What's the logical next step from owning a chain of successful garden centres? Why, opening a taped-together, homebrew natural history museum adjoining to one of said garden centres, of course. And what really draws legions of screaming kids to a natural history museum, cash-cow parents in tow? Easy - model dinosaurs. Especially moving, roaring ones. One caveat - because of the DIY nature of your new attraction, all the dinosaurs have to be really, really weird.
It's time for another dinosaur safari. Journey beneath the half-tyrannosaur and we'll begin.
Remember the Terrible '90s Dromaeosaur Face-Off - my occasionally unduly mean bad palaeoart contest? Well, if you've ever wanted to see some of the strangest early '90s ideas of what dromaeosaurs looked like as man-sized robots, you're in luck. Presenting: Velociraptor, Paradise Park-style.
Oh yes - there's nothing I like doing more on a Sunday than heading down to a dreary warehouse in Newhaven and gawping at someone's eccentric idea of what dinosaurs looked like writ large. Such is the rock-'n'-roll lifestyle that I lead. Fortunately, I had artist and (surely, by now) LITC stalwart Niroot with me to share the nerdy giggles.
An aside: the above pictured model could be controlled by a button panel. Niroot was having a go and watching the results when, apropos of nothing, the monster's jaw flopped open and it emitted the Godzilla roar, which had me in absolute stitches.
Still, Paradise Park haven't limited themselves to oddly-proportioned, lizardy dromaeosaurs with stolen sound effects. They also have oddly-proportioned, lizardy troodonts.
When was this ever what a Saurornithoides looked like? Teeth limited to the front of the mouth - really? The explanatory sign is brilliant, too - "their slashing claws wearing down their victim to provide a meal for all".
A word of advice for the owners of dinosaur-related attractions - when you buy your huge moving Styracosaurus, make sure the manufacturer knows what they're doing and hasn't done something really dumb, like stick the nose horn between its eyes.
Actually, this Elasmotherium-style gigantor Styracosaurus seems to get around, although - perhaps in an effort to top other attractions in the shoddily-reconstructed ceratopsian stakes - Paradise Park have two of the bloody things. (Although the red head is attractive.)
This exhibit (yes - really) about dinosaur eggs speaks for itself, really, so I'll just let it sink in and then we can move on. Actually, it's almost tempting to find the brazen attitude towards creating cut-price dioramas quite laudible. Although on the other hand, it's just utterly laughable.
In a similar vein...I don't think this has been touched since the early '90s. Hopefully most of you will recognise these!
What's the most wrong-looking plesiosaur restoration you've ever seen? Forget it - it's just been instantly topped by this hugely fat, inexplicably land-borne monstrosity. It's looking very relaxed - perhaps even suave - about it all though.
And from the other way!
Speaking of things that are just perversely bizarre...
AAAAARRRRRGGGHHH *inhale* AAARRGGGHHHHH *black out, fall over*
Say, did someone order a 1960s Iguanodon with extra mammoth? Perhaps my favourite feature of this model - another one that has, as I'm afraid to admit that I know, made it into multiple attractions - is the pair of rather spindly humanoid arms it has attached to it. Bless.
That's enough heartless mockery for today. While I haven't even covered half of the abysmal, ugly, surreally anatomically incorrect dinosaur train-crashes present at this attraction, the whole thing is clearly a labour of love. Yes, even the text is frequently flat-out wrong (Jurassic Styracosaurus, anyone?), but someone has spent an absolute fortune gathering into one place what is undoubtedly one of the most repulsive collections of gigantic dino-gnomes in the UK, if not the world. For that, I salute them.
Also, this rather baffling, outsized version of one those wooden skeleton kits you used to get back in the '80s and '90s is cool for reasons that I am unable to put my finger on. Who made it? Why is it based on a cheapo, long-obsolete slot-together children's model? I guess we'll never know.
Many thanks to Niroot for letting me use his superior photos.