Liam runs a successful Youtube channel called ‘A Shot of Wildlife’ which acts as an open diary, documenting his travels around the UK spotting the native wildlife.
He shares with us one of his favourite locations, Train Wood in Norfolk.
Hello, my name is Liam Smith and for the past 7 years I have been creating educational, and hopefully slightly entertaining wildlife videos for my YouTube channel “A Shot Of Wildlife”.
Some are in the format of fact-files, others are vlogs from reserves and wild places and occasionally I’ll put together compilations of interesting facts about common species. All of these have one thing in common, they aim to connect people with the wildlife that they can actually go out of their house and have a good chance of seeing if they want.
Living in Norfolk I am completely spoilt when it comes to places to visit to see and film wildlife. We have endless miles of coastline, the world-renowned Norfolk broads with its marshes and extensive waterways, and the Brecks is just down the road. So it may be a bit of a surprise that one of my favourite locations for nature, is a small and unassuming patch of woodland within my home city of Norwich. The area is known as train wood, and is bordered on one side by the River Wensum and on the other by a small industrial estate. This might not sound like the ideal conditions for a wildlife haven, but it is and I have had some of my most memorable wildlife encounters there.
In 2019 I had been spending as much of my time as possible in the woods, hoping for a glimpse of an illusive species which had been seen along the river there, an otter. The woods was only a 5 minute walk from where I had been living at the time so I was there every morning before work, at lunchtimes and then again in the evenings. This went on for more than 3 months, every time I seemed to have just missed the Otter and I almost felt like the dog walkers were deliberately winding me up: “You should have been here ten minutes ago” and “have you not seen him yet?” they would say.
Well I hadn’t, but this didn’t make the woods any less enjoyable. The place was, and still is, packed full of wildlife. Mostly common species, but I get almost as much enjoyment from watching a woodpigeon fumble through a patch of ivy as I do a marsh harrier soaring over a reedbed.
Occasionally I would see something many would consider more exciting, a Water vole plopping into the river, a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker or a Sparrowhawk diving through the trees in pursuit of a meal. But none of these were my real quarry, I was here for an otter and on what felt like my thousandth visit to the woods, my luck was finally in. I would love it if the story from the day was full of twist and turns but it wasn’t.
I arrived at the woods and straight away, the otter was just there in the river, swimming around as if it hadn’t been hiding from me for the past 12 weeks! I managed to some good shots of it swimming, coming onto the bank and at one point it even burst out of the water about a metre from where I was crouching. An amazing encounter and all in a patch of woodland that hundreds, if not thousands of people pass by every day. That’s one of the reasons I rate Train wood so highly, loads of wildlife lives there but its also available for an entire city of people to visit if they wish.
I think places like Train wood, are essential for getting people interested in nature and I am a firm believer that “you don’t care about what you don’t know”. By having easily accessible places where people can walk, rest, and relax, whilst immersing themselves in nature is a key to conserving all the wildlife on this planet.
Once they start to learn about the common species, the pigeons, the frogs and perhaps even the rats, people will have begun to bridge the gap between themselves and nature. If more people know about our natural places, more people will care and take on the ground (and political) actions to protect them.