Walk on the wild side

Walk on the wild side

Tai Tam, which hosts a charity walk next month, is a green gem rich in history right in the heart of Hong Kong


Widespread reforestation has taken place around the Tai Tam reservoir over the past 60 years.
Widespread reforestation has taken place around the Tai Tam reservoir over the past 60 years.
Photos: Chris Lau/SCMP
Hong Kong has been labelled "a concrete jungle" for decades. The city is known around the world for its densely packed high-rise buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour; impressive night and day images of Hong Kong's skyscrapers on postcards have been sent the world over.

However, only 25 per cent of Hong Kong's often hilly land area is heavily developed. About 40 per cent of the remaining land has country parks, nature reserves and rocky coastline and beaches. Yet you can rarely find postcards showing beautiful scenes of natural landscapes and sea views.

Last week, a team of junior reporters went out to explore one of Hong Kong's lovely natural areas. They ventured to Tai Tam Country Park and walked the trail that will be taken by many people participating in the Chinachem Charity Walk 2012 on November4. They learned about the area's ecology.

Let's see what they discovered ...

Learn the ecology

Taking a walk along the Tai Tam Reservoir Road is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Historically, the reservoir once served as Hong Kong's main source of drinking water. But Tai Tam is a natural home to many wild plants. The most commonly found tree species in the area is the Taiwan Acacia. During the flowering season, graceful chains of gold-yellow flowers hang from the tree's branches.

The hardy, fast-growing trees - native to southeast Asia - can tolerate dry conditions and infertile soil. They were used as "pioneer trees", together with Brisbane Box and Slash Pine as part of widespread post-war reforestation. Vast areas of Hong Kong's woodlands were cut down as fuel during the second world war.

There are many rare species of flowers and shrubs, which, over the years have been regularly cut down by people during Chinese New Year. Now the government is trying to protect them to boost their numbers.

The charity walk will include a guided tour to help participants learn about plant life in the area. The brooms that monks use to sweep up in monasteries are made of Dwarf Mountain Pine.

Besides taking photographs of the fine views as you cross Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir Masonry Bridge, take a look at the lichens growing on the bridge's granite surface. Lichens survive only in areas with unpolluted air.

Tai Tam Country Park isn't the best place for bird-watching, but you can hear birds twittering in the woods. You might even spot black kites and other birds of prey, soaring high above on outstretched wings.

The best thing about the trail is that it's not difficult and suitable for anyone. With Hong Kong's tall buildings out of sight, the lush green area around the reservoir is a great place for relaxing and immersing yourself in nature. Tai Tam is a natural gem on Hong Kong Island.

Crystal Tai

Know the history

Up to 21 structures, including the bridge and aqueduct at the Tai Tam Reservoir, have been declared monuments worthy of preservation.

As you near the trail's historic areas, look out for a stone pillar, or milestone, on Kwan Dai Road. You can just make out the word "Victoria" - the name of the Britain's queen from 1819 to 1901 - engraved by British troops above the Chinese character "Kwan". The stone is part of Hong Kong's colonial past. When the British army took control of Hong Kong after the First Opium War in 1842, they set up base in Stanley. Roads were paved so soldiers could march easily.

Part of the Tai Tam Trail crosses one of these roads. Paved in 1842, the milestone was used as a distance marker for the marching British soldiers. Similar markers placed along the road have disappeared over time, but this one remains as part of Hong Kong's past as a former British colony. Two stories suggest the origins of the name of Kwan Dai Road, which once connected Stanley with the then Victoria City - now Central.

One says it got its name because the winding road resembled a belt worn with a dress, or "kwan" for dress and "dai" for belt. The other suggests a villager, Chan Kwan, led British troops from Stanley to Central, so the road was named, "Kwan took the lead".

Arjun Sivakumar

For details of the Chinachem Charity Walk on November 4, go to http://www.welovegreenhk.com/event/charitywalk2012/

Young Post Junior Reporters' Club organises regular activities for our members. If you want to be part of the club, send your name, age, school and contact details in an e-mail to reporters.club @scmp.com, with "jun rep application" in the subject bar.



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