Monday, July 7, 2008

Running routes: Wessex Estate

This isn’t really a running route, just notes associated with running through Wessex Estate if you would like an exploratory jaunt.

Wessex Estate is one of those new-old estates slated for redevelopment into a lifestyle/arts&culture hub (as if we weren’t drowning in iconic,*-of-the-east, little bohemian hubs already). It forms a triumvirate with Tanglin Village and Rochester Park. [Gillman Village is a possible fourth candidate.]

Of the three mentioned above, Wessex Estate is the least developed, the most remote, and in my opinion, the most interesting. It’s also the only one with substantial numbers of people still living there.

It’s very quiet, and interesting to visit if only for the black and white colonial buildings scattered around the intensely British-named Woking, Whitchurch, Weyhill, Wilton and Westbourne roads. Some buildings house art studios and galleries. Around Woking road, you’ll also see several small blocks of colonial style apartments rented out by United Premas.

The blocks are presumably named after the sites of battles, battles that a British regiment formerly housed here during colonial times fought in. I can’t confirm this as I only heard it from one of the residents here.

The names of some of the apartment blocks are as follows. The modern day countries these places are located in are in parentheses, though bear in mind that some of these places now span across more than one country today.

Aden (Yemen)
Chitral (Pakistan)
Khartoum (Sudan)
Tangier (Morocco)
Lucknow, Hyderabad (India)
Namur, Mons, Flanders (Belgium)
Marne, Arras, Cambrai (France)
Barossa, Gallipol, Inkerman, Pegu (no idea where)
Quebec (common sense would imply Canada, although it doesn't seem consistent with the WWII hypothesis)

Other interesting places to see include the famous Colbar (which has attained cult status among expatriates, although personally I don’t see what all the fuss is about: faded pictures from the 50s and ceiling fans notwithstanding), and new chic hangout spots like Cicada.

If you’re keen to run Wessex Estate, the street directory will pretty much tell you all you need to know about the layout of the roads in Wessex Estate. It’s a pretty small place, and exploring it on foot won’t take too long if you a reasonably fast runner. It’s also easily accessible from either Biopolis or Fusionopolis.

Wessex Estate as it stands now probably won’t be around forever. With Biopolis and Fusionopolis expanding, the area will either be redeveloped completely, or more likely, it will be ‘gentrified’ into a clone of Tanglin Village or Rochester Park. I put the word ‘gentrified’ in inverted commas as the residents of Wessex Estate aren’t doing too shabbily themselves. Many of the residents here are expatriates and the rental here probably isn’t cheap. In addition, I spotted a Jaguar and a 2-seater Benz while I was running through it over a Sunday.


Wessex Estate is small, but not necessarily easy to run because the terrain can get hilly, particularly on Woking Road.

It’s possible to enter the Southern Ridges after exiting Wessex Estate to the south. To do so, run south along Portsdown Road past Gloucester Camp and Ayer Rajah Camp, then cross the overhead bridge over the AYE. Run east towards Normanton Park. Just before Normanton Park, you should see a flight of stairs on your right that leads up to Science Park I. Going up the stairs will take you to Technology Crescent, which runs between the Rutherford and the Cavendish. This is only a short distance away from the entrance to Kent Ridge Park. Entering the Southern Ridges creates all kinds of possibilities for furthering your run.

Conventional wisdom states that Wessex Estate is inaccessible to public transport and difficult to get to except by car. Road access is via Portsdown Road, which runs from North Buona Vista Road to the AYE.

There is an alternative way of getting into Wessex Estate. Opposite the Commonwealth MRT station is a rather run-down HDB estate situated around the roads Commonwealth Drive and Tanglin Halt Road. Find Block 68; it abuts the KTM railway track where the fence surrounding the railway is in disrepair and is no longer maintained. Crossing the railway track and a small grass field will bring you immediately into Woking Road and the apartment blocks of Wessex Estate.

[The fence surrounding the KTM railway has in fact broken down in several places stretching from Blessed Sacrament Church till Block 79. But the point at Block 68 is the most convenient to make the crossing.]

[Incidentally, Block 79 of this estate affords direct access to the rear of Biopolis, where Immunos is. If you commute to work at Neuros or Immunos, it might be quicker to the office if you alight at Commonwealth MRT station instead of at Buona Vista. Not recommended if you wear heels though.]

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