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Behind the scenes with BBC TV Blue Planet presenter Steve Brown hunting fossils on Sheppey

We are on the beach at Minster on the Isle of Sheppey searching for sharks' teeth.

TV presenter Steve Brown is showing his nephews how he went fossil-hunting as a young boy with his dad while growing up in Kent.

A film crew from the BBC's new series Blue Planet UK is watching his every move.

A film crew keeps Steve Brown in its sights as he hunts for fossils on the beach at Minster, Sheppey for the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820245)
A film crew keeps Steve Brown in its sights as he hunts for fossils on the beach at Minster, Sheppey for the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820245)

Although the cliffs are riddled with the remains of animals and plants which lived millions of years ago, it is exceedingly difficult to spot a tiny tooth buried among the pebbles.

It is even more difficult when, like Steve, you have to use a wheelchair.

On many TV shoots there is a Winnebago for the star, an endless supply of tea and cake and an army of "runners" to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Today there is just cameraman Matt Andrews and freelance soundman Simon Pinkerton from Faversham.

Family day out for TV presenter Steve Brown when he went fossil hunting on the beach at Minster, Sheppey for the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820232)
Family day out for TV presenter Steve Brown when he went fossil hunting on the beach at Minster, Sheppey for the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820232)

Luckily, Steve, who lives in Sittingbourne and is a former Borden Grammar schoolboy, has enlisted the help of his brothers Stuart and Darren and their offspring Louis, six, Josh, four, Finley, five, and two-year-old Fletcher.

Stuart and Darren are needed to manhandle Steve and his motorised wheelchair from the promenade onto the shingle.

It is not something viewers will see when the programme is aired tonight (Wednesday)at 4.30pm on BBC One.

A shark's tooth: this is what TV presenter Steve Brown was hunting for on the beach at Minster, Sheppey for the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820249)
A shark's tooth: this is what TV presenter Steve Brown was hunting for on the beach at Minster, Sheppey for the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820249)

The tide is out but the beach is wet and Steve, 37, is soon bogged down in mud almost to his axles.

He needs several pushes to get him mobile again. He is suffering for his art but doggedly refuses to be beaten.

He recalled: "My dad would take us all to the beach to learn about rock pools and search for sharks' teeth. We would have competitions to see who could find the most. The fossils are there to find. It just takes patience."

TV presenter Steve Brown with his family recording the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820241)
TV presenter Steve Brown with his family recording the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820241)

He added: "I grew up on the Isle of Sheppey.

"The beach was my back garden, my playground. It is great to come back to share my memories with my nephews.

"It is a pleasure to see them learning all about the world on their doorsteps. And it's all free. Exploring a beach doesn't cost anything."

On the prom: TV presenter Steve Brown goes hunting for fossils with his brothers and nephews on the beach at Minster, Sheppey for the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820243)
On the prom: TV presenter Steve Brown goes hunting for fossils with his brothers and nephews on the beach at Minster, Sheppey for the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820243)

Blue Planet UK is a daytime spin-off of the Blue Planet series and will run all next week with Steve and fellow presenters Gillian Burke and Chris Packham.

It will feature a health-check of our seas and give tips on how to tackle plastic pollution.

As a boy, sports-mad Steve Brown always dreamed of becoming a TV presenter and working on wildlife documentaries.

Action: TV presenter Steve Brown records the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK on the beach at Minster (7820236)
Action: TV presenter Steve Brown records the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK on the beach at Minster (7820236)

But his school had other ideas.

He said: "If I wasn’t playing football with my mates I was catching tadpoles and slowworms.

"I loved programmes like The Really Wild Show and everything with David Attenborough. So that’s what I wanted to be.

TV presenter Steve Brown goes hunting for fossils on the beach at Minster, Sheppey for the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820228)
TV presenter Steve Brown goes hunting for fossils on the beach at Minster, Sheppey for the BBC One programme Blue Planet UK (7820228)

"But the careers master just told me I wouldn’t be able to do that and to forget it."

Steve went to university and then, one evening when he was working in Germany as an area manager for a holiday company in 2005, his world turned upside down.

He said: "I tripped on my girlfriend’s balcony and fell from the first floor.

"It was just an accident, I wasn’t fooling around or anything.

"I landed on my backside and was looking up as I fell, so my head went back over my shoulders, like severe whiplash. It snapped my neck, dislocating one of the cervical vertebrae and trapping my spinal cord.”

The only parts of his body he could move were his shoulders, neck and elbows."

He was flown back to England to begin his rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and it was there he saw his first game of wheelchair rugby.

He recalled: “There were people trying to knock each other out of their wheelchairs, shouting, swearing and arguing.

"There was a canyon between where I was mentally and physically and where they were. A lot of them had similar injuries to me, some had worse. I thought: 'If they can be that confident, why can’t I?’ It was a turning point.”

He ended up captaining the GB team and later returned to his first love, nature, to present Springwatch and Countryfile.

Recently, he took part in a documentary with five others with disabilities to drive 1,000 miles along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

After that, tackling Minster beach was nothing.

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