Windsor Nature Park

Singapore opens another “nature” park – the Windsor Nature Park which is actually what to me used to me part of the MacRitchie Reservoir entering from the Venus Road side. And naturally knowing how authorities’ fixation on clean and neat, what used to be a nice semi-wild trail is now very sadly sanitised.

Like this broadwalk here. Previously it was just a nice trail with railings at the side to prevent people from encroaching into one of the few remaining natural stream left in Singapore. Now there is this nice broadwalk. Oh well, I suppose if it helps to keep the people from trampling all over.

The stream that goes into the forest. When the kids were younger and I was not into this nature protection thingy, we came here to catch the little longkang fish like guppy, mosquitoes fish, cichlids and the occasional barbs. Nowadays, activities like that are forbidden and carry a heavy fine which is good as we need to protect the little bit of nature that we have left although I must said most of the fishes there nowadays are not “local”. 

In addition to the broadwalk from the Venus Road carpark where there is now a Visitor Centre and a toilet, there is another new broadwalk, the Drongo Trail running almost parallel with the old trail adjacent to the SICC road. This broadwalk is above ground level and allow visitors to see at least the mid level of the trees and its inhabitants. This will leads to MacRitchie Reservoir.

From Venus Road entrance, there is another trail called Venus Walk but this is a cemented path and leads to the Windsor housing estate. It does look very nice though and very “runnable” hahaha.

Fortunately, my favourite part of this trail which is now officially known as Venus Loop has been left largely untouched and there is still this beautiful canopy tunnel as well as the winding trails for me to run through.

Overall I must admit Nparks have done a good job of striking a nice balance between keeping the place as natural as possible and yet protecting the environment. The expected popular area have been reinforced with the broadwalk and most of the trees and plants appear to be left untouched.

Never Stop Exploring – MacRitchie Shinto Shrine

Most visitors to MacRitchie Reservoir do not know there is a Shinto Shrine there let alone how to get there. While I knew about its existence long ago, I never actually had the time to look for it until one fine day recently. A group of us regular runners at MacRitchie decided to detour to look for the mysterious shrine.

Fortunately 2 of us within the group knew or thought they knew where the entrance was and so we went into a trail that they pointed to. Previously I laughed when I read of people getting lost in MacRitchie but I can now understand how people can get lost there. The initial way in was quite messy with a not so clearly marked trail and there were too many turnings and everything trees and branches look the same. It seems so possible to keep walking around in circle and circle. And there were many obstacles like fallen trees2-DSC_0828

Sharp thorns7-DSC_0877

And weird looking plants1-DSC_0827

But eventually we did found a more clear trail and followed it and before long, we found the first part of the shrine which appears to be some sort of pump house with a sump just outside it.3-DSC_0833

From here, it was just a short walk up some steps before we came to this.4-DSC_0841

This we believe is the commonly found water trough that is present in most Shinto Shrine used for purification before the worshipper goes into the Shrine. The trough was filled with water and lots of tadpole! I guess that will take care of the mosquitoes.

Another hop and skip away and we reached what was the location of the shrine but all that were left were some stones. The Shrine was demolished when the Japanese pull out of Singapore after the war. So nothing much to see there.

What was more exciting was the discovery of a geocache that was left behind by earlier visitors. One naughty lady friend promptly contributed a “rubber” to the collection. Makes me wonder why she was carrying it during a run?1-DSC_0851

After that it was a walk down a long flight of stairs 6-DSC_0876

and which led us to the edge of the reservoir facing the golf course.8-DSC_0880We walked along the edge of the reservoir and came to this clear 9-DSC_0885path which we thought could lead us back to the Amenities Centre without us having to back track. But unfortunately it fall short of the golf course side and ends at the water with a big metal barricade.

So that ends our little exploration to the Shinto Shrine. Nothing really much to see and not a runnable trail. We were told subsequently that the Shrine area is out of bounds although we did not see any No Entry sign when we entered the trail head.  That could be because we may have went in from the wrong place and there was indeed a sign further up the path.

Anyway, for those who wish to look for the shrine, be warned you enter at your own risk and may or may not lose your way or be caught by Nparks in which case you may end up facing a big fine.

For more information on the Shinto Shrine, read this: http://blog.omy.sg/jerome/2014/04/07/the-shrine-across-the-divine-bridge/

When is a Nature Reserve not a Nature Reserve?

A nature reserve (natural reserve, bioreserve, (natural/nature) preserve or (national/nature) conserve) is a protected area of importance for wildlife, flora, fauna or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. – Wikipedia

An ​area of ​land that is ​protected in ​order to ​keepsafe the ​animals and ​plants that ​live there, often because they are ​rareCambridge Dictionary Online

Nature reserve, area set aside for the purpose of preserving certain animals, plants, or both. A nature reserve differs from a national park usually in being smaller and having as its sole purpose the protection of nature. – Encyclopaedia Britannica

And the Singapore Government own Parks and Trees Act Chapter 216 Part III:

(3)  National parks and nature reserves are set aside for all or any of the following purposes:

(a)   the propagation, protection and conservation of the trees, plants, animals and other organisms of Singapore, whether indigenous or otherwise;

(b)   the study, research and preservation of objects and places of aesthetic, historical or scientific interest;

(c)   the study, research and dissemination of knowledge in botany, horticulture, biotechnology, or natural and local history; and

(d)        recreational and educational use by the public.

So essentially there is general agreement that a Nature Reserve is a protected area for “nature”. In the Singapore context and activities which threaten the nature reserves are prohibited re Chapter 8 & 9, there are stated punishments for violating these.

