By: Blonde Two

Down here in our little corner (and many other corners) of Devon we are blessed with a network of green lanes that run across the farmland between villages and are often ideal for planning DofE routes (particularly Bronze routes, but can also be useful navigation training as even the most competent of ‘bearing walkers’ can find themselves unstuck when faced with a criss-cross of pathways). The other thing that our green lanes are good for is checking rucksack fitness because, as the roads tend to go round the contours, the green lanes usually go across them. Devon green lanes can be characterised by their high hedges, which are often planted on top of mud and moss-covered stone walls, their narrow nature (although some do permit motor vehicles, look out for the green crosses on the map), their stinging nettles (in the summer) and their acres of mud.

We first navigated the Chocolate River (then christened ‘Puddle Lane’) back in our early days of DofE leadership.It is precisely because all of the green lanes look so alike, that Blonde One and I, when we are planning routes, can’t always remember exactly which contains the Chocolate River. Even if we could, we wouldn’t choose to avoid it as obstacles like this that offer great opportunity for laughter (always good for morale), decision making (to reroute or not), team building (can we get everyone through) and a lesson in how to clean boots. During our recent DofE training camp and walk (with a most excellent, appreciative and friendly team from Trinity School in Teignmouth) we made much of the Chocolate River as we waded through lane after lane of brown mud. ‘Is this the Chocolate River?’ became the question of the day. Until we found it… and then there was no doubt.

The Chocolate River offers the intrepid explorer two, equally unsatisfactory, options,

  1. Scramble along a slippery, sloping mud bank about two feet above water level and risk an undignified soaking if you slip off.
  2. Wade through the opaque, chocolate-looking (but not smelling) water in the certain knowledge that, at any moment, you will experience that ‘my boots have been breached’ cold, wet feeling and have to empty them at river’s end.

I have tried both options and like neither but let’s just say that, this time, my boots are still drying out!