TORS OF DARTMOOR

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Birch Tor

Warren Tor

Situated high above one of Dartmoor's most extensively mined areas lies Birch Tor, a beautiful rockpile that is essentially split into two main sections like an avenue. The southern is the lower, but it is the much more statuesque and shapely of the two, sitting atop a granite throne that peers over centuries' worth of heavily worked tin mines that have created dark gullies like scars, the most well-known and largest ones being called Birch Tor and Vitifer Mine and Golden Dagger Mine. This outcrop displays closely-packed horizontal jointings that run parallel to the slope of the hill.

There is a sizeable break in rock as you ascend slightly to the northern pile; this presents as a series of low outcrops, many emergent, that illustrate irregular jointings that are a stark contrast to those at the aforementioned lower pile, barring the topmost rock. From the northern section of Birch Tor can be seen Birch Tor Barrow, a tumulus near the top of the hill that straddles a path. This site is likely of prehistoric origin and Historic England describes it "as an 18m diameter flat-topped mound standing up to 2.2m high. A substantial hollow on the southern side of the mound represents the site of partial stone robbing by a road contractor in 1925. This work revealed an internal stone kerb, two slabs of which are still visible in the undisturbed part of the cairn." Adjacent to this is one of the Warren Boundstones, inscribed WB; they denote the edges of Headland Warren, a once active warren in the immediate vicinity.

The tor is prominent from all southerly and westerly vantage points, but especially from the B3212 road by the Warren House Inn and Bennett's Cross. Despite this, Crossing (1912) writes very dismissively stating that "We shall find nothing remarkable on Birch Tor..." This comment by the author fails to capture the tor's stature which is indeed splendid. Views from the tor are memorable and embrace the valleys of the Redwater Brook and West Webburn River. To the east and south are Hookney Tor and Hameldown Tor rising boldly above the prehistoric settlement of Grimspound, and the impressive Hameldown massif stretches southward like an impenetrable wall; Challacombe Down presents as a whaleback where its triple stone row may be seen; to the west is the huge expanse of the North Moor, including Higher White Tor, the distant pimple of Rough Tor and the many hills that sink into the East Dart, and Assycombe Hill with the Fernworthy treeline.