Campbell Park Turns 40!

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04 May 2024

Today we are celebrating as our flagship park, Campbell Park, officially turns 40 years old! 

To mark this momentous occasion, we have been digging through our archives to uncover 40 interesting facts about our much-loved city central park. Did you know this 100-acre site is home to over 12 pieces of public art? Be surprised at the famous faces who have visited and learn about the park's diverse landscape and history.

40 facts about Campbell Park

  • Campbell Park was named after Jock Campbell who was the first chair of the Development Corporation, the organisation responsible for designing and building Milton Keynes. 
  • The building of Campbell Park started in 1975 and, after 9 years, was officially opened in 1984. 
  • The outdoor amphitheatre can hold events for up to 5,000 people.
  • Historic England awarded Campbell Park Grade II status in August 2020 due to its historic interest and innovative architectural design. 
  • Campbell Park is the largest 20th Century formal urban park in the UK, totalling about 100 acres.
  • Before the park was created, the land was farmland and only a single agricultural building stood in the valley near the north-western corner. 
  • A Woodland Ridge was part of the original landform in this area but was planted with trees to create a woodland in the late 1970’s. Trees include Silver Birch, Oak and Norway Maples. 
  • By coppicing the hazel in the Woodland Ridge to let light in, it encourages snowdrops in Winter, followed by swathes of primroses, crocuses, and daffodils. Bluebells and cowslips will then appear, and once Summer arrives, you may see wild strawberries.

  • Onwards and Upwards by sculptor Robert Koenig was commissioned in 2010 to celebrate the retirement of The Parks Trust’s then chairman, John Duggan. It represents the growth and development of both the park and the city. It was carved from a single piece of eight-metre-high sweet chestnut and installed in August 2011. 
  • The viewing mound at the top of the park, the Belvedere, was created from the shopping centre's spoil. The soil has compacted, shrinking it over time. 
  • The Light Pyramid is an electric beacon lit for national occasions; it was installed in 2012 in time for HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The previous crow’s nest beacon was removed after being struck by lightning twice and is now housed at MK Museum. 
  • The Milton Keynes Rose created by the artist Gordon Young in 2013, features a calendar of days represented as a series of 106 stone pillars arranged around a geometric design of a flower in the granite. 
  • Our sheep graze Campbell Park between January and March. The herd of up to 160 sheep ‘mob graze’ as the big herd makes it easier to be seen by dog walkers.  
  • The meadows in Campbell Park are mown, and the cuttings are removed once a year to keep the nutrients down. This removal of nutrients helps suppress the grasses, enabling wildflowers to thrive. The hay is used to feed sheep and cattle over the Winter.  
  • The City Gardens were completed in the 1980s. It was extensively planted and is more formal than the rest of the park. City Gardens West is the Hanging Gardens around the steps by Chain Reaction, and City Gardens East is by the pond near the Cricket Pitch. 
  • Tree species that can be found in the City Gardens include Monkey Puzzle, Dawn Redwood, Tibetan Cherry and Black Locust trees. These are specimen trees that are not native to the UK but are part of a beautiful collection of trees from around the world. 
  • Campbell Park was transferred to our care when The Parks Trust was set up in 1992. 
  • Campbell Park connects with Midsummer Boulevard, leading from the park through the middle of the city to the railway station at its western end. This means the park is aligned to watch the rising sun of the summer solstice from the Belvedere.  
  • The area is formed largely of Oxford clays, which dip southeast towards the chalk hills to the east and south. 

  • The cricket pitch was completed in 1993, and the wicket was constructed to the same specification as Lords and Edgbaston international cricket pitches.
  • International cricket stars such as Shane Warne, the Waugh brothers, Monty Panesar, Darren Gough and Malcolm Marshall have all played at Campbell Park. 
  • In 2005, Northants set the UK record T20 score at Campbell Park, scoring 224 for 5 off their 20 overs. This is still Northants' third-highest total in the competition. 
  • Until their roots interfered with drainage pipes, cricket bat willows could be found near the cricket pitch. These trees are grown specifically so the wood can be made into cricket bats. The first bat ever made from these trees can be found in Campbell Park Cricket Pavilion.  
  • Wildlife such as badgers, foxes, green woodpeckers, jays, and fieldfare are regularly found in this diverse park. Squirrels are often seen jumping from tree to tree throughout the year.  
  • The trees that can be found within the circular benches dotted around the park are Hornbeam. Their green Spring/Summer leaves and bronze crinkled Autumn/Winter leaves provide year-round cover and shelter for many small creatures.
  • Campbell Park is home to 12 pieces of public art. The most recent addition is Leda and the Swan, which was relocated from Willen Lake and installed in its new home in 2022. 
  • The Fanzone for the Rugby World Cup in 2015 was hosted in Campbell Park and welcomed over 20,000 rugby fans.

  • In 2017 we welcomed HRH Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge to the Milton Keynes Rose in Campbell Park, as part of a special visit to celebrate the city’s 50th birthday in 2017.
  • The park has hosted numerous temporary art installations, often working with MK Gallery with contemporary pieces ranging from bells placed in some of the oak trees, to a bird box trail to growing a field of wheat! 
  • Many famous faces have performed in Campbell Park, from Jools Holland to Rag’n’Bone Man, Rick Astley and UB40! 
  • World Record Attempts have taken place in Campbell Park, most recently in 2023 the longest line of food cans was achieved totalling 102,447 cans for MK Foodbank.
  • Milton Keynes International Festival has called Campbell Park home since 2010 with the festival being held every two years (except for two held at Willen Lake in 2014 & 2016). 
  • Chain Reaction was installed in the park in 1992 and was commissioned to end the first phase of Milton Keynes’ creation as a new city. 
  • Campbell Park stretches all the way from the city centre to the Grand Union Canal.  The canalside at Campbell Park is home to the park’s only living sculpture, Circle Dance by Clare Wilks.   
  • Every Summer, we host hundreds of events and activities, including community events like India Day:MK, Milton Keynes Pride Festival, MK Filipino Festival, and Art in the Park, to name just a few! 
  • There is an off-road cycle track. Installed in 2019, the track was created because of increasing popularity and demand (at all levels) regarding off-road cycling.
  • The city’s bridleways run through and around Campbell Park, and every year the park hosts organised horse rides by EnduranceGB who use the park to start off on the 80km of bridleways around the city! 
  • In 2014, Campbell Park hosted the World Cup Cyclo-Cross Championships. Over 20,000 cycling fans enjoyed seeing world-class riders during the weekend event.
  • National cycle route 51 runs through the middle of the park and connects Oxford to the Suffolk coast! 
  • The original plans for Campbell Park included an ambitious national sculpture museum and park, which Henry Moore supported! Other ideas included two golf courses and an international conference centre.

Join us in celebrating Campbell Park's 40th birthday milestone and plan a visit with a stroll through the park, exploring its rich history and stunning landscape architecture. Don't forget to share your experience with us on social media by tagging @TheParksTrust or using the hashtag #TheParksTrust.

  • Established in 1992

    When the Parks Trust was formed, Milton Keynes only had a population of 176,000. Today, around 300,000 residents call our city home.

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  • We have received the Green Flag Award for our entire network of parks for the seventh year in a row!
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