A GIANT wooden hippo visited Poole Park to celebrate the completion of the town’s £2.5million bid to enhance the historic park.

The much-loved mahogany animal, which was previously part of a group displayed in the Dolphin shopping centre, can be found on a grass area between Rockley water sports and the war memorial until 3pm this afternoon.

In the autumn, the hippo will return with a wooden turtle and whale, created by artist, Peter Hand, for the opening of the Arndale Centre back in 1969, to take up their permanent home in the park.

John Grinnell, centre manager for the Dolphin Shopping Centre, said: “For a long time we have wanted to return the wooden animals to Poole.

“After reviewing the possibility of reinstating the wooden animals as play sculptures for the Poole Park Life bid, Legal & General made the decision to donate the animals.”

John added: “We know how much the people of Poole cherish the heritage of the wooden animals and understand that they hold great sentimental value.

“Their new permanent home will be a safer play environment and can be enjoyed by children to their full extent.”

Over the last year, Borough of Poole and the Friends of Poole Park have been working together to collect evidence of how well-used the park is, while creating proposals on future improvements which could be made.

It forms part of the first stage bid which is being submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) on August 22.

Cllr Xena Dion, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for a Prosperous and Sustainable Poole, said: “The Poole Park Life bid has captured the imagination of everyone in Poole.

“It's great to receive additional support from the Dolphin Shopping Centre and to see the hippo once again on display.”

Cllr Dion added that she is delighted that the wooden animals will become a permanent feature in Poole, allowing families to create new childhood memories for future generations to cherish.