Our latest hike had us scrambling, climbing, and at times crawling around the Shing Mun Redoubt above Tsuen Wan. This piece of Hong Kong's wartime history is well described at hksw.org/Shing%20Mun.htm. That web-page also shows a copy of the map by Mike Nolan that we used. We started off from the Shing Mun reservoir and walked up the Maclehose Trail to the most obvious landmark, an electricity pylon built at the top of a low ridge. If you go under the pylon to the edge of the ridge, you can see the ruins of pillbox 402.
Head back under the pylon, and you'll see the roof of one of the tunnels stretching out like a path in front of you. Originally they were covered with earth, but in many places that has washed away.
The square blocks you see are ventilation shafts. These were poorly designed -- as you can see they are wide enough for a soldier to climb down and into the tunnels.
A short way along the tunnel you'll find a hole in the roof, where you can climb down inside. Much of the damage to the tunnels was done by British guns firing on the invaders from Mount Davis on Hongkong island.
Be careful of the mud, but the tunnels are high enough to move through easily.
Someone with a sense of humour originally named the tunnels after famous streets in London. Here you are walking through Picadilly, moving away from pillbox 402.
Take the first right turn into Haymarket, which will take you out to pillbox 403.
Whoa, something just ran across the torch beam -- a rat? a snake? Fortunately just a small frog enjoying the damp, muddy conditions.
It looks as though cracks in the walls have been a problem for local residents since long before there were high-rise apartment blocks. These glass plates can be found at many locations in the tunnels, dated 20 Jan 1940, and apparently put in place to check for further subsidence.
From pillbox 403 you'll be overlooking the back of Tsuen Wan. It's overgrown now, but when the hillsides were bare (as is shown in old photos of the redoubt) you'd have had a clear view of the surrounding area.
From here we retrace our steps to Picadilly, and turn right up the steps. At the top you'll come to an opening, with a choice of Regent Street or Shaftesbury Avenue.
Enter Shaftesbury avenue, and follow this path until you reach an open section where it crosses the Maclehose trail. In this passage you'll find some graffiti that is much older than the recent spray-paint variety. This is said to be the name of the group of Japanese soldiers that captured the redoubt, that they chipped into the wall after their victory.
On the opposite side of the trail you'll see the entrance to Charing Cross,
but unfortunately a peek into the tunnel shows it is flooded.
Instead we followed the Maclehose Trail up the steps to the Observation Point that is the highest point of the redoubt. You can see why it was chosen, as it has a view from Tsuen Wan round past the upper and on to the lower Shing Mun reservoirs.
Far left is Tsuen Wan, then Tai Mo. Next you see the upper Shing Mun reservoir, and at the right is the lower reservoir. This panorama was taken from the Shing Mun Redoubt, part pf HK's wartime defenses described in more detail here.
Inside the observation point you'll see a tunnel heading down to the "Strand Palace Hotel", which was the name of the headquarters. Unfortunately that tunnel is blocked, so we walked down the hill to the HQ instead. That is also full of silt, and we already knew the Charing Cross was filled with mud and water, so after a quick look inside we headed back into Shaftesbury Avenue. From there we take a right turn into Oxford Street, and head along to pillbox 400.
Once again, there is not much of the pillbox left to see. My fellow hiker tells me that the pillboxes in the New Territories were blown up after the war, when there was concern they would be used by communist insurgents.
Squeezing back into the tunnel from Pillbox 400 is a tight fit -- don't have a big lunch before starting this trip!
Oxford Street is in the best condition of all the passages, and still has its drainage pits working well, so the passage is dry and free of mud.
At pillbox 401 you are at the northern tip of the redoubt, with a clear view along the lower reservoir.
We thought we would soon be finished. We cut from Oxford Street into Regent Street.
From there we walked back to Picadilly, planning to see the Regent Palace Hotel, which was originally the main entrance to the redoubt. We could see some light in the passage to that entrance, but the gap was too small to squeeze through.
Heading back outside, we see a "Danger, keep out" sign. These are usually a good indication of something interesting, so surely the entrance must be close by?
In fact we spent another hour crashing through undergrowth until we finally found signs of an entrance.
There it is, all points covered!
It took us most of an afternoon to work our way around, but it was well worth it. From that main entrance we followed the path down through the BBQ pits, finishing off with a short walk along the reservoir, and back to the minibus.