A Nature Park in Your Neighbourhood

When I first learnt of the new Dairy Farm Nature Park, I had been expecting a small neighbourhood park with an exercise corner. After all, as a former resident of Bukit Panjang, I was familiar enough with the area to know that the park’s site was but a couple of hundred metres away from the Petir Road housing estates. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be far bigger than I’d imagined: a whopping 63 hectares, to be exact!

Many residents of Singapore have revisited their old neighbourhoods only to find them greatly changed. Few would have witnessed such a thorough transformation as I did, though. The jungle-like wooded areas along Dairy Farm Road had given way to brand new park facilities and carparks. I decided to hike in from the main road to explore the Singapore Quarry, a 15-minute walk that proved worthwhile indeed. The old quarry had been converted into a scenic wetland with its own viewing platform, positively teeming with birds and dragonflies.

At the Singapore Quarry, I managed to spot a couple of Little Grebes – a critically endangered species of bird that has found a new home at the Singapore Quarry. Though, with my slim knowledge of birdlife, I might have mistaken them for ducks if not for the information panels placed helpfully around the quarry.

Of the many nature trails built into the park, one trail in particular caught my eye. Called the Wallace Trail, it featured a series of signs with a unique educational approach. I found myself learning interesting facts about the area’s flora and fauna through the eyes of 19th century English naturalist Alfred Wallace, who had spent time in the Dairy Farm area carrying out research and collecting beetles. It was enlightening to say the least, to learn about nature from an Englishman who had lived and worked in Singapore more than a century ago!

Elsewhere in the Dairy Farm Nature Park, there were facilities for rock climbing and other outdoor activities. Mountain bikers were already making use of the new trails on the Saturday morning of my visit. I met a small group that had cycled in from their homes in Bukit Panjang, planning to continue through to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve via the linking trails. They’d stopped for a breather while refilling their water bottles at the Wallace Education Centre – also named after Alfred Wallace. Refurbished from a former cowshed, it houses interactive exhibits about the history of Dairy Farm and the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, as well as educational facilities for schools and students.

On my way out of the park, I overheard a couple of middle-aged joggers remarking that they would return with their children another day: “We can even let them cycle from home!” At that, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of envy. If I were still living in the neighbourhood, this array of nature’s splendour would have been but a stone’s throw from my front door!

By Germaine Ong

The Dairy Farm Nature Park is located at 100 Dairy Farm Road. For map and public transport info, visit Dairy Farm Nature Park page on NParks’ website

More details about the park’s official opening are available here

The Malay Archipelago, by Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace’s exploratory journeys in Southeast Asia led him not only to Singapore, but also to Malaysia, the Indonesian islands, and the island of New Guinea. His eight-year foray (1854 – 1862) into Southeast Asia’s natural history is chronicled in his book, The Malay Archipelago.

First published in 1869, this book was one of the most popular and influential journals of scientific exploration of its time. It remains a classic work of natural history even till now.

The Malay Archipelago describes the region’s flora and fauna, and provides some initial evidence of the modern theory of evolution. Wallace also included amusing personal anecdotes about the cultures he encountered, which give readers an interesting perspective on Wallace as an explorer.

Some of his comments would be considered highly politically-incorrect today, though: in one chapter, he describes a group of islanders as “a strange half-civilized, half-savage lazy people”.

The Malay Archipelago is available at all major bookstores in Singapore, and at The Library Shop at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.We have two copies of The Malay Archipelago to give away! Take part in our simple quiz for your chance to win a copy.
The Malay Archipelago– Quiz Questions 
  1. When was The Malay Archipelago first published?
  2. The Malay Archipelago catalogues many plants and animals that are found in Southeast Asia. True or False?

Contest closes on 31 December 2009. Email your answers toinfo@nparks.gov.sg with the subject title ‘My Green Space Contest’, together with your name and contact number.

We will pick two winners from among all the entries with correct answers.

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