Previously on the Norfolk coast, we've had the Winterton-On-Sea black lark, the Happisburgh vulture and the Ostend whale, but West Runton goes one better with an elephant. Sadly, not a real live elephant, but a fossilized one, and though it is known as the “West Runton Elephant”, it was actually a steppe mammoth, whose skeleton was unearthed in the cliffs of West Runton in 1990. The significance of this find cannot be underestimated, being the largest almost complete elephant skeleton known to exist, as well as being the oldest found in the United Kingdom. The find came about on the day after a stormy night in December 1990, when a local couple enjoying a stroll along the beach got more than they bargained for when they discovered a large bone sticking out of the cliff, having been exposed by the previous night’s storm. A succession of major excavations followed allowing the retrieval of most of the skeleton. Unfortunately, it is not possible to view the skeleton in its entirety due to the sheer size and weight of the remains. However, a selection of the bones are on display in Cromer Museum, and the lower jaw can be seen at the Castle Museum in Norwich. The cliffs where the discovery was made form part of the Cromer Ridge, which was formed from the melting of ice sheets at the end of the last Ice Age. Continuing the four-legged theme, another attraction to be found in West Runton is the Norfolk Shire Horse Centre, which houses a collection of different equine breeds, including some foals, as well as examples of the machinery which was used with working horses in the past.
Map of the area.