Head south to Crystal Palace Park for a day out with the dinosaurs.
All that Crystal Palace Park is missing is a palace. Not only is there a beautiful fishing lake, but you can also get lost in a baffling maze and spot the iconic Crystal Palace dinosaurs, which have been around for over 160 years. (? by @korybalski)
Within one of London’s great green spaces, the Dinosaur Trail takes you past over 30 statues sculpted by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. The collection, made in around 1854, includes the first ever attempt to create a full-scale, three-dimensional model of these prehistoric creatures. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the accuracy of the statues is hugely questionable, as interpretations have certainly changed and evolved since they were created all those years ago.
The collection isn’t only made up of dinosaurs – you’ll also find plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, both discovered by Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, and a South American Megatherium brought back to Britain by Charles Darwin on his voyage on HMS Beagle. The sculptures are all listed on Historic England’s “National Heritage List for England” as Grade 1 monuments – a grade reserved for sites of international importance. You can download an audio tour here.
In all their charming inaccuracy, the dinosaurs are the real pride and joy of the park and, for that reason, there are ongoing plans to give the dinos a jurassic makeover. Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs want to surround the beasts with ferns, ginkos and cycads – plants that would have been there when the dinosaurs were alive and kicking, because authenticity. Find out how you can help this project here.
? Other attractions within Crystal Palace Park
Crystal Palace Park’s maze is actually one of the largest in the country, and people have been getting lost in it since the 1870s. Spanning a giant 160 feet, the maze features towering hedgerows and a baffling network of pathways. It’s also totally free to visit. (See also: Hampton Court Palace and Maze.)
Elsewhere in Crystal Palace Park you’ll find: the scant remains of the enormous Crystal Palace, which sadly burned down in 1936, including beautiful Italian terraces and a pair of sphinxes; Capel Manor City Farm, home to Shetland ponies, pigs, goats, rabbits and reptiles; the Boating Lake, which is open weekends between Easter and October for pedalo rides; the Concert Bowl, known fondly as “the Rusty Laptop” for its shape and colour, which hosts a number of music acts and was once host to the likes of Bob Marley and Pink Floyd; and finally, the Crystal Palace Museum, which displays items relating to the Great Exhibition and is free to visit at weekends.
ℹ️ Visitor details
Location: Crystal Palace Park, 42 Thicket Road, SE19 2GA. Nearest station: Crystal Palace or Penge West. See it on Google Maps.
Price: the park, the dinosaurs, the maze, the farm and the museum are all free to visit. Costs may apply for special events.
Opening times: Monday to Friday, from 7.30am. Weekends and Bank Holidays, from 9am. Closing times change monthly – please see the park’s site for exact details.
More information: on the park’s website.