February 15, 2011

Woodcutter Trail

Woodcutter Trail

Gangsa trail - near the entrance to the woodcutter trail
If you are bored with well-defined nature trails with mapboards, signposts and modern amenities, and prefer something more adventurous, then try the Woodcutter Trail. First of all there are no signs/maps/leaflets suggesting such a trail. There is a lack of official information. Information is provided by mountain bikers and trekkers who post their experience on the Internet.

The Woodcutter Trail lies in the Central Catchment Reserve in the central part of Singapore. It connects the Gangsa/Chestnut Bike Tracks on the west to Upper Peirce Reservoir Park on the east. Because of its proximity to the bike trails on the west (alongside the Bukit Timah Expressway), mountain bikers are more familiar with it, although they are not supposed to cycle on the trail.

Granite hill
Entrances to the trail are unmarked so first time visitors may have difficulty finding them. You cannot even find the entrance on the east side as it is purposely obscured. The clue to the entrance lies behind a sign that forbids cyclists using the trail. However the warning is often ignored. Cycling on the trail is discouraged to prevent damage to the trail.

Woodcutter trail
Because the trail is not marked, signs are left in the form of tape hanging on branches to indicate the trail. Of course experienced trekkers can also read the trail itself. When there is heavy rain, certain stretches of the trail will be flooded. So be prepared for wet feet. There are three streams to cross where the trekkers would either cross using branches already laid across them, or stepping across clay pots. Best to bring along walking poles to avoid losing your balance when crossing the streams or walking along the track.

It takes about two and a half hours to cover the trail proper plus another half an hour along Old Thomson Road. Photographers and nature lovers will take longer because of the diversity of plant, animal and insect life.

The Woodcutter Trail runs approximately east-west bounded by Seletar Reservoir to the north and the Upper Peirce Reservoir to the south. The vegetation runs from secondary forest in the east and west to primary forest in the central part. On some days one can hear the sound of firearms from the rifle ranges near the eastern and western parts of Seletar Reservoir.

Crossing a stream
Walking this trail is an entirely different experience especially at certain stretches where the green mantle gets close to you, but not to worry we do not need to cut our way through and knowing that we are not more than 2 hours from the familiar world outside. So enjoy the closest experience to the jungle in urban Singapore.

By the way do detour to the Upper Peirce Reservoir Park which is not too far from the trail entance/exit on Old Upper Thomson Road. There you can see both the scenic Upper Peirce and Lower Peirce Reservoirs separated by the dam. In the old colonial days, such infrastructure projects were named after the engineers. Without the dam, the Upper Peirce Reservoir will be much smaller and less water storage for us.

(P.S. The authorities built a fence at the eastern end of the trail at Old Thomson Road. Previously this entrance was hidden in the forest and it needed some local knowledge to find it but now it is clearly marked by the fence with a door!)

See Also:
Admiralty Park to Sembawang
The Pipeline Trail
Woodlands Town to Bukit Panjang via Ulu Sembawang Park Connector


Woodcutter Trail video