stepping stones

Let’s get out of the city today; out of the chaos and the noise, the chatter and the fumes.

I had to get some peace and didn’t know if you could find it in Singapore. I was given a tiny taste at the Pasir Ris park where if you can escape the play park, the bicycles, micro scooters, stables and pony rides there is a mangrove swamp. Not a big one, but a mangrove swamp all the same. This fair island was once nearly all swamp and that is very, very hard to believe at times.

And escape I did. Up to the North West of this tiny island and the Kranji Farms and the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. It’s impossible to describe how strange this landscape is to girl from Kent but it is how I imagine the world to be if the dinosaurs were still roaming. The swamp is tidal which probably explains this:

mangrove swamp

And it has a quiet, eerie sound with all the birds and insects that makes you feel like you’re abandoned alone.

ghostly mangrovee

But then, if you open your eyes, you see that life is bursting in these dark, dank swamps – crabs of all shapes and sizes, fish like needles and mudskipper alien frogs. Then you start to notice the flora and fauna. It’s a haunting, magical place.

flowers in the swamp

pinprick flowers

Then, it breaks to give you wide lakes with flying fish. They are surprisingly inelegant and sort of plop in the water. Plop, it’s a good word.

mangrove reflections

Then, who should wander up to see what the fuss was about but this enormous bad boy. A water monitor lizard. Totally pre-historic with a scaly giant lizard body and a snakes head. Honestly, you couldn’t make him up. And no, they don’t run off when you startle them.

monitor lizard 1

monitor lizard

Then I saw a sign warning you about the crocodiles. Ok, monitor lizards I’m ok with but crocs.. hmmm… time to go.

The next stop was Bollywood Veggies. Go, you won’t regret it, just get on a bus, get in a car and GO. Everything about this place is an antidote to life in Singapore. It’s an organic farm and the biggest producer of bananas in Singapore. But this place is no straightforward, run-of-the-mill farm. As we walked in we were greeted by Tony – a Welsh gent of a certain vintage and a host of information and chat about the place. Then, Ivy arrived. Ivy and her husband own and manage Bollywood Veggies. She is a hurricane of a woman. I don’t know much about chakras but if you were to find Ivy’s it would be fire and lava. You can feel the heat of her energy as she strides past you (talking, always talking… very loudly). She tells Tony there are a group from a hospital here to talk about planting a sustainable garden. ‘At last’ she declares ‘they see that they can have a garden to eat. Wonderful’ and off she goes like a tornado.

butterfly dreams

Planted on permaculture principles of keeping layers of plants in harmony with each other, it is beautiful. Ten acres of clever planting and brimming with birds and butterflies. Can you tell how much I loved it? I truly did. More than a garden, more than a farm, Ivy and her husband are true philanthropists. They employ staff with physical disabilities and my companion for the day has read May’s book ‘Scaling Walls’ about her life. I hope Singapore embraces the message from Bollywood Veggies and takes it to her heart.

bollywood gardens1


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