(From left to right: Wenliang, Carla and Karina)
As a new Cranfield student, and even a current one wanting to relocate, deciding where to live can be a very stressful decision. We don’t often have time to visit the destination before we make the move and, to be honest, there are not many people always available who are familiar with the Cranfield area to offer advice. Here we’ll share our own experiences of living in the Cranfield village, the University campus, Milton Keynes, and Bedford.
Cranfield village and University campus
Cranfield is a small, quiet village situated between Milton Keynes and Bedford. There is only one main street (i.e., high street) throughout the village with a Co-op, a well-known supermarket, on each end. Buses to Cranfield University and MK/Bedford are scheduled every half hour – there is a timetable but sometimes the drivers might be late. Essential living needs can be satisfied – there are shops, barbers, hair salons, bars and cafes; but if you want something more exciting, you have to travel to nearby MK or Bedford. Besides, living closer to University means you can spend less time on the way, but unless you drive you need to catch the bus. It is quite unlikely to walk to Uni from the village, since Cranfield’s own airport is in between, and you have to get around it (although there are plans for a new woodland walkway).
However, living on campus is a different story – although it may share the same drawbacks such as transportation and limited leisure options. There is only a walking distance between halls and Uni, and therefore much more flexibility in terms of time management. Also, since bills are covered in rent, you can save a lot of time and energy as you don’t have to deal with those things. Besides, another positive side of living on campus is that making friends and connecting with people can be so much easier than living in the village. There might be some challenges at first getting used to your room mates, but everyone is lovely and if needs be,there are studios on campus which you can choose, so that you don’t have to share anything with anyone. All in all, I highly recommend living on campus if you prefer private spaces but still need company from time to time.
Milton Keynes (MK)
Milton Keynes is very unlike other traditional English towns because it doesn’t have a high street; instead, the centre of Milton Keynes is basically comprised by the shopping centre (Centre MK), the Xscape and Campbell Park. The shopping centre is huge and has all the big shops like Primark, TKMaxx, and M&S that you’d expect to find anywhere else. The Xscape on the other hand, offers recreational activities, like bowling, a cinema, a gym, and even has a real snow ski slope inside. One of the things I personally enjoy most about living in MK is that there are always fun activities like festivals and concerts that are organised all year round in places like Campbell Park, so there is always something to do.
Travelling to MK from Cranfield can be a little difficult without the assistance of a car, but this doesn’t mean there is no way to get there. There are a number of buses in the surrounding areas, as well as taxi services that can be helpful when coming home from sporting activities in the evening. The bus services are generally reliable, but they sometimes are cancelled or rescheduled (Covid has impacted staff numbers and driver availability). Usually, this is not an issue as another bus comes along after, or friends and I will share a taxi home.
Bedford is a large market town in the Bedfordshire area. With a population of almost 160k people, it isn’t nearly as busy as Milton Keynes. Whilst Milton Keynes is a more modern place to live, in Bedford you will see much more of the history the UK has to show. The river that passes through the city is a major highlight and during the summer is a great place to go for walks. Bedford is full of Victorian architecture and many old-style pubs and restaurants. The high street offers many shops such as Primark, TKMaxx, New Look and JD Sports. There are also many popular restaurants and even a cinema. Recently, the whole centre area has undergone construction to improve the roads and pavements, making the town centre much more attractive to tourists. There are many parks to visit and
clubs to join such as the Bedford Rowing Club. In addition to all this, Bedford provides two train stations that can get you around the UK. The main station has trains going to London every 20 minutes making Bedford very well connected. The commute to London takes only 30-45 minutes and the commute to Luton approximately 15-20 minutes. The commute to Luton is particularly interesting as there is an airport in Luton where flights go to most of Europe. In addition to this, Luton also offers a good shopping experience.
In terms of getting to Cranfield University, the UNO Bus service passes through various strategic places of the town, mostly through the centre. I would suggest looking at the bus route and searching for places to live near a stop. The buses pass every 30 minutes usually and the drive to the University is between 30-45 minutes depending on where you get the bus from. Going by car if you own one, is very easy, it takes only 25 minutes, and the commute provides great scenery. Rental accommodation in Bedford tends to be cheaper than Milton Keynes, however depending on the time of year they can be much harder to find. A good idea for current students is to rent a property with friends and split the cost. Very different to living on campus, it’s unlikely to find a property where bills are included. Make sure to take into account the rent, gas, energy and other living expenses before closing on a rental. If you plan to come to Cranfield with family (i.e., spouse and children), Bedford offers great schools and many work opportunities. The student experience is very different when living in Bedford, you can expect a calmer living and feel more like a local. My experience in Bedford has been great, I would recommend a Cranfield student to live here.