So why was the question of having an MRT line running under the Central Catchment Area nature reserve even mooted in the first place? And I don’t understand why is there a need for a MRT line from Changi to Jurong? Don’t we already have the East-West line which runs from Pasir Ris to Jurong and is connected to Changi via the Changi Airport extension?  Is there really such a dire need to spend million of dollars for what seems to be a duplication.

The EIA commissioned by the authorities stated that impact on the nature reserve will be “moderate” if mitigating measures are put in place. And that is just for the initial phrase of the soil investigation work. So if just merely doing soil investigation work and with mitigating measures in place the impact will be moderate, I shudder to think what will be the impact if it is the full blown construction work for the Cross Island line! And by the way, in most industries risk management practices, moderate impact is not acceptable.

People in the construction and engineering line seems to think that it is possible to put in places mitigating measures such that the environment, the fauna and flora are not disturbed! Let’s get real here. If a few runners running through MacRitchie Reservoir at night are deemed to have impact on the wildlife there, do they seriously expect that contractors and construction workers in the hundreds working round the clock will have no or minimum impact on the wildlife? And as anybody who has lived or worked near a construction site can attest, which sites have really good environmental practice? Dirty water run off onto the road, mosquitoes breeding, littering, noise, smoke and anything and everything bad will be there. With our system of awarding projects to tenders with low prices and penalising work delay , the last thing these contractors do will be to put in place costly and time consuming practice which does not add to their bottom line.

The real nightmare is if this or should I say when they go on to Phase 2. Even if the digging is underground using bored tunnelling, just how deep below are they going to dig. There are trees all over many with deep roots. Will the digging impact the tree roots causing them to become unstable? What about ventilation shafts? Surely there will have to be many of them. And emergency escape shafts? And roads will have to be cut into the forest for trucks to bring in supply and remove waste. Do we seriously think that even with mitigating measures, impact will be moderate?

In my opinion, the question of having a MRT line running under the nature reserve should never have come out in the first place. It is a place to be protected and not something that should be changed at will. If that is the case, then there is no point designating any place as a nature reserve or a heritage building ….  if any fellas in some other government agencies can just simply come out with some better justification (mainly economic) reasons to alter the site!

So please leave MacRitchie Reservoir alone. We already lost part of Bukit Brown and the Mandai Forest. Let know lose one more beautiful place where nature is just a short journey away from our home.

The Sighting of Mr Chow Yun Fat

Seems like the whole Singapore is awash with reports of the sighting of Mr Chow Yun Fat, the Man in the Net and the famed Li Mu Bai.

Me too am also lucky enough to spot him and play at being a paparazzi. But unfortunately while those who saw him either managed to get him to take a welfie with him, all I managed was this back shot of him.

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I was at MacRitchie Reservoir covering the Mizuno MR 25 Ultra Marathon for Running Shots and had positioned myself somewhere before the Golf Link. Unfortunately he came from behind me otherwise I definitely could have a proper front shot of him.  I only realised it was him when one of the runner very excitedly told me “Fatt Kor”. So I took aim and got his backside. Quite a few too!  Hahaha.

Here is a front shot of him with some runners

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Photo Credit: Kelly Lim

Seems a lot of runners also managed to take some welfie with him. Wonder how he complete his run like that with so many interruptions?

Me think YaKun and MacRitchie Reservoir is gonna be pack in the next few weeks with fans hoping for a “Star” view.

Trail Running Photoshoot for ANA

Trail Running Singapore of which I am a member were recently invited to assist ANA Air for a photoshoot for one of their forth coming in house magazine. The location was the ever popular MacRitchie Reservoir and so a group of runners  were rounded up and off we went. Here are a few of the unofficial photos taken by me of the photo shoot.

The warm up before the photoshoot run. Of course, this is also part of the photoshoot.

1-TRS_0183And off the runners goes.

2-TRS_0190The Japanese photographer doing her job. What is she shooting at?

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This:

3-TRS_0266And a nice shot at a place where almost none of us will run on in our regular run at MR. But it turn out looking real cool though

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And last but not least, the mandatory group photo with the guests from ANA

6-TRS_0336So the next time you flies ANA and pick up a copy of their inflight magazine and see some familiar faces between the cover, don’t be surprised.

Our Sanitized Trails

I have not been back for long runs at MacRitchie or Bukit Timah for some time. So I was looking forward to getting reacquainted with the trails. Unfortunately its look like soon the trails will be no more and all we have left will be a forest with nice concrete pavement.

At MacRitchie just next to the Sime Course, this used to be a very rocky trail with a lot of roots and uneven ground. It is now paved over with steps.

DSC_0101 The rest of the trail is no better. The roots and rocks and uneven ground is now covered with a layer of granite chips.DSC_0102

I don’t know whether the Nparks people think this is safe. To me it is certainly not. The roots and rocks are still there. Just covered by the granite. Shoes has no grip on the loose chips and there is no depth perception. So runners will still stumble over or kick a piece of rock. Is it safer now? I don’t really think so. It gives a false sense of security that is all.

But what really shocked me was this piece of pavement at the Kampong Trail. I don’t recall this stretch being so bad that it need to be paved over.DSC_0147

Even the Green Corridor has not been spared this sanitization.DSC_0149

Do they really need this little path to exit the green corridor to Rifle Range Road? Seriously! Is Nparks trying to protect the plant, the ground or molly coddle us?

If this is what they are doing, I dread to see the inside of Bukit Timah when the restoration is completed. And indeed a little bird has told me that there are now small concrete steps where previously there were rough uneven height steps. Arrrggghhhhh