Tai Tam Dam

Jackie Peers takes the waterworks trail.

Hong Kong Island – a place of peace and tranquility? Well, yes… if you set off to explore the Tai Tam Country Park. And that is not too narrow a restriction either, considering that it occupies about 20 per cent of the island.

Although it’s gorgeous throughout, perhaps the highlight of park is the Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail, where you can wander past the reservoirs, overlooked by Mounts Butler and Parker, Jardine’s Lookout and Violet Hill, before descending to pretty Tai Tam Bay.

A waterworks heritage trail? Although it may sound a little quirky, it’s easy to forget in these days of daily washing of the family Merc with water sourced from Guangdong, that the growth and prosperity of Hong Kong – “that barren rock” – was constrained right from the start by the challenge of an adequate fresh water supply, leading to a century of hugely ambitious and spectacular engineering projects in the quest to conserve the territory’s pretty generous rainfall.

In Tai Tam there is a fine legacy of 19th and early 20th century structures, constructed in beautiful granite in a variety of historic styles (well explained by information boards), and still in use supplying fresh water to Wan Chai and western parts of the island. The piece de resistance is the Tai Tam Upper Reservoir Dam, from which water gravitated through a 7,300-foot tunnel through the mountain and down a 16,500 aqueduct to Central.

The walk was designated a heritage trail and opened in September 2009. You don’t need to be an engineering buff to be impressed. However, if it’s only peace and quiet that you’re after, there’s plenty of that too – especially on weekdays when you might have it to yourself. How amazing to have a natural asset like this so close to the city.The walk starts at Hong Kong Parkview, which can be reached by bus 6 (Exchange Square to Stanley Prison), 63 (North Point Ferry Pier to Stanley Prison) or 66 (Exchange Square to Stanley Plaza). Stop at Wong Chai Nung Gap Road after the Hong Kong Tennis Centre (visible from the left hand side of the bus) when travelling towards Stanley. From the bus stop climb the flight of steps to Tai Tam Reservoir Road and walk for about 10 or 15 minutes uphill past Wong Nai Chung Reservoir, continuing past the Wilson Trail and Hong Kong Trail section starting points to reach Hong Kong Parkview. The country park entrance is just beyond. Follow the main path into the country park and past the park management centre and the start of the trail is well signposted, about 1.5km from the park entrance.

When you reach the end of the hike (only about 6km) cross Tai Tam Road for a bus to Stanley for lunch. Or wander down to Tai Tam Bay for a look around. And I’m sure you’ll be back to explore other walks in Tai Tam Country Park another day.