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Walking With Dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park in London

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Let’s go back in time, together.

I pose a question to you.

Where would you go dinosaur hunting in London?

dinosaurs crystal palace park
All aboard the dinosaur train!

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Someone has an eye for Sarah…

My guess is that the city’s south probably wouldn’t top your list. So, it may surprise you to hear that you will encounter dinosaurs on London’s Green Chain Walk. In Crystal Palace, of all places.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Pretty much look like giant lizards.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Looks vicious.

As a forewarning, you’re probably going to hear me harp on about London’s Green Chain Walk in the next few weeks. The weather is (slowly) getting warmer, which means it’s prime time for trekking through the city’s many walkways and paths. If you ask me, the Green Chain Walk is one of the most underrated things to do in the capital.

But more about that later. Let’s discuss the dinosaurs.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Not a dinosaur, but still neat.

These Victorian sculptures don’t exactly resemble these ancient creatures as we would picture them today.

They are the work of the natural history artist and sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. He created 33 life-size concrete models of various extinct animals (not only dinosaurs), the construction of which was based on the latest scientific knowledge at the time.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Aw, look at the sun trying its best to make an appearance.

Scientists of the 19th century had collated nowhere near the amount of information we now have available to us. As a result, many of the sculptures were created on speculation, rather than solid fact.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Not sure of what’s going on here.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Hrmm… nope.

That being said, the likeliness to modern day drawings is pretty darn close. Looking at them, you can hardly call them artist’s renditions.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Considering these Victorians had no clear idea of what dinosaurs look like, the likeliness is canny.

This is because Hawkins was under the instruction of biologist and palaeontologist Sir Richard Owen – the man who coined the term Dinosauria to describe these “fearfully great reptiles”.

The Crystal Palace dinosaurs were completed in 1854 – the first of their kind to be created in the world. To put this into perspective, they pre-date Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by six years.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
More decidedly undinosaur-like creatures.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Ah. That’s better.

Recognised for their historical value, the sculptures have been restored on countless occasions, the last time being 2003. Four years later, they were listed as National Heritage Grade I. The dinosaurs are here to stay!

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Love how this little coot matched his shoes with the decor.

Dinosaurs ruled the earth somewhere between 230 and 65 million years ago, in what was known as the Mesozoic Era (which itself is divided into three periods known as Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous).

Now, we share the planet with their descendants, who you can see in all their feathered glory in Crystal Palace Park.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Their descendants were in abundance within Crystal Palace Park.

I’m talking of course, about birds. The park is home to many species of both water and land birds – swans, ducks, geese, the fancy-footed coot and several types of pigeon.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Pigeon’s day out.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
That plant life at the park is quite lovely, too.

So, you could say that these ancient creatures are not extinct – as many of those who have dedicated their lives to studying them, believe that birds are dinosaurs too.

A trip to Crystal Palace Park offers you a chance to see dinosaurs, both as they were imagined in the 19th century and as we know them today.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Many, many dinosaurs.

The park is easily accessible from the Crystal Palace train station. Signs for the Green Chain Walk will take you directly to the sculptures and loop you around the perimeter of the lake.

Looping the park, we saw many plants and animals, including my all-time favourite animal – a local German Shepherd!

dinosaurs crystal palace park

I’d love to come back later on in the summer, when the flowers are in full bloom – and the paddle boats that litter the lake in full swing.

dinosaurs crystal palace park
Crystal Palace Park – perfect for picnics and strolls.

And people say there’s nothing going on south of the river…

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  1. To give credit to the Victorians, how science depicts dinosaurs today is still merely speculation. For all we know these are closer to the real thing that what we see in museums today. One of the best things about London is how many different parks there are, and you can usually find something interesting and unique in every one!

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