can get to them, and they can also be seen from the H3 (Horizontal Road way running through Milton Keynes which is laid out like a grid with H roads and V - vertical - roads).
As An Attraction
To be honest, these are like most statues not very exciting as a thing to visit. Yes, you can take a photo or two, you can even climb on the back of one and pretend to ride it, but I wouldn't suggest them as a place to go JUST to see the cows. The river is nearby, and there's places to picnic so much better to just go for a walk or picnic in that area and stop and admire/laugh at them in passing as it were I think.
The History of the Cows
The cows were created by Liz Leyh back in 1978 when Milton Keynes was just coming to life, and were donated to the city. Liz created them at Stacey Hill Museum which in its early years was where a number of crafters, artists and writers created their works, and which later Milton Keynes Museum as we know it today.
As I mentioned at the beginning, over the years, these cows have become a bit of a symbol for fun in MK. They've been painted various colours over the years including being 'dressed' in painted on pajamas, one was once kidnapped and a ransom note sent to the local paper for it, and one time some university students created an extra cow - well a bull in fact - and placed it in the field with the cows so it could be seen errr well mounting one of them!
I've grown up in MK since I was 10, and have both loved and hated it over the years when people have said things like 'Oh MK - don't you have concrete cows there?' For a time it bugged me that it was all people thought about the city (well large town - we still don't have city status officially!), but now as a more mature adult, I can see the fun in them and in having a concrete cow as a symbol for a city growing up where once was farm land were cattle grazed.
In terms of being a place of interest to visit, well if you're coming to MK and you're going to go and visit Milton Keynes Museum where they were created, then taking a walk or a drive by them might be a nice idea on a sunny day. However, I wouldn't really advise you to go out of your way to find them or to visit MK just to see them, as they're just another slightly odd sculpture really.
*btw, the title of this review is the headline that appeared in our local newspaper when one of the cows had been stolen and was held to ransom!
So what is the point of the famous concrete cows of Milton Keynes? Having visited specifically to research this opinion, I still can’t really say! I moved to Milton Keynes in 1986 and there were here before me. I have heard conflicting reasons for their existence. Some say it was to prevent the children of this city from forgetting what cows look like, as real ones would be so far away (so why don’t they have some in London or Birmingham then?). Some say they were ‘crafted’ to represent the sprawling concrete in this new town. I have also heard that the local council commissioned an artist to ‘create’ them as a tourist attraction. Does anyone know the real reason (comments please)? I found out that the Milton Keynes concrete cows were sculpted in 1978 by Liz Leyh and donated to the city, but I still don't know why. Anyway, what are they really like? They do indeed appear to be made of concrete and are carefully painted in black and white to bring out the cow features. There are two adult cows (complete with concrete udders), one adult without udders (but with no horns) and three babies. They are full cow sized so you can easily sit on them (and thousands have). They are situated next to a busy dual carriageway the H3 – Monks Way (Milton Keynes has a grid system - Horizontal Ways and Vertical Streets) near Bancroft, about 3 miles from the shopping centre. If you are going more than 40 M.P.H. or don’t know where to look, you would miss them. They are in a field with no sign-post or other attractions nearby – very strange! There is also no parking nearby and I ended up parking in a nearby estate which must be annoying for the residents. Unfortunately, they are frequently abused (hence the title of this opinion). The most recent abuse I saw was graffiti painted across one cow’s back saying ‘I love SM’ and a carefully planted dog poo on one cow
217;s rear (I do hope they wore gloves for that one). One abuse, which made the papers, was when a local university made a paper mache cow and carefully placed it mounting one of the others. Another time, a cow was kidnapped and a ransom demanded. They have also been painted all the colours of the rainbow in their time. I’m surprised they still have udders! A lot of publicity shots have been taken here. Local celebrities and residents have their photos taken here, and the most popular postcard you can get of Milton Keynes is one of the concrete cows. Basically, they are a bit of a legend. If you are in Milton Keynes and have a bit of spare time, I they are probably worth a look, just to say you have sat on them, but don’t get your hopes up about a fascinating tourist attraction. Locally, Bletchley Park (where the German codes were decyphered in WWII) is much more interesting.....or you could always come and visit me!