10:57AM, Friday 28 June 2013
A much-loved statue of a hippo and her cub could be recast and returned to North Town Moor in Maidenhead - if it can be kept out of the clutches of thieves.
Work is underway to recreate the popular bronze sculpture using its original mould after it was stolen from the moor in 2010 and never recovered.
It had stood at the entrance to North Maidenhead Cricket Club for about 10 years and proved a popular attraction for children.
Peter Prior, chairman of gravel company Summerleaze Ltd, paid for the original statue and said he is hoping to return the hippo by September, but faces a dilemma to find a suitable place to put it where it will not be stolen again.
The lifelong Maidenhead resident said he would ideally want to put it by the stream on the moor and dig out an island for it to stand on, but expected problems with red tape.
"If we put it on an island it's relatively secure. But would some official object?," he said.
"Would they serve enforcement orders to make us take it away?"The businessman added police had 'far too many other things to do' than keep an eye on the sculpture and said he had looked at cheaper alternatives for the recast statue, which was originally valued at about £20,000, but decided they did not look as good.
The original work was a limited edition by Mr Prior's brother-in-law Kenneth Robertson, with two other sculptures installed at Longleat and Marwell Zoo.
Recalling the experience of the theft, Mr Prior criticised the 'selfish minority' who had taken the hippo.
"Naively I thought that people would appreciate it and that they can just enjoy it and respect that but obviously I was wrong," he said.
"I had a benign belief in human nature that turned out to be wrong."