For our #TeamOn December series, we spoke to Co Founder & Executive Director John Denton about the great outdoors, and his unbridled love of walking and hiking.
Most people master the art of walking within the first 12 months of life. I think I did, but obviously I can’t remember.
To most people, walking is a necessity, something that one has to do to get from the house to the car, and from the office carpark to their desk. I have to admit, that pretty much describes the sum of my weekday walking activity. However, that wasn’t always the case.
I grew up in a village to the north of an industrial town in Lancashire, United Kingdom. The village lay against open moorland which ran north for many miles. As a boy it was my “playground”, hiking for miles, out the entire day, enjoying nature, clean air, freedom, and the elements (whatever the weather threw at me).
I loved the great outdoors, and my legs and feet were my mode of transport. As a young man I loved hiking, rock climbing, fell running, mountaineering, anything that got me outside.
My first job was working in the drawing office of an engineering firm, in the same northern industrial town in which I grew up. This was my first experience of commuting, which I did on foot. Door to door was approximately 3 miles, and I thought nothing of walking there and back each day, which I did for 6 years (apart from the occasional lift or two from friends and family).
A number of years went by, and I found myself in Hong Kong, living in the heart of Central mid-levels. Not an ideal spot for a lad that loves open spaces.
My love of getting around on two feet was unfulfilled pretty much immediately on arrival in Hong Kong, as I found the air pollution around Central too hard on my lungs, and I was worried about long term damage. However, for the first year I walked to work most mornings.
Living on Staunton Street, and working at the start of Hennessey road, it was approximately 1.5 miles, going via the quiet streets behind the Governor’s house, and through Hong Kong Park, it was actually very pleasant. If I’m honest, it wasn’t as pleasant in the summer months, but it was still a good way to start your day. My evening commute, I’m afraid to say, tended to go via a bar or two, culminating in a taxi fare.
Unfortunately, my morning routine ended when a new place of work was too far to walk. Since then, it’s been bus, MTR, taxi, or car.
After 5 years living in Central, I had to escape the bars, crowded streets, and pollution, for the relatively clean air and open space of Sai Kung, where I’ve lived for the past 17 years.
My weekday commute hasn’t changed much, I’m still reliant on car or public transport, but my weekends are open to mountains and costal paths; wonderful.
I do fear, however, for the future of Sai Kung, as over the past 17 years I have seen the population of Sai Kung double, easily doubling the number of cars on the road. The number of weekend visitors to Sai Kung has also increased dramatically, putting tremendous strain on facilities, and obviously bringing even more cars.
It’s interesting how the government has responded to this increase in traffic; rather than try and solve the problem, their answer is to create a highway. A much better solution, surely, is to arrange for fast commuter boats to go to and from Quarry Bay, Causeway Bay, and Central, just like the ones that service Discovery Bay.
In my 22 years here, I’ve never been able to understand why Hong Kong doesn’t embrace its waterfront, like all the great waterfront cities of the world do. Let’s face it, Hong Kong has two waterfronts, and the ability to link them together is a very compelling idea, and one that should be seriously considered.
Green open harbour front spaces, traffic free zones, and clean air, is possible, it’s simply a question of Government’s attitude. Here’s to an active, healthy Hong Kong. Here’s to proposals like HarbourLoop!
Photo: taken by John on one of his hikes