Wednesday, 4 April 2018

farmland fandango

The triangle of land between the Sheung Yue River to the northwest, the Shek Sheung River to the northeast and the Fanling Highway to the south is extensively cultivated. It is also considered environmentally sensitive, to the extent that the Kowloon–Canton Railway (KCR) was obliged to go underground when it wanted to construct a line to Lok Ma Chau. It also poses some keen route-finding problems for cyclists, because it is criss-crossed by an extensive network of narrow paths, many of which lead nowhere.

However, it is only recently that I’ve had to confront any of these problems. When I first ventured west of the main railway line in 2012 (Across the Tracks), I hardly ever strayed off the Drainage Services Department (DSD) access roads, although I did once cross the footbridge opposite the village of Ho Sheung Heung. It didn’t take long to reach a dead end, and I thence confined my cycling to the DSD access roads and Ho Sheung Heung Road.

A few months later, where the DSD access road running alongside the Sheung Yue River ended, I discovered a ramp leading up to Kwu Tung Road, which crosses the expressway and thus allows exploration further west. Paula then found that the footbridge over the expressway about 100 metres to the right of the end of the DSD access road provides an even better option, so whenever we did the journey to the west or the long and winding road, we would use the footbridge on the outward journey and the ramp on the return.

That state of affairs persisted until this winter, when—to cut a long story down to more manageable proportions—I wondered whether there was anything worth exploring to the east of these two crossing points. It didn’t take me long to find another footbridge across the expressway, but that was only the beginning of my problems. How was I to reach the DSD access roads?

However, at this point I propose to jump ahead to the ‘finished article’. It turns out to be possible to combine the various paths in a variety of different ways, but Paula and I are now agreed on the optimum sequence—for now! The following video stills illustrate the various choices that have to be made.

The first shows the approach to a T-junction. A turn right doesn’t lead to an abrupt dead end, but the path becomes increasingly difficult to follow, while the left-hand option is straightforward:

The choice at the next T-junction is far less obvious. A turn right here is perfectly viable, although it is less interesting than the left-hand option:

For a while, I did turn right here, then by a circuitous route came back around from the left, but repeating a section of path in the same direction is not allowed in my rulebook.

The path to the left leads eventually to a road that is in a direct line from the footbridge, although it almost immediately dwindles to a path winding through a cultivated area. This is the way I came when I first visited the area, when I was surprised to discover that such a well-made path led nowhere:

But there is a turn-right option before the path peters out:

The ‘circuitous route’ that I referred to earlier came this way in reverse.

The path now becomes rougher and more broken, but it’s a while before another choice has to be made:

The left-hand option becomes impassable almost immediately.

The next decision to be made isn’t long in coming:

It’s possible to continue straight on here, ultimately arriving at the same place, but that option involves a short section on a road accessible to motor vehicles.

When I first came to the next T-junction, I recognized the cross-path immediately, because I’d explored it from the DSD access road running along the left bank of the Shek Sheung River, so it was easy to choose to turn left:

The route turns right at the final T-junction, although during my earlier explorations I had checked out the left-hand option. I’ve been wondering if I missed something here though, because according to Google Maps—not usually a reliable source—there is a path hereabouts that leads across the farmland to Ho Sheung Heung via the footbridge I referred to earlier.

Whenever I’m exploring an area like this, I have a three-dimensional mental map that connects everything together. Paula, however, can only memorize the route itself, which means that it takes her longer to become familiar with it. Nevertheless, when I asked her two days ago whether she now felt confident to lead, she accepted my challenge. This is the video:

Didn’t she do well!

Even though some of the buildings that you see in this video are very substantial, they’re technically ‘squatter’ houses. This doesn’t mean that they’re illegal, but they cannot be bought and sold. The exceptions are the village houses—a legal definition—on the right between 3:20 and 3:35, and between 6:22 and 6:27, on the video.

Finally, a word about the title of this post: a fandango is a lively Spanish dance. I could have got the alliteration by describing this endeavour as a ‘foxtrot’, but ‘fandango’ is also a slang term for a foolish enterprise and thus seems more appropriate.


  1. It may appear to be easy as long as you don't encounter young children running at their pace, elderly pushing fully loaded barrow, or local residents tearing down with their bikes coming towards you...

    1. Not many young children running around here, but there is the usual quota of incompetent locals on bikes. No such distractions on the video though!

  2. Your adventures are ongoing Dennis,
    the discoveries of new nooks & crannies in these New territories of yours.
    Where would we be without Google maps?

    1. Although I do use Google Maps Ian, I should point out that they are not particularly accurate and are useless for navigation. An old-fashioned ‘sense of direction’ is what’s needed around these parts.

  3. I really like what you guys are usually up too. This type of clever work and exposure!

    Keep up the very good works guys I've added you guys to blogroll.

  4. Hey Dennis, Good to see that you are still blogging. Of my regular blogger friends, you are one of the very few that is still at it. You are also one of the better writers and teachers. I just stumbled over the comment you left for me. I need to get used to using the new Blogger format. I will be back here soon. -- Bruce

    1. Hi Bruce. Welcome back. It’ s good to hear from you again after such a long absence.

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