Dairy Farm Nature Park: Flat trails are a great moove

The gentle treks at the new Dairy Farm Nature Park suit nature newbies, older walkers and kids
tay suan chiang, Straits Times 19 Sep 09;

First-time nature trekkers and wobbly walkers will cheer - a new park has opened next to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, but minus its heart-stopping hills.

Nature newbies, plus older walkers and young children, will love the Dairy Farm Nature Park at Upper Bukit Timah, where instead of progressing painfully up peaks, they will find it easier to pause and check out butterflies, birds and plants.

The 63ha park was opened earlier this month by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.
It is managed by the National Parks Board (NParks), which began developing the park in 2007.

Unlike the neighbouring 126-year-old Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, which has many uphill trails along the way to its 164m-high summit, the $5.7-million Dairy Farm Nature Park has flatter trails which 'will be more enjoyable for new hikers', says MsSharon Chan, NParks' assistant director of the Central Nature Reserve.

Where cows once mooed and chewed grass, visitors will be able to amble along two trails: One follows an old road leading to the Singapore Quarry while the other meanders through secondary jungle to the Wallace Education Centre, a learning lab and information centre.

The park has already proven a hit with visitors. Retiree Mickey Tan, 67, found the trails easy to manage when he visited the place last week. 'It's a new spot to take my walks in,' he says.

There are two carparks within the park, and there is a bus stop nearby as well.

Another who is aflutter over the park is architect Khew Sin Khoon, in his 50s, who is a member of Butterfly Circle, a group of photographers with a special interest in butterflies.

He says: 'Nature enthusiasts are always looking for new places to go to. The opening of this park gives greater accessibility to those who drive, and also makes it more convenient for those with young children.'

He had often been to the area before it was developed into a park, when it was accessible only by foot.

For visitors who want to spot butterflies, he recommends they go between 9am and 3pm on sunny days. 'More than 150 species have been spotted here,' he adds.

It is not just butterflies which have caught the eye of nature lovers. NParks' Ms Chan says dragonflies, damselflies, beetles, fish and birds, such as the kingfisher and the endangered Little Grebe, can be found here.

She also advises those keen to study the park's plants to keep their eyes peeled when hiking in the forest for plant life such as bracket fungi, a type of inedible mushroom that grows on trees.

Bike trail with a view

The park sits on what was formerly a dairy farm set up 80 years ago, hence its name. The farm was established on a 24ha patch of thick secondary jungle which MrFred Heron, then the managing director of Cold Storage, had purchased and cleared.

In 1929, 24 cows were imported from Holland and Australia to establish a dairy herd.

The farm stopped operating in the 1970s and the area was used for vegetable farming. Several orchid farms were later started there.

A horticulture-related company occupied the area that used to house the farm from 1981 to 2006. The following year, the estate was taken over by NParks for development.

It is not just nature lovers who will benefit from the new park. Its opening will also help ease the squeeze in Bukit Timah park, which gets 400,000 visitors a year to its 163ha environs.

NParks is expecting 100,000 visitors to the Dairy Farm park annually.

Besides being a nature showcase, Dairy Farm Nature Park will also serve as an alternative recreational venue to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: It is becoming a hit with mountain bikers as it has two trails for them.

Mr Lim Hui Min, a trail specialist from DirTraction, an organisation that promotes mountain biking, says: 'The new Dairy Farm trails cater to the intermediate level of riding, and also to beginners who want to have the thrill of mountain biking'.

Public relations executive Cheryl Han, 26, says the trail at Dairy Farm is her favourite place to ride in, as it is 'intense with steep descents and climbs so you get an adrenaline rush'. The bike trail cuts through hilly jungle, unlike the walking trails which are on flatter ground.

She adds: 'Plus the view of the quarry is magnificent and makes it all worth it.'

taysc@sph.com.sg

'The trail is intense... Plus the view of the quarry makes it all worth it'

Biking enthusiast Cheryl Han on the mountain biking trail at Dairy Farm

Milk the walk

The Dairy Farm Nature Park has two sections. One trail leads to the Wallace Education Centre and the other goes to the Singapore Quarry.

Trail to Wallace Education Centre

Distance: 200m to the centre from Carpark B

Time taken: 10 minutes one way. Set aside about 60minutes for the walk and to enjoy the area.

Level of difficulty: Fairly easy as it is a road (the old Dairy Farm Road) leading to the centre. But the actual Wallace Trail itself, which cuts into the forest, has some inclines. This trail can get slippery after a downpour.

What to see: The Wallace Education Centre: It is named after English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who collected specimens in the area in the 19th century. The centre, a former milking shed that has been restored, houses an information centre that traces the history of the area. Also check out the interactive info kiosk that has pictures of the biodiversity found in the area.

Wallace Trail: Also named after Mr Wallace, this 1km walking trail cuts through secondary forest. Look for fruit trees such as the durian and rambutan, flora such as the bracket fungi and fauna such as beetles.

Abandoned home and old-fashioned English garden: Located slightly after the centre, this one-storey house is believed to have been built in the 1920s. There are no plans to restore it. In front of it is a small garden planted with ixora, lantanas and hibiscus, making it a popular spot for photo buffs.

Trail to Singapore Quarry

Distance: 1km from Carpark A

Time taken: 30 minutes one way. Set aside about 90 minutes for the walk and to enjoy the area.

Level of difficulty: Easy

What to see: Singapore Quarry: A former quarry that was in use till the late 1980s, it has been transformed into a wetland. There is a viewing deck with a sheltered area that allows visitors to go into the quarry. Dragonflies and birds, such as the kingfisher and the Little Grebe, an endangered bird, can be spotted here.

The releasing of fish or other animals into the wetland is prohibited, so as not to disrupt the ecosystem here.

Best time to go: Before 10am or in the evenings. The trail to the quarry is not sheltered and it can get very hot at times. It is a good idea to take an umbrella along.

Other nature spots

The Dairy Farm Nature Park is the latest spot for nature enthusiasts but here are more to check out:

Admiralty Park

This 27ha park has a nature area within its premises. Amenities include three boardwalks and a 2km nature trail. Two boardwalks span the river Sungei Cina, so visitors can appreciate the beauty of the river at various water levels. The third boardwalk is within a mangrove forest.

Bukit Batok Nature Park

This park was developed from an abandoned quarry site. It has undulating terrain and footpaths that meander through lush secondary forest leading to look-out points reaching more than 10 storeys high, giving breathtaking views of the former quarry.

Labrador Nature Reserve

It is only minutes by car from VivoCity, but this nature reserve offers a spot of tranquillity. It also boasts Singapore's only rocky sea-cliff that is accessible to the public for recreation. More than 50 kinds of birds, such as the Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot and the Rufous Woodpecker, have been spotted here.

Pasir Ris Park

This park is popular not only with families who want to take pony rides on its premises, but also with nature lovers.

It has a 6ha mangrove forest which has boardwalks for visitors to get closer to the wildlife here. Bird enthusiasts can also observe birds from a three-storey-high bird-watching tower located within the mangrove forest.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

There is plenty of wildlife to see at this 87ha wetland site. Keep an eye out for mudskippers, crabs, shellfish, water snakes and monitor lizards. The site is also a hot spot for seeing migratory shorebirds or waders such as plovers and sandpipers.

For MORE wild places on the wildsingapore website: info for visitors, how to get there, what to see and do.

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