There are still so many hikes that I have not explored, one of them was the Wong Nai Chung Gap trail that had been on my list for a long time. I never realised how close it is to Parkview and how easy it is to get to (you can just start/finish at the petrol stations on Wong Nai Chung Gap road).
It is an easy hike and a nice combination of nature with history. Why? Well that’s because it is Hong Kong’s first battlefield trail (the second being the Pinewood Battery Heritage Trail), and it shares parts of the path of the Wong Nai Chung Tree Walk.
The Tree walk covers a total distance of about two kilometres starting from the vicinity of the Girl Guides New Sandilands Training Centre at Tai Tam Reservoir Road and ending at Mount Butler Road. A total of 25 tree stops showing 27 species of trees and natural features can be seen dotted the trail.
But I find the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail much more interesting. It is surprising that Hong Kong’s wartime relics and defence works survived so many years – the ones along this trail include an anti-aircraft gun platform, two pillboxes and an ammunition magazine. They all originate from the fierce 18-days battle in 1941, when the Japanese attacked Hong Kong (and the British surrendered on Christmas day) and are all still visible today.
The Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail starts just opposite the entrance to Parkview, stations 1 and 2 are the ammunition magazine and the anti-aircraft battery, which once held two guns. Here they had shot down a Japanese aircraft on December 16, 1941.
Station 3 is a lookout point while walking a long a catchwater channel, which tells of the strategic importance of Wong Nai Chung Gap and the fighting that took place in this area.
As you reach a junction, you can turn right and quickly go up to station 5, which is a pillbox (machine gun post). This one is in far better shape than the one that is a few metres further down (station 4). In 1941 the hillsides were covered with just a few shrubs which did not block the lines of fire, that is why these two posts were situated in these spots.
You will have to walk past station 4 to continue the trail downwards, towards Happy Valley. At this point you just have to walk down quite a few steps to reach the top of the Jardine’s Lookout Service Reservoir (which was commissioned in 1934 for provision of water to high level areas. It was expanded in 1967 and is still in use today).
This is where the info boards for station 6 and 7 are located. They talk about how the Japanese captured the strategically important Police Station at Wong Nai Chung Gap, which commanded access to the entire valley. After that, Leighton Hill became a key strongpoint and even the Happy Valley Racecourse became a battlefield.
After the reservoir, the path continues downhill on a few steps – until it reaches the Wong Nai Chung Tree Walk. At this point you can decide to walk further downhill, towards Happy Valley or you can continue to the left (west-side) to reach stations 8-10.
Station 8 talks about the fights at Sir Cecil’s Ride, before you walk past Park Place to hit Wong Nai Chung Gap Road again. At this point, you need to change to the other side of the road and walk downhill, to station 9 which is the West Brigade Headquarters (today this is an excavated bunker). A plaque tells of the brigade commander, John Lawson, going out “to fight it out”: he died of machine gun wounds to the thigh, but impressed even the Japanese with his bravery.
The walk finishes at station 10 (which describes the final stages of the battle), from which you should walk back uphill to the bus stop next to the petrol station.
The trail is clearly signposted, all downhill (with the exception of the visit to station 5), and easy to walk on paved paths or stone steps. It is about 3km long and takes about 45 minutes if you walk leisurely without breaks. If you are interested in finding out more about the battle for Hong Kong, check out this website, which I found very interesting.