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In the middle of 2011, Andrea took the boys to meet a friend at the café within Bishan Park. It turned out to be a nightmare, as there was construction everywhere and both the boys managed to limbo under one of the safety fences, running around amongst all manner of earth moving equipment. Thankfully there was no work going on at the time – which was just as well, because Andrea ended up having to crawl under the fence to retrieve our two little tykes.

A few months later, I was doing some work with a company here and they mentioned the new “River Plains” project at Bishan Park, one of the Public Utilities Board (PUB) landmark projects earning accreditation within its’ “Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters” scheme, or ABC for short. Put simply, this scheme encourages developers to incorporate water features harnessing bio-friendly technology and methods to improve water quality and catchment. The Government has embraced the concept that water is a valuable commodity, and therefore should be treated with respect – a concept other countries would be wise to follow.

Anyway, we heard the park was completed and fully open, so the other weekend I took the boys back with our ever-patient Auntie Vick for a poke about. First up, the park is divided into two distinct areas dissected by Marymount Road and follows approximately 2.5kms along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 roughly East to West (click here for the map). The section to the East is called the “River Plains” (which is the one we visited), whilst the area to the West is called the “Pond Gardens”.

For the River Plains section, there is a centrally located good-sized car park close to the junction of Ang Mo Kio Street 32 (you will need coupons for payment). It is signposted, from memory to McDondald’s / McCafe. From this car park you can also access the Aramsa Garden Spa and the Canopy Garden Café. Facing the park, we opted to turn right and followed the signs to the playground. We came to what has to be the most impressive foot reflexology feature I have ever seen, in a circular configuration easily 40 metres across. Close by was a skating area, where lessons were being dished out by a skate school on what looked like a purpose built, flat area.

We eventually found the play area, which by Singapore standards I would say was a little tame. It had some mound-like-things of various size and colours sprouting from the ground, a pair of swings, and a smallish climbing frame as well as some other small bits and pieces. Around one side, the area was enclosed by a low concrete wall feature, which seemed to do a good job of reducing what little breeze there was and reflect back a lot of the sun’s heat – needless to say with little shade, it was very hot (just for a change). Despite limited stuff available, the boys had a blast for an hour and a half, with Jax burying various items in the sand and Lex climbing up, over and through the afore mentioned feature wall. There were plenty of picnic tables close by but all in the sun, so we opted for lunch under a shady tree.

This was quite close to the end of the park with Marymount Road clearly in sight and I could see there was little else off in this direction. So we headed towards the river area, which runs the length of the park, parallel to Ang Mo Kio Ave 1. Credit where it’s due, the designers, together with National Parks and the PUB, have done a great job replacing a huge, ugly, enviro-unfriendly concrete storm drain with this beautiful meandering river feature, easily 30 metres across, and it was teeming with life, including fish, herons and other creatures. This is obviously where the park gets its “River Plains” name from. I counted four foot bridges crossing over the river, which gives good access to the MacDonald’s and residential area on the southern border.

We followed the river until we were level with the car park, and sat down overlooking it to have a snack and water break on a really nice terraced seating area called the “Riverside Gallery”. We were going to continue heading along the river, but having been out in the heat of the sun for three hours the boys were lagging, so we had to make tracks back to the car.

We easily killed three hours and I reckon we saw less than a quarter of what this park has to offer. From looking at the map, if we had continued further East we would have found another playground and from the park signs it looked like there were also water features for the kids to splash around in (yet to be confirmed). For anyone with a taste for a burger, MacDonald’s is just over the river and for those with dogs there is also a dog run area. There’s plenty of space to kick a ball around and nice areas for a picnic. It also has some funky large double lounger features off to the East side too. I don’t know if there is sufficient stuff to engage older kids, but we saw a school group paddling around in the river and looked like they were having a great time.

What would you need? The park is a little young and therefore the trees are still small, which means less shade than usual; so sunblock, hats and water are a must. There are a few places to eat within the boundaries for those who prefer to eat out rather than picnic.

Bishan Park has a genuinely natural feel about it and National Parks has, once again, done a great job with the construction and maintenance aspects. For me, it’s a really positive sign the country is embracing more enviro-friendly practices. For example, some of the rest areas and cafés had living “green roofs” (see photo opposite) that do a good job of reducing the greenhouse effect and absorbing heat, rather than reflecting it back into the local environment. We enjoyed our limited time there and are looking forward to heading back soon for further adventures.

Let us know if you have been, and what you discovered?