A monster job bringing dinosaurs to life

ANYONE who thought they had a tough choice picking out colours for their latest DIY bathroom or lounge project should give a thought to Patricia Razey who has to brush up on her painting every autumn. For it is Patricia, or Patti as she likes to be known,

ANYONE who thought they had a tough choice picking out colours for their latest DIY bathroom or lounge project should give a thought to Patricia Razey who has to brush up on her painting every autumn.

For it is Patricia, or Patti as she likes to be known, who paints the dinosaurs in the wilderness gardens at Knebworth House and its 250 acre park.

Every October Patti has to spruce up the 72 life-size dinosaurs that have become such a favourite with children who visit the grounds of the stately home which has belonged to the Lytton Cobbold family for over 500 years.

The smaller monsters can be taken indoors for their makeover, but the larger ones have to be painted in situ. This is a mammoth task (no pun intended) as scaffolding has to be erected to allow Patti to give her charges their new coats...of paint that is.


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She is an artist and enjoys applying her skills to this unusual task.

She said: "I use a small roller to apply the paint to get the effect and 'texture' I want.

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"They get a coat of yacht varnish to help protect them against the elements.

"I check with the appropriate books to keep them as authentic as possible - although of course no one was around at the time to verify the colour charts!

"An average dinosaur takes me about four or five days to complete.

"It is a job I love, though it can be quite cold in the winter."

Patti also has to replace any broken or missing teeth (the birds peck them out) so everything looks at its best when visitors return to Knebworth Park and its wonderful gardens in the spring.

She has experimented with various materials - No More Nails was a great hit - to achieve the optimum results.

She added: "It isn't a job you can do when the park is open, so I need to complete the painting and repairs between October and April each year.

"The children love this part of the gardens and it gives me a lot of pleasure to see their faces when they wander around the dinosaur trail.

"Many of them believe that the creatures are real."

The 'man on the bench' figure also benefits from a new set of clothes and clean shirt from Patti every year.

"He gets particularly scruffy because visitors love to sit on the bench by him and have their photographs taken. He came with the dinosaurs and is so life-like that many people do not realise he is a model until they get very close."

Patti is no stranger to Knebworth having worked there for some 30 years. When she first joined the staff having moved south from her native Yorkshire she was nanny for Lord David Cobbold's four children and as the children grew older her diverse skills were deployed in other areas, including appreciation of her cordon bleu cooking and people management skills.

Recently she prepared a sumptuous meal for a shooting party at the house.

Today her main task at Knebworth is also to help with any of the artistic restoration in the house, something she enjoyed doing with the late Lady Hermione Cobbold.

"Anything at Knebworth is a bit like painting the Forth Bridge - you start at one end and before you have reached the end you need to start again," added Patti, who has never married and after living in Knebworth House for a while now resides in a bungalow in Old Knebworth.

"I have loved every minute of my working life at Knebworth, first being a nanny then a cook and now painting the dinosaurs and cooking the occasional meal. Hopefully I will be here for many more years because I can honestly say I love my job and being made part of the wonderful family here.

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