While, as I said before, zoos are not really my cup of tea, picking an activity suitable for a two-year-old and the varying tastes of six adults, one of whom is registered blind, was not an easy task, especially as we were experiencing typical British summer weather.
Having been to Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, near Great Yarmouth, before, we thought this was our best bet – although we had to swap the day we went due to predicted heavy rain and it mostly being outside.
The hall itself, which is now mainly a gift shop, was built in 1736 by Joshua Smith. It is probable that Thomas Ivory was the architect although in 1876 it was remodelled by the then owner, Squire Daniels.
The gardens were opened to the public by Ken Sims, a former poisonous snake farmer (!) and crocodile keeper, in 1979. My mum tells me we went there as a family when I was four, which would have been two years after that.
According to the website: “Progressive zoos like Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens are fast becoming a last refuge for many species as their natural homes are destroyed by the greed of man.”
It is a supporter of the World Zoo Conservation Strategy of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and its collection of animals was “the first to be signed over in entirety to the Joint Management of Species Programme”.
You can get close to a variety of rare animals from Asia including Sumatran tigers, red pandas, gibbons and one of the largest collections of crocodiles in the country (they totally look fake until you see them blink).
Although smallish, we found it was just the right size for a toddler to walk around. We didn’t even bother getting her buggy out of the boot – although the car park is not very far should we have needed it.
It was great to see the red panda up and about (last time we went it remained asleep in its tree) and we spent a long time with the primates who gave quite a performance and fascinated everyone (please see video if you’re interested. You’ll need the sound on).
We also had a lovely picnic on a table in front of the hall and for once Freya actually ate, which was probably one of the highlights of my day.
As well as the animals there are also play areas and a beautiful Willow Pattern Garden.
Thrigby Hall is open from 10am. Standard adult rate is £13.90 (we got a £1 off each full price with a voucher from a Things To Do In Norfolk booklet I picked up from the train station) with under fours free.