Whipsnade Zoo's giant hillside lion makeover completed

Media caption, Hillside chalk lion revamped

Restoration of a landmark lion figure on a hillside has been completed using 800 tonnes of unwanted chalk from beneath a local resident's house.

The giant 147m-long (483ft) lion near Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire was created in 1933 is the largest hill figure in England

It had been deteriorating after "unprecedented" weed growth.

Work began in September and the final load of chalk is being smoothed out over the lion's mane on Tuesday.

The famous figure overlooks the Dunstable Downs and indicates the zoo's location.

Image source, Alamy
Image caption, The giant lion has been near Whipsnade Zoo since 1933
Image source, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
Image caption, In October 2017 work was well under way

The zoo said a resident having excavation work on their home offered some spare chalk.

Fifty lorry-loads were delivered to resurface the lion, but winter weather and a steep incline made the restoration work challenging.

The Whipsnade White Lion

  • Designed by R.B. Brook-Greaves
  • Work began in November 1931
  • By April 1932, a rough outline was visible
  • Ivinghoe Beacon was used as a vantage point to check the accuracy of the outline
  • Almost two acres of land had to be cleared to reveal the chalk
  • It was finished in spring 1933
  • During World War Two the lion was covered to prevent it from helping German pilots to navigate
  • In May 1981, as part of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's 50th anniversary celebrations, it was illuminated with 750 light bulbs

The zoo's general manager Owen Craft said it was "incredibly proud" of the lion.

"We are delighted to have restored this iconic landmark to its original glory," he said.

"As a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Whipsnade White Lion and the area around it are cared for by the zoo all year round, using environmentally-friendly products to protect the native plants and animals.

"This new coating of chalk has made a huge difference to the eye-catching brilliance of the landmark."

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