Coast walk unlocks secret of Norfolk’s ancient past

Almost a million years ago early humans roamed and hunted across the land we now call Norfolk.

And for another 400,000 years huge elephants twice the size of their modern cousins grazed near Cromer.

Now modern residents of the region can learn about the extremely long and varied history of their coastline on a guided walk organised by the ex-head of Cromer Museum.

The events will be held from tomorrow to teach people how the local landscape was formed, what animals lived on it and how to find fossilised evidence of them.

They have been launched by Martin Warren, who worked for the Norfolk Museums and Information Service for 32 years before being made redundant in December.

After reading geology at the University of Leicester and a spell running an art gallery in Scotland, Mr Warren started as a young curator at the Cromer Museum in 1978.

Now, with more time on his hands, he is using a lifelong passion for geology to put on educational trips.

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Everyone on one of the walks can expect to find their own fossil if they look hard enough, most likely a belemnite.

But over the years Mr Warren has even found evidence of otters and wildcats, and was present as the West Runton Elephant was found.

First uncovered by heavy storms in 1990, it is the best example of Mammuthus Trogontherii in the world and would have stood twice as tall as a modern elephant and weighed ten tonnes.

Mr Warren said that at one time animals like this would have roamed all over Norfolk.

'When you're at home ponder that elephants and rhinos would have wandered on that very spot,' he said. 'Their footprints, if they endured, would be in your living room.

'Bones found on the beach have been key in the understanding of the geology of Britain. This is a very important site.'

Evidence found at Happisburgh last year also rewrote the history of human development by proving that we occupied Britain as long ago as 970,000 years – more than 100,000 years before was previously thought.

Mr Warren said that although he was sad to see his career with the museum service come to an end, it had given him the opportunity to focus on sharing these exciting treasures with the public.

The walks will be held once or twice a month over the summer, when tidal conditions are perfect for fossil hunting. People are advised to wear stout footwear, dress for all weathers and to book early.

For more information on the walks call 07818 015707 or visit www.northfolk.org.uk

Mr Warren is also keeping himself busy by launching his own brewery, and is currently searching for suitable premises. Anyone with a possible location should get in touch.

matthew.sparkes@archant.co.uk

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