Here in Singapore we tend to have a ‘museum’ approach to our wild, open spaces. Carefully curated and meticulously managed, our parks are generally places to “look with your eyes, not with your hands”.
And while I truly believe that nature play, and fostering nature connections in children, is a mindset and not limited by your surroundings, there are some environments which offer themselves as great for nature play.
Albeit too late, we have found another one of these places here in Singapore. The Green Corridor is a tract of land snaking through Singapore, from the CBD to the Malaysian border. Formerly the rail track for trains from Singapore to Malaysia, it was closed in 2011 and the land given back to Singapore. The Singapore Nature Society (bless their souls) managed to convince the government to keep the land corridor as a haven for wildlife and the public.
Some of the corridor is already being upgraded, with landscaping, drainage, paths and showers planned along the entire route. Luckily for us, we discovered that part of the original track is still open, and (as of today…) not yet renovated! Hooray!
We caught the MRT to King Albert Park station, walked a short way along Bukit Timah Road, and turned left at the rail bridge. Green open spaces, towering jungle and peace and quiet greeted us.
After exploring the deserted Bukit Timah Railway station (still complete with empty flower beds and waiting area), the heavens opened and there was nothing to do but accept the big wet.
The recent, unseasonal rain has left the trail with lots of that most glorious ‘loose part’ of nature play…..mud. Loads of it.
We slipped and slid our way along the trail, enjoying the openness and laughing at each other’s frail attempts to not get stuck in the mud. Here we could run freely, pick up sticks, make muddy obstacle courses for each other to jump over, and collect fallen leaves the size of our heads.
I recently read a book to a class of first graders, where the character describes the “sucking feeling on her boots” when walking through mud. The entire class was baffled. ‘What does that mean? Does the mud suck up your boots?’ I was surprised that not one of them had experienced the feeling for themselves – the battle line between the mud giving you permission to take your next footstep, and your foot stepping out of your shoe.
The corridor is popular with cyclists and runners, but the rain on this day had kept the more sensible ones away. On a drier day, you would need to make sure that your meandering didn’t get in the way of a single-focused cyclist.
My advice would be to go and see it before the renovations creep along the entire trail. As a place to wander, run without worry, ponder, splash, dally and experiment, it is perfect.