Programme delves into north Norfolk’s past

Margaret Hems pictured on the dig at West Runton beach, the site where she found the West Runton ele

Margaret Hems pictured on the dig at West Runton beach, the site where she found the West Runton elephant bone in 1990.Picture: submitted - Credit: Archant

A new television programme is set to explore the history behind some of Norfolk's most significant historical finds of recent years.

In Walking Through Time, which is being aired on Channel Four on Saturday, February 6 from 8pm, Dr Tori Herridge from Natural History Museum, journeys back in time to see for herself some of the most important historical finds across Britain in recent times.

Her journey begins on the Norfolk coast to discover what life was like before an epic flood made Britain the island it is today.

The programme will follow her as she meets amateur paleontologist Margaret Hems, now 83, who uncovered the West Runton elephant, the biggest complete mammoth skeleton ever found.

Mrs Hems, 81, who is from West Runton found the beast's large 700,000-year-old pelvic bone protruding from the bottom of the cliffs in West Runton, on December 13, 1990 with her late husband Harold.


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Mr and Mrs Hems had decided to look for prehistoric bones and fossils on the beach after warnings of a high tide at Blakeney on the day of the find.

More bones were discovered in 1991, and in 1995 a three-month excavation found 85pc of the beast's skeleton – making it the most complete example of its species ever found in the world.

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Mrs Hems said during the filming for Walking Through Time, which took place last year, the crew interviewed her in West Runton and then also took her to Martham to see again the life-size replica of the elephant, created by aircraft engineer Jeremy Moore, who is from the village.

In 2014 the replica was used to retrace the steps of its extinct ancestors on the beach at West Runton.

Mrs Hems said; 'It was lovely to be involved in the filming. I just wish my husband could have been there.'

She said she was also pleased to have been part of such an historical find.

In the programme Dr Herridge will also see evidence of the 850,000 year old footprints in left by a family of early humans, which were discovered on Happisburgh beach in May 2013.

She will also handle the Happisburgh Palaeolithic handaxe which was discovered in March 2000 by a member of the public walking his dog on Happisburgh beach. It is believed to be 700,000 years old, making it one of the oldest human artefacts to have been discovered in Great Britain.

Do you know of a special occasion being marked in north Norfolk? Email tracey.gray@archant.co.uk

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