Reply To: Hong Kong’s Historic Boulder Trails


Another media article, in China Daily, includes:


Guy Shirra was shocked and disappointed. After years of exploring Hong Kong’s ancient boulder trails, tirelessly petitioning government departments to preserve the footpaths, and personally excavating some forgotten tracks, Shirra received a bittersweet e-mail from the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) in July.

The AMO had hired a private consultant to duplicate much of his own work. Adding insult to injury, Shirra didn’t learn of the government’s plan, until nearly two years after official procedures had excluded him from making an alternative proposal. An AMO representative said that Shirra just wasn’t qualified, based on “established government procedures.”

Old trails of unknown antiquity connect Sai Kung with an ancient network of boulder trackways, which once provided the sole thoroughfare between Hong Kong’s disconnected villages and market towns. Before British warships and engineers arrived, the footpaths seamlessly had connected the pre-colonial region with the rest of Guangdong Province. Some routes led directly to the central city Guangzhou.

Hong Kong’s ancient trails have, over time, been supplemented by newer hiking trails and paved roads. Motor vehicle roads are a relatively recent addition to Sai Kung and other parts of New Territories, and frequent pedestrian traffic from hikers and rural villagers has continued on the old paths.

Shirra began researching. He contacted a prominent New Territories scholar, Patrick Hase (author and longtime British expat), who suggested he review British survey maps from 1903 that noted prominent Chinese trackways throughout Hong Kong. The amateur historian followed Hase’s advice.

“I then discovered that the Hong Kong Archaeological Society had done this survey at the request of what was then called the Urban Council. They had come up with what were nine of the most important boulder trails — to which the AMO added to make a total of 14 (by 1986) — and (the Society) strongly recommended that a full survey be done and the best examples of these trails be given protection under the ordinance, but absolutely nothing was done about it,” he says. 

Shirra wrote a few trail guides to Sai Kung’s boulder pathways, and he uploaded the files with photos on a Google sites page titled, “Hong Kong Boulder Trackways”. He has also tried to convince the Sai Kung District Council to make one of the paths a pilot project for protecting similar paths around Hong Kong — to no avail.

Trekking ancient pathways