14 March 2024

Could the plans for
Grafton Park help to
make Milton Keynes
‘the greenest city in the world’

Grafton Park is a quiet corner beside the former Jaipur Restaurant in the centre of Milton Keynes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

I was writing last night about the threatened demolition of the former Jaipur restaurant in the centre of Milton Keynes, and with that the loss of one of the architectural landmarks and unique buildings in the heart of the city.

The proposals to replace the Jaipur building, modelled on the Chandra Mahal, the palace of the Maharajas of Jaipur, and to replace it with a 33-storey high-rise tower block, would mean the loss of a unique building that has never been recognised for its distinctive design. But the plans have also raised concerns that Milton Keynes ‘is fast becoming a city of skyscrapers.’

Is it ironic, or a sign of hope, that at the same time, Grafton Park, a little-known and almost-hidden park beside the former Jaipur restaurant, is part of an interesting plan to make Milton Keynes ‘the greenest city in the world’?

Plans were announced last year (2023) to transform this hidden and overgrown site in the middle of one of the busiest areas in the centre of central Milton Keynes into an attractive urban park and a new haven for wildlife.

At the moment, Grafton Gate Park is a seldom-visited, little-used and overgrown space between Lower Second Street and Lower Fourth Street. It is to the left of the former Jaipur restaurant and the Premier Inn, a few hundred metres from Milton Keynes Central rail station and close to the former bus station in Elder Gate.

The park is a hidden gem with five ponds and a number of waterfalls. The ponds and waterfalls are prone to flooding, but work is being carried out to remedy this. Landscaping work is aimed at cutting back overgrown bushes and trees, removing ivy, clearing litter, and making the park a more attractive space for both people and wildlife.

Milton Keynes City Council is working on the transformation in partnership with MyMiltonKeynes and the landlord, MKDP.

The project is part of a longer-term aim to create a masterplan for Grafton Park and make the 9,000 square metre site a premium city park. It is also hoped that Grafton Park will achieve green flag status, recognising well-managed green spaces.

The bird tower is earmarked to become a central attraction in Grafton Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Councillor Jenny Wilson-Marklew (Labour) has said: ‘Grafton Park is a hidden gem in the middle of the city centre that deserves to be maximised to its full potential. She describes the development of Grafton Park development as a critical flagship project that will help Milton Keynes become ‘the greenest city in the world.’

The proposals include refurbishing public art and sculptures in the park – including the bird tower that is earmarked to become a central attraction – upgrading pathways upgraded, installing benches and bins and improving the signage.

Grafton Park is in the south-west quarter of Milton Keynes, between CBX and the former Bus Station. Its style contrasts with the more formal layout of the Fred Roche Gardens. To the north-east stand Witan Gate House, with more recent office developments to the north and south, while Premier Inn and the former Jaipur Restaurant are beside the south-west corner.

The park featured as a major green space in early plans prepared for Milton Keynes Development Corporation, and from about 2000 it was named on plans and maps as Grafton Park.

The long, narrow rectangular site slopes east to west and is surrounded by shrubs and hedging. The ground has been sculpted into interesting landforms and the north and south sides have been planted with birch and pines.

A large informal pool at the east end is surrounded by bamboo and birches. This feeds into a small stream or rill that flows down the site through waterfalls to a more formal, central round pond. From there, the stream flows gently to disappear at the garden’s west boundary.

The stream interconnects with the main path running east-west, with metal grids to act as pedestrian bridges. The path is lined with ornamental grasses and sedges and the garden is laid to lawns leading up to the boundary shrubbery.

If Grafton Park is successfully transformed into attractive urban park and a new haven for wildlife, is all that work going to be fruitless if it falls under the shadow of a 33-storey high-rise tower block on the site of the beautiful but fading and decaying former Jaipur restaurant?

Ninety seconds by a water feature in Grafton Park (Patrick Comerford)

Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
30, 14 March 2024,
Saint Edward the Confessor

Edward the Confessor depicted in a statue on the west front of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Laura Howard)

Patrick Comerford

Lent began a month ago on Ash Wednesday (14 February 2024), and this week began with the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Lent IV), also known as Laetare Sunday and Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day (10 March 2024).

Throughout Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on the lives of early, pre-Reformation English saints commemorated in the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship.

Before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, A reflection on an early, pre-Reformation English saint;

2, today’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

King Edward the Confessor (left) and Saint Hugh of Lincoln in the Cooper window in Saint Peter’s Church, Berkhamsted (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 30, Saint Edward the Confessor

Saint Edward the Confessor is commemorated in Common Worship on 13 October. Edward was born in 1002, the son of the English King Ethelred and his Norman wife Emma. Living in exile during the Danish supremacy, he was invited back to England in 1042 to become king, and was heartily welcomed as a descendant of the old royal line.

However, his reign was a balancing act between the influences of stronger characters at his court or overseas, sustained by Edward’s diplomacy and determination.

Edward’s reputation for sanctity was built on his personal, more than his political, qualities. He was concerned to maintain peace and justice in his realm, to avoid foreign wars, and to put his faith into practice. He was generous to the poor, hospitable to strangers, but no mere pietist.

As a young man, Edward had vowed to go on pilgrimage to Rome should his family fortunes ever be restored. He later felt it irresponsible to leave his kingdom, and was permitted instead to found or endow a monastery dedicated to Saint Peter. Edward chose the abbey on Thorney Island, by the river Thames, thus beginning the royal patronage of Westminster Abbey.

He died on 5 January 1066 and his remains were translated to a new shrine in Westminster Abbey on 13 October 1162.

Edward the Confessor founded Westminster Abbey and is buried there (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 5: 17-30 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 31 ‘If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

39 ‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41 I do not accept glory from human beings. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?’

The tympanum of the portal shows in Westminster Cathedral shows Christ enthroned, with a knelling Edward the Confessor on the right (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Thursday 14 March 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Lent Reflection: JustMoney Movement.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Matt Ceaser, Movement Builder, JustMoney Movement.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (14 March 2024, Commonwealth Day) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ across the Commonwealth, a political association of 54 free and equal states across the world.

The Collect:

Merciful Lord,
absolve your people from their offences,
that through your bountiful goodness
we may all be delivered from the chains of those sins
which by our frailty we have committed;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for Jesus Christ’s sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord God,
whose blessed Son our Saviour
gave his back to the smiters
and did not hide his face from shame:
give us grace to endure the sufferings of this present time
with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Merciful Lord,
you know our struggle to serve you:
when sin spoils our lives
and overshadows our hearts,
come to our aid
and turn us back to you again;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday: Saint Alphege of Canterbury

Tomorrow: Lanfranc (1089), Prior of Le Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury

The altar in the chapel dedicated to Saint Edward the Confessor in Sint Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org