Sign up for trail taking you to heart of Bidadari

An old gate and gatepost at Bidadari Cemetery. The Bidadari Heritage Nature Walk takes participants through part of the former cemetery, Mount Vernon Columbarium and past the Gurkha Cantonment.
An old gate and gatepost at Bidadari Cemetery. The Bidadari Heritage Nature Walk takes participants through part of the former cemetery, Mount Vernon Columbarium and past the Gurkha Cantonment.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Keen to have a last look at the Bidadari area before it gives way to development? You may want to sign up for a new heritage trail that will take you into the heart of the old cemetery and other places soon to be resigned to history.

Organised by the Geylang Serai Integration and Naturalisation Champions, the Bidadari Heritage Nature Walk was launched yesterday.

It takes participants through part of the former cemetery - although only holes in the ground remain where bodies were before - and then to Mount Vernon Columbarium and past the Gurkha Cantonment.

Birdwatchers can keep an eye out for migratory species, while history buffs will see significant structures such as the gravestone of social reformer Lim Boon Keng.

Dr Lim studied medicine at Edinburgh University on a scholarship, and later went on to push for reforms such as education for women.

Many sites along the trail will be cleared to make way for residences in the next few years. At the columbarium, for instance, notices are posted to remind people to claim the niches of their deceased family members by June next year.

"The Bidadari trail, unfortunately, may not be here for very long," said Marine Parade GRC MP Fatimah Lateef, who launched the trail.

"That is... a challenge we have to face as a small country where land is scarce and an expensive commodity. So it's important that we do what we can, while we can."

The forested area that used to be the cemetery, for example, plays host to 141 species of birds, or 40 per cent of the birds found in Singapore.

Many of these are migratory species that fly here from as far as China or Russia to escape the winter cold.

Those who organised the trail agreed that it should go through sites that will soon be cleared for redevelopment, so that visitors get the chance to see the places for themselves.

"If one day the trail is gone, at least they will know what it was like," said Mr Patrick Yeo, who led yesterday's tour. "We want our children to appreciate what we have now, and play their part to preserve what we have left in the future."

One of the 45 people who went on yesterday's trail was Ms Patricia Teo, who was impressed by the Bidadari Memorial Garden, where the gravestones from various religions and ethnic groups have been placed.

"Singaporeans tend to always go overseas to see things, but actually there is a lot to see here," said the 51-year-old.

The next Bidadari Heritage Nature Walk takes place next Sunday. Those interested can sign up on the People's Association website at one.pa.gov.sg

Linette Lai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'Sign up for trail taking you to heart of Bidadari'. Print Edition | Subscribe