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The Concrete Cows of Milton Keynes

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Cows being kidnapped by a flying saucer.

It has always been considered cool for cats, but what about other animals? Cats have a natural style and savoir-faire that gives them the edge in any animal style contest. By comparison, the cow must be a hot contender for the position of least chic mammal. In the new town of Milton Keynes (50 miles north of London) bovine appreciation has reared its hairy head, leading to one of the most interesting civic sculptures in Britain - a herd of concrete cows.

Creation of the Concrete Cows

These purely decorative Friesians were designed by American artist Liz Leyh, who used recycled material and local school children to create them (the school children were used for assistance, not as materials).

All life-sized and realistically sculpted to look as though they are in the act of grazing together in the field, the cows were Leyh's leaving present to the city of Milton Keynes1, summing up how she felt about a place she was crossing oceans to get away from.

Cow Crimes

In the years since, many exciting things have happened to the cows. A year after they were put in place, the lone calf (nicknamed 'Millie Moo') was stolen by evil-minded rustlers with heavy lifting equipment. Sadly, Millie Moo was never seen again. A few years later, in 1988, Millie Moo Two (the original Millie replacement), was also stolen in a daring midnight raid on that hitherto peaceful field. This time the aim was ransom. While the local authorities keep very quiet on whether or not this was paid, Millie was returned to the safety of her herd a short time later, and local citizens breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief.

Bovine Buffoonery

Despite their obvious grandeur, indigenous pranksters have often made the cows targets for practical jokes, usually in the poorest taste. They have been painted as zebras, bedecked in pajama bottoms (by a presumably more prudish sort of vandal) and, memorably, a papier mâché bull was added to the group, causing considerable damage to the hind quarters of the cow it was attached to. Most disturbingly of all, on one occasion, the cows were completely beheaded and had to be rebuilt by Lesley Bonner, one of the original participants of the project.

Finding the Friesians

Today, the cows still stand peacefully in their field, and can be visited by the curious or the more criminally-minded members of the young farmers fraternity. To get to them, you must first get to Milton Keynes. From London, the best way is via Britain's premier motorway, the M1, which winds its way slowly up through 160 miles of English countryside. The UK's first motorway, it opened in 1959 and finally made it to it's destination of Leeds in around 1968. Once there, visitors are advised to park in the City Discovery Centre, or Bancroft Roman Villa car park before walking to the site. Souvenir postcards are available from local post offices and the Milton Keynes Centre Library.

So go on, spread a little bovine appreciation, visit the concrete cows today - they are just off the 'H3'. Milton Keynes, having been designed from scratch, has its main roads laid out in a grid pattern. They are either 'H' for Horizontal, or 'V' for Vertical. Logical, if a little uninspiring.

1Milton Keynes is not actually a city - yet. But local people think it is. They have no town centre, but there is a city centre, which lets them keep on pretending.

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