Even though Hong Kong is a small city, there are many hidden gems that are off the beaten track, and Green Hub is one of them. I only discovered this place via google map while I was in Tai Po after a visit to the Tsz Shan Monastery. Originally I was simply looking for a place to have lunch, but then I ended up spending hours there, which was completely spontaneous.
Green Hub is situated at the site of the Grade I listed Old Tai Po Police Station up on a Tai Po Wan Tau Tong Hill that overlooks Tai Po. This site was also the location where the British flag-raising ceremony took place, marking the official British takeover of the New Territories in 1899. The Police Station was erected in the same year as the Police Headquarters of the New Territories and lasted until 1949, but eventually closed down in 1987.
In 2010, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden had been selected to transform the Old Tai Po Police Station into a ‘Green Hub for Sustainable Living’. The Hub offers a range of low-carbon living programmes and workshops to help individuals and organisations understand the low-carbon living alternatives to unsustainable consumption that is causing climate change and rapid resource depletion. Opened in 2015, this revitalisation project was recognised with an Honourable Mention in the 2016 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
The wooden planks (pictured above) are actually recycled railway sleepers collected from the nearby Tai Po market station
The site comprises of three buildings: Main Building, Canteen Block and Staff Quarters, and they are arranged around an open lawn. The colonial style architecture is an excellent example of east meets west. It features verandah and louvre windows catered for the hot and humid climate in Hong Kong, and Chinese-styled timber roof structure with double-layered pan and roll tiles that are commonly used in Hong Kong’s colonial buildings. The design of the site reflected a utilitarian approach, which adopted a rather irregular form for the Main Building. The conservation team used archive photographs to restore the architectural details, and even repainted the buildings to match the original colour.
An old Camphor Tree Cinnamomum camphora near the entrance
The Canteen Block has been transformed into the Eat Well Canteen to promote low-carbon food culture. The canteen serves fresh, seasonal, locally-sourced, and fair-trade vegetarian dishes that aim to minimise energy during the cooking process, as well as reduce food waste.
Vegetarian food at Eat Well Canteen
Next to the canteen is the kitchen’s garden where herbs and vegetables are grown, and they are used as the ingredients for canteen, so they are guaranteed to be fresh. And on Saturdays, organic vegetables, herbs, and eggs from the Kadoorie farm and the garden would be available for sale in their eco shop. The Canteen also makes and sells homemade bakery products, seasonal sweet or salty pickles and different styles of sauce. Meanwhile, there are regular cooking classes and farming workshops that promotes the ethos of the hub and farm.
The Kitchen garden and eco shop
After lunch, I found out that there was a free one-hour guided tour of the site, so I signed up for it. The tour was very informative and it enabled us to visit the inner quarter that is normally not open to the public.
We first visited the heritage display of the Old Tai Po Police Station that has been carefully preserved. Visitors can see the typical setting and layout of a colonial Police Station with a report room, retention cell and armoury.
In order to fully appreciate this heritage site, one must join the guided tour as it enables visitors to enter the beautiful inner courtyard that is not normally open to the public. The once unappealing inner courtyard has been redesigned to an Enchanted Garden to enhance natural ventilation within the Main Building. Around the courtyard are the Police Quarters that have been converted into a guesthouse. The guest house have twelve rooms that can accommodate 24 guests, and they are available as single, twin, triple-bed to six-bed rooms at reasonable prices.
Standing in the courtyard, it is easier to appreciate the restored decorative architectural details, such as the Dutch gables, windows with voussoir-shaped mouldings and aprons, ornamented fireplaces, chimneys with moulding and cast iron downpipes with hopper-head.
The inner courtyard
Before the tour ended, our guide took us to the Seminar Room where we could observe twenty or more egrets resting not far from the site. Apparently, the northern slope of the Old Police Station is a nesting and breeding site for egrets and herons. Hence, a bird screen is in place along the walking path at the northern side of the Greeb Hub to reduce disturbance to wild birds that nest in the Egretry. The ecologists here continue to monitor the Tai Po Market Egretry, and in the summer of 2015, they counted more birds nesting nearby than before the renovation began.
After leaving Green Hub, I was curious about the red brick buidling nearby and decided to walk up the hill to explore. Built around 1907, this building used to be the Old District Office North and was the earliest seat of the colonial civil administration of the New Territories. The building also housed a magistrate’s court until 1961, but now it is used by the New Territories Eastern Region Headquarters of The Scout Association of Hong Kong. Although you can’t go inside the building, you can walk around outside to appreciate the architecture and the surrounding nature.
Law Ting Pong Scout Centre
It was very calm and quiet as I walked along the path towards the Tai Po Contour Sitting-out Area located up on a small hill. I was surprised to see so much greenery here, which is a huge contrast from the bustling Tai Po market not far away.
As city dwellers, we often think that we need to escape the city in order to find tranquility, yet we forget that nature may be around the corner from where we live. When we look harder, we would find that nature is really everywhere.
Tai Po Contour Sitting-out Area