Lonely Planet Writer

Whipsnade Zoo's famous hillside chalk lion has been restored to glory

The giant hillside chalk lion at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in England has been restored to its original glory, a year and a half after work began on resurfacing the iconic landmark.

The famous hillside chalk lion at Whipsnade Zoo in England has been restored to glory. Image: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

The 147 metre-long Whipsnade White Lion was originally designed by R.B. Brook-Greaves, and work began to create it in November 1931. Almost two acres of land had to be cleared to reveal the chalk, and the lion was finally finished in the spring of 1933. During World War II, the lion was covered to prevent it from being used by enemy aircraft as a navigation point.

The Whipsnade White Lion overlooks the Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire, and has always played an integral role in the zoo’s life. In May 1981, as part of the zoo’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the lion was illuminated using 750 lightbulbs. A decision as made to resurface the now 84-year-old landmark, and following the donation of more than 800 tonnes of chalk, work began in September 2017.

An aerial view of the restored hillside chalk lion at Whipsnade Zoo in England. Image: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Winter weather and a steep incline made the restoration work challenging, but the final load of chalk was carefully smoothed out over the lion’s mane on 20 March 2018. “We are delighted to have restored this iconic landmark to its original glory,” says Owen Craft, general manager of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. “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.”

For further information on ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, see here.