The joy of an unmanicured space

21 01 2014

Living in the overcrowded and highly built-up environment that the land scarce and overpopulated island-state of Singapore has become, there is no better joy than that immersing oneself in green and untamed surroundings brings. Although less common in a country obsessed with creating planned and overly manicured urban spaces, there thankfully are still seemingly wild public spaces, although man-made, that does provide that much-needed respite from the madness of the urban world.

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One such space, as is seen in the accompanying photographs, is UpperPeirceReservoirPark, on the fringes of the Central Catchment Reserve. One of the less accessible parks found by the cluster impounding reservoirs in central Singapore, the park with the body of water it has been set-up next to, is where one can discover a tranquillity absent in the overcrowded public spaces we seem to have too many of.

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Having opened when I was living in not so far away Ang Mo Kio, the park to which I would often ride a bicycle, has long served as an escape for me. Complementing the beautiful body of water that is the Upper Peirce Reservoir, the park is where one can sit in the shade of the now mature trees and hear the rustle of dried leaves below one’s feet.

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Created through the construction of a 30 metre high and 350 wide dam and four smaller dams upstream from the Lower Peirce dam over a period of two years from May 1972 to May 1974, the reservoir was officially opened by Singapore’s then Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew in February 1977. With a storage capacity of some 27.8 million cubic metres and a surface area of 304 ha, the reservoir is in fact Singapore’s largest impounding reservoir, stretching from the main dam that also separates it from Lower Peirce Reservoir some 3.5 kilometres westwards as the crow flies, close to the Bukit Timah Expressway. The park, which is accesible via a 1.7 kilometre road in from Old Upper Thomson Road, was opened in May 1979.

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The delightful suburb of Suresnes and the Bois de Boulogne

13 12 2010

Paris is a city that never ceases to delight me ever since I first set eyes on it in the summer of 1989 enroute to Padua. Besides being where some of my favourite monuments in the form of the Eiffel Tour, La Sainte-Chapelle, and the Notre Dame are; as well as where my favourite museum, the Musée d’Orsay is (which incidentally also contains my favourite work of art, Renoir’s “Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre“), Paris is also where one of the most delightful suburbs I have visited, Suresnes, is located.

Looking down the Seine to the business district of La Défense from Suresnes.

It was in Suresnes that I found myself putting up in one Bastille Day and it was from there that I could quite easily catch a bus into Paris and take a Metro to the areas where the action was. I guess that is the wonderful thing about Suresnes with its location on the western fringe of the Bois de Boulogne, where it is situated close enough to Paris (being some 10 km or so out of Central Paris). What makes it wonderful is also that it is also just far away enough to offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, being just across the Seine from a huge wooded park, the Bois de Boulogne, which covers an area of some 8.5 square km. The Bois de Boulonge traces its history back to the ancient oak forest of Rouvray and became a park in 1852 by Napoleon III, being transformed into what it is today by the architect of modern Paris, Baron Haussmann, with London’s Hyde Park serving as the inspiration for it.

Houseboats on the Seine. The Seine separates the Bois de Boulogne from the suburb of Suresnes.

The Bois de Boulogne is a huge park on the outskirts of Paris which has an area of 8.459 square km (2.5 times that of New York's Central Park) and offers a peaceful escape from the city.

Having about an hours to spare before having to make my way to the airport on the morning after to catch a flight to Copenhagen, I took the opportunity to have a quick stroll in the park. The Bois de Boulogne is certainly a great place to have a stroll in, with a delightful mix of landscaped gardens, wooded areas and ponds and waterfalls. The park is also where the Hippodrome de Longchamp, the famous horse racing circuit is located and also where several huge châteaus can be found, one of which houses the offices of WWF-France. Having too little a time to explore the bulk of the park, my stroll was confined to the area close to Suresnes, but having a feel of what the Bois de Boulogne offers – it is certainly a place that will be on my itinerary on my next visit to Paris.

Landscaped gardens are a feature in the Bois de Boulogne.

Waterbodies and waterfalls add to the wonderful surroundings in the Bois de Boulogne.

The Bois de Boulogne had a wonderful mix of wooded areas, gardens, and waterbodies.

The Hippodrome de Longchamp in the Bois de Boulogne.

The château that houses the offices of WWF-France in the Bois de Boulogne.

More of the Bois de Boulogne.

In the Bois de Boulogne.

Among the species of trees that Baron Haussmann introduced to the woods of the Bois de Boulogne were the chestnut trees.

Suresnes as seen from the Bois de Boulogne.