There is currently a twenty-one metre long wooden hippo lying in the Thames at Nine Elms, close to St George’s wharf. The person responsible is Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, the same man who brought us the big inflatable duck that toured several cities a couple of years back.
He produced a hippo in particular for London because at one time there were actual hippos living in the Thames. Yes really.
Many thousands of years ago, in between a couple of ice ages, Britain was enjoying considerably warmer weather and at that time hippos were living in the Thames, whilst Rhinos roamed the land and cute little macaque monkeys, very much like the ones currently living in Gibraltar, enjoyed the delights of nearby Essex.
Meanwhile the wooden hippo is in London as part of ‘Totally Thames’ festival. Totally Thames is really a cheapskate’s delight, with lots of free events running all through September. There are free movies at the Scoop (in between Tower and London bridges) but you have to get there early to grab a space (and bringing blankets is a good plan too; this is England and it’s no longer warm enough for real hippos).
Yup, not an early April fools. “Experts” have said that 125,000 years ago this was England, with hippos and rhinos and a Mediterranean-type climate. They found bones or something.