The Forest walk
The forest walk consist of a series of interlinking grated steel walkways joined together to form a continuous linked hilltop walkway towering over the tree canopy tops. One end starts off at the peak of Telok Blangah hill park, slowly descending down the hill as it goes before ending at Alexandra road with the Alexandra Arch Bridge. Likewise, starting in the reverse direction from Alexandra road will be very much like a shortcut up Telok Blangah park as well.
The walk itself is an attraction of the area offering some rather good breathtaking views of the surrounding tropical secondary forest and hills. You can even chance upon few full forest views with no buildings or urban structures in sight- views we never thought exist smacked right in the middle of urban southern Singapore, looks like Sungei Buloh will have some competition!
The only few grasps of nature you can get here will only be the array of trees and plant life lined along the route, elaborated with an occasional plant species informational guide placed at regular intervals throughout the walkway. Laughingly, few of the plants along the route all look miserable and distraught, it’s like they are being invaded and touched during the linkway construction, however, given time they will recover. The guide in the Straits Times states that you can meet monkeys along the route as well, though I didn’t encounter any through my trip (nor I had enough with them at Bt Timah either). This could be due to the disturbances created during the linkway construction and the large crowds of people who frequent the area now- possibly scaring them further into the forest.
Running along with the forest walk is the old earth trail, which as the name suggest runs on the forest floor as a dirt trail track which leads out the same way as well. Is is usually a quick alternative out of the area for those who can do away with the zig-zagging inter-twining linkways, opting for a more “back to nature” walk with dirt on your shoes and the trees and sounds of nature engulfing all round you.
Given that comparatively with nature delivered in supermarket convenience, the cleaner the forest walk linkway not only keeps your shoes clean or head free from jungle spiders, but also smart in design as well- The walkway constantly spots a floor made of of triangle metal grates, similarly found those covering our drains, these in nature not only very easy to mass produce and maintain but also prevents rainwater and leaves from collecting on the walkway itself.
The taller areas of the walkway are reinforced with cross braces, which I believe anyone who own Swedish flat-packed storage shelves will find a hint of resemblance to. Discreetly hidden in every one or two handrails is a night lighting lamp which illuminated the floors of the walkway in the night, allowing you to see the trail leading through the night jungle, resembling a scene like little twinkle dots in the hills, a sight rather impressive by itself.
The forest walk weighs in about 2km in total length and run parallel to Depot road upon reaching the foot of the hill. Lined throughout the course are access stairwells allowing you to get off onto the earth trail anytime. The route crawls on past the ISS Preston Campus before cutting across the Lock road (a side lane from Depot Road) and eventually terminating at The Alexandra Arch Bridge.
The Alexandra Arch Bridge
Spanning across Alexandra road, The Arch Bridge seamlessly links the forest walk to the phase of the park connector walk- Hortpark. So far the park connector linkage from Mt Faber has been rather flawless- there were no big obstacles or scenarios involving pedestrians having to put up with major road crossings by themselves without any crossing, well unlike few other park connectors I’ve seen around Singapore.
While most people will label it as the “comb bridge” it is actually a very solid and heavy bridge. The bridge itself is perched on top of two giant steel arms embedded into the ground which connects one end of a parabolic loop to another. These loops in nature are structurally very sound and stable, able to take on huge loads with ease without buckling or having the need of an additional mid-span support at the central road dividers. No wonder the bridge is lavishly ladened with heavy concrete and floor tiling which reflects the setting sun dully under sunlight- adding much to the posh factor of the rather iconic bridge itself.
Noticeably is the presence of a single arch and not two on both longitudinal sides, the 45 degree angle of the arch also allows the bridge’s center of mass to be balanced over the span of the bridge, for those who appreciate this, the bridge itself is a structure showcase of engineering excellence.
For us runners and cyclists, its nice to know that steps are an option on this bridge as well, your transition from Telok Blangah hill park to Hortpark will be a smooth one, provided you are able to put up with the crowds and narrow passageways coming from or to the forest walk itself. A short walk from the Arch following the concrete garden walkway further into the Alexandra technopark will bring you to the Hortpark.
Hyderabad’s Hort Park
The hort in “hortpark” stands for horticulture, which derives from the Latin hortus meaning a ‘garden’ space. Opened on the 10th May 2008 and located at 33 Hyderabad road around the hussle and bussle of the Alexandra technopark, it’s amazing how they managed to squeeze in a descent-sized 23 Hectare park here in the given confines next to an industrial neighborhood.
Hortpark was developed with a cost of S$13.1 million by the National Parks Board as a South East Asia’s first gardening lifestyle hub which will see the harmonic fusion and thinning the line between research/educational related objectives and recreational/commercial activities, all under one roof. The park is like the modern and urban equivalent of the botanical gardens, (despite being only about half it’s size). It spots not only it’s own automated 155 lot carpark system (with 3 Wheelchair Parking Lots) but a multi-purpose visitor center as well, with it’s own food & beverage outlets such as a restaurant and grounds exhibition areas, which are all open for booking.
Flaunting the front of the visitor center and drop off point is the Hort’s water garden, welcoming you in pure uncluttered Zen style, which resonates in the interior of the building as well. You won’t miss the sounds of running water, fishes, and the floating aquatic plants from the entrance and car park. That is too on top of the park’s open setting and the surrounding water elements (in and outdoor) and the restaurant overlooking the center’s vast manicured lawn. Here you can catch the sky and surrounding scapes all painted as beautiful water reflection, a sight to behold.
Hortpark is also home to an assortment of specially themed gardens, about 20 of them to be exalt, each with their own unique intentions and meanings to bring forward a point or artistic concept with plants.
Few notable ones will be the fantasy garden, the recycling garden, the living green wall (6 meters), herb & spice garden, the tree climbing corner as well as the bamboo labyrinth, which are known to have meditative and healing qualities embodied by ancient beliefs- confrontation, convergence and closure. Some of the displays are out of the ordinary, such as some spotting baby cradles/walker and normal household appliances/parts used in aid of the creation of these gardens.
The recycling garden a melting pot for recycling ideas in gardening, painting the fact that old and defunct items can find a second life as re-usable decorative items on your lawn. Some garden accessories accessories on display will include old PCK-styled yellow boots, bottles, tires, hats, and even your rice cooker and bathtub.
The fantasy garden is a family orientated garden and if you are fans of The Wizard of Oz you are in luck- you’ll find the characters such as Dorothy, Toto, Tin Man, the Lion and Scarecrow. Children will have fun in together with the nearby playground which blends into together with the garden rather well with it’s plant theming and colour schemes.
The herb and spice garden are one of the “try-learn” exhibits, allowing you not only to view, but go hands-on with the herbs themselves encouraging you to cultivate them back at home.
Hortpark’s visitor center 360 view from the start of the gardens.
The gardens are all wireless hot-spots as well, allowing you to stream informational data of each display straight at the site you are on. You can do so if you have a HP wifi/GPS enabled PDA or smart phone, or loan a HP 612 Business Navigator from the visitor center.
The phones which uses GPS and wi-fi together with installed software will not only pop up welcome and data messages when you enter the range of these hot-spots but provide exhibit related info as well (say for instance a whole list of the herbs at the herb and spice garden when you are there). Kids will love the fairy tale “The Enchanted Kingdom” game in the PDA which is an interactive GPS treasure hunt, putting them on a series of activities and quests which paints a storyline on recovering 5 stolen elements throughout the park to restore the flora and fauna of the park (which starts off “barren” in the game).
There are plenty of sitting and sheltered areas, only if you know where to find them. The thing which impresses me is how all these displays all come together as a whole, including the park benches which all blend in or can be part of a display. So there is no clear demarcation whether some chairs or shelters are actually part of the display and can be used by visitors. But the open nature of the displays reassures you that even if you were to take a seat here or there, just move them back into their original positions and it will be all set perfectly again. So you can say that everything here is largely dependent on the responsibilities of the visitors.
Hortpark is also the home of a few integrated plant nurseries which we can see are largely involved in a variety of island-wide NEA projects based on their capacities. Hortpark runs along the back areas of the surrounding technopark and industrial areas which paints and reiterates the park’s urban neighborhood, the distant horizon is all backed by the distant rolling Kent ridge hills.
You will meet a small lifestyle corner, and the HortMart towards the near end of the park. The mart is which is a small built up open area which not only serves as a rest food area located further into the park.
By the end of your walk at HortPark, you’ll see six prototype glasshouses clad in a modern finish of white concrete, glass and steel. A peek inside greets you with a myriad of coloured plants and flowers. The green houses here are built to serve as research centers for the upcoming Singapore Gardens at the Bay, so you can be rather expectant of what’s blooming there when the time comes.
Despite that wow factor, Hortpark is not your typical public neighborhood garden- the place is actually enclosed and is only open daily 6.00am to 10.00pm. Admission is free though, but this means no late night runs through the park especially you are one of the few runners and cyclists who enjoy exercising through in the middle of the wee hours of the night, you need to find a detour here at Hort’s after opening hours.
There is a linkway gate at the rear end of the park right after the greenhouses with a pathway running up along side more of Hortpark’s plant nursery areas before leading you up towards Kent Ridge park where the tree top canopy walk resides.
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