Of course there has been talk of "Ovi" in the London blogging and guiding communities for many years but no-one really knew for certain whether the story was true.
The tight-knit, and very tight-lipped, denizens of Bowes Park have managed to keep Ovi's location a virtual secret for over 100 years. But yesterday a local resident bravely decided to finally prove the existence of the fabled beast and kindly agreed to take me along to see it.
I promised not to reveal the precise location of the mystical creature for fear of community reprisals. But I will just say that if one pays very close attention to the finials of Myddleton Road you too may be rewarded with a sighting.
Many locals believe that the dinosaur has supernatural and healing powers. Since the early 1900s they have sought both its protection and its blessings. But it is commonly believed that one should never meet Ovi's stare directly or "The Fates of Ill will be stirred", as the local saying goes. Apparently if this happens the viewer will be cursed with life-long bad luck and the waters of the nearby New River "will be fouled beyond bounds".
Now I am in now way superstitious but I respected my guide's wishes and so only shot the ancient reptile in profile.
In a bid to discourage close scrutiny, observant visitors and local children are normally told that the terracotta totem is merely a dog with a ball in its mouth or sometimes that it is just a seal balancing a ball on its nose. This ruse has stood the test of time. Beyond the local community, Ovi has only ever been mentioned, and even then only rarely, in the most obsessive circles of London enthusiasts.
Well after waiting nearly 20 years since I first heard about Ovi the London dinosaur, I was thrilled and honoured to finally have the chance of seeing this legendary London curiosity myself, to be able to prove its existence publicly for the first time and to share here these rare images with the wider world. Very many thanks to the courageous resident "K" for making all this possible.
Tomorrow I will share another of N22's hidden gems - The Underpants that Time Forgot.