100 years old - and Hilda’s only spent five days out of Norfolk

Hilda Bunting. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Hilda Bunting. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Centenarian Hilda Bunting is a true Norfolk gal.

Mrs Bunting, who celebrated her 100th birthday this week , has only spent five days of her long life outside the county.

That red letter event came in the 1950s when she and her late husband Bert took their one and only holiday, crossing the border into Suffolk to spend a few days in Felixstowe.

'Even then we didn't go on visits. I slept most of the time because I was so tired,' said Mrs Bunting, who has worked hard since leaving school aged 14.

And hard work is part of her recipe for a long life, along with advice to: 'grow and eat your own veg, and have a daily bath to keep yourself clean.'

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She was born Hilda Gray in 1916, half way through the First World War, in Calthorpe, near Aylsham, where her father was a farmworker.

And her earliest memory is of being lifted up by her mother who pointed to a large shadow in the sky.

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'It was a German Zeppelin, heading for Cromer,' Mrs Bunting recalled.

German war machines reappeared in her life during the Second World War when she and a friend had to abandon their bicycles and dive into a ditch in Ingworth as a Messerschmitt flew low and strafed the length of road they had been cycling.

The young Hilda attended Erpingham School and is now the only survivor of 48 members of Erpingham Sunday School.

At 14 she left school to look after the two daughters of an Aylsham shopkeeper and his wife.

She would borrow her mother's bike to cycle the nine-mile return journey, six days a week, from 6.30am to 6pm, for the princely sum of four shillings (20p).

Hilda left the job when she asked and was refused, a one shilling-per-week pay rise so that she could save up for her own bike.

In 1934 Hilda wed tractor driver Bert Bunting at Erpingham Church and their marriage lasted more than 71 years, until his death.

She remembers struggling to make ends meet on the £1 her husband gave her for groceries from his £1 10/- (£1.50) weekly wage.

'Sometimes I went to bed hungry because I wanted my children (son Colin and daughter Diana) to have enough to eat so they could grow properly,' she remembered.

After war ended in 1945, the couple, helped by an uncle, bought Manor Farm, Skeyton, near North Walsham, where they worked seven days a week to pay off their loan, and eventually established a herd of 25 pedigree Holstein cattle.

After the couple's retirement in 1975, their son Colin took over the farm reins and it is now run by his son, Stewart.

Mrs Bunting served six rectors during 29 years as a Skeyton Church churchwarden, was a stalwart Poppy Day seller, helped with meals on wheels for 10 years, and she and her husband organised fund-raisers to help build Skeyton a new village hall.

She now lives in the Manor House care home, North Walsham wood, where a birthday party was held this week.

Mrs Bunting also has four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

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