Thrigby Hall was just outside Filby, only a few miles from California, so it didn't take long to get there - there was plenty of space in the car park so finding a spot in the shade of a large tree just in case the sun put in an appearance I went to the pay kiosk to make sure I would be able to go back in after checking on the dogs. I could as long as I had a hand stamp, so I paid my entrance fee and went to see what delights the place had to offer. Just inside the entrance was an extensive and very pleasant lawned area with picnic benches dotted here and there, and across the far side was the hall itself, with flower-filled borders and window boxes along the front - if the sun had been shining it would have looked really attractive.
Turning right from the lawns and following the signs my first stop was the swamp house. A walkway meandered through the rainforest vegetation and passed above the pools where various crocodiles and alligators lazed about - they might have looked docile enough but I wouldn't have fancied my chances with one. From there I went on to the reptiles and stopped to chat to a young female keeper who was cleaning out a Burmese python's 'den' - the 16ft long snake was lying along the floor of the den near the glass, and I could see from the bulge part way down its body it had recently been fed. The keeper confirmed this, and though she said it wouldn't be interested in her as a meal she still pushed its head back with a brush every time it moved. At one point it reared up with several feet of its body held upright and its beady eyes looking at me through the glass - then it crashed back to the floor, and the thud it made was enough to startle most people. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get any decent photos of it as the glass gave out too much reflection and light distortion, so I had to be happy with a couple of photos of the crocodiles.
From the swamp house I went past the otters and the monkeys to the leopard enclosures, and that's when I realised that as nice as this place was it was nowhere near as good as Africa Alive and Banham Zoo. The enclosures were much smaller than at the other two places and were surrounded by so much wire that even from the tree top walk it was impossible to get any photos with an uninterrupted view - and if it wasn't wire that was in the way then it was other people. I walked right round the enclosures a couple of times to see if I could get just one really good clear shot but eventually gave up and moved on.
There was nothing else at that end of the park which really interested me apart from the red pandas, and they were nowhere to be seen, so I made my way back to the van to make a quick check on the dogs then headed off in the direction of the Cats Cloisters and the Tiger Tunnel. On the way I passed an enclosure containing a couple of really peculiar looking animals - dark grey and the size of large pigs with long snouts they were the strangest of creatures. The sign near their enclosure said they were babirusa, which I'd never heard of before. Following on from there I walked round the pools where various storks and cranes were strutting about and eventually reached the Cats Cloisters.
I could only actually see one large cat, a grey one with a spotted body and a face similar to a margay; it was pacing up and down at the far side of its den and just wouldn't stay still long enough for me to get a decent photo, so in the absence of any others I gave up and moved on to the tiger enclosure. The tiger tunnel is a covered passageway leading from the main path to a large glass viewing area at the side of the enclosure and this time I was in luck - across the far side of the enclosure a tiger was lounging in the grass behind a rock, and with no-one else around at that particular moment I was able to get a decent shot. I timed it just right too as seconds later the tiger got up and sauntered off to the other side of the enclosure - I could see why too, as it was almost feeding time and the advancing sound of a trundling wheelbarrow signified the imminent arrival of the keeper with his dinner. A second tiger appeared from seemingly out of nowhere then and I watched as the keeper dropped their meat into the special feeding stations built into the fence and the tigers took it, retreating to the centre of the enclosure to eat it.
After watching and photographing the tigers there was nowhere else I really wanted to go as I'd seen everything which really interested me and there wasn't much else left to look at anyway, so I called in at the gift shop for a look round there then made my way back to the van - and not a moment too soon, as the heavens suddenly opened with a really heavy downpour which lasted for about ten minutes before it stopped as quickly as it started and the sky began to clear. Deciding that there was no point in going anywhere else if there was a chance that it would rain again I let the dogs out from the back of the van and took them for a quick walk round the perimiter of the car park before setting off back to the camp site. The rest of the day and evening were spent in and around the awning, chatting to my neighbours and watching a bit of tv; after that one heavy downpour it didn't rain again and actually brightened up considerably, so I kept my fingers crossed that the following day would be nice enough for me to go a bit further afield.