We have places where you can get out and admire nature in Singapore and take in the fresh air

In the 2009 American sitcom Parks and Recreation, the hyper-energetic Chris Trager famously said: “If I keep my body moving and my mind occupied at all times, I will avoid falling into a bottomless pit of despair.” Studies have certainly shown that getting out in nature can help us destress during these trying times — especially when constant worries over job security while working from home can start to take a toll on mental health. So, to keep your body moving and your mind occupied, Options has gone on a trip around Singapore to pick out a few parks for scenic walking trails in this concrete jungle that we live in.

Bukit Timah Rail Corridor/Rail Corridor (Central)

For many of us, memories of the Bukit Timah Rail Corridor began not along the trail itself, but on a train. For those who remember the Corridor, it also probably starts at the old Tanjong Pagar railway station, where the Malaysian rail operator KTM’s railway service used to operate, connecting Singapore and the rest of the Malay Peninsula. Now, most of the tracks have been removed from the site, except for a portion near the rail bridge spanning Upper Bukit Timah Road and the old Bukit Timah Railway Station, which is an Instagrammable spot for social media buffs. But even if the tracks are gone, the imprints are still there, as a reminder of the trains that passed by the trail.

The trail is a paradise for nature lovers, with flora and fauna that have remained mostly untouched when the trains ran. Be sure to catch a glimpse of the Crimson Sunbird, identifiable by its bright red feathers, as well as more identifiable native animals like the Sunda Pangolin.

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With the completion of the Downtown Line, accessibility to the trail has improved, with one end close to Hillview Station, and another at King Albert Park Station. Despite all that you see now, there still is more in store for the Rail Corridor. Works to enhance the four kilometer stretch of the Rail Corridor between the Hillview area and the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station, have also been ongoing.

The works include improvements to trails, restoration works for the truss bridges, construction of a new pedestrian underpass, and habitat enhancements.

NParks said works to restore the Railway Station building and the former Railway Station Staff Quarters are also underway, and it will showcase their original railway features while being repurposed for the public’s use and enjoyment. 

Labrador Nature Reserve

For the history buffs, Labrador Nature Reserve not only gives you a good dose of greenery but nestled in between the trees, is a remnant of Singapore’s colonial past.

Central to this nature reserve is Labrador Park, which was the site of Labrador Battery, a fort that was twinned with Fort Siloso to protect Keppel Harbour when the British colonised Singapore. The facility contributed to Singapore’s defence against the Japanese before its guns fell silent on Feb 14, 1942.

It is also a myth that Singapore’s guns could not be turned around to fire on the approaching Japanese from the north. They actually could and were used, with the guns at Labrador Battery supporting the troops near Pasir Panjang.

After World War II, the fort was closed and stayed largely abandoned until 2001, when the tunnels were unearthed by the National Parks Board (NParks) and subsequently designated as a nature reserve.

Although some parts of the fort are closed off the public due to safety concerns, some of the fortifications that stood since Labrador was built are still standing, and walking through each of the historical sites, you could feel a dread that must have gripped the defenders of this place as the Japanese advanced to the site, located near Pasir Panjang Road.

But beyond the fort itself, the place is thriving with wildlife and the park is a favourite haunt of nature lovers. A check on the NParks website found that It is not uncommon for visitors to hear songs from a variety of bird species, including those of the Oriental magpie-robin and Black-naped Oriole. If you are simply taking a stroll, you might be lucky enough to spot the resident squirrels scurrying up trees.

East Coast Park

For those who live on the east side of Singapore, East Coast Park is no stranger to most of us. The park stretches from the National Service Country Club all the way to the edge of Marina Bay, this 15km park is packed with every activity you can think of, for every age group. From sailing to water sports and cycling along the beach, activities abound for the active folks. 

After your appetite is whetted, East Coast Park is home to a whole range of food options. One will be most familiar with the hawker delights at the East Coast Lagoon Food Centre, which is now closed till February 2021 for renovations. Still, you could always head over to the row of upscale bars and cafes along the beaches for a bite, or if you are looking for a sumptuous dinner, head to any of the seafood restaurants located near Carpark E1.

If you fancy a relaxing day at the beach, take a picnic mat or a tent and have a picnic with family and friends by the beach under the palm trees. East Coast Park is also a popular destination for people training for marathons or long distance runs, as the sea breeze and flat roads make for a good place to train. Before he passed away, former President S R Nathan was also known to frequent the park, a testament to it attracting people from all walks of life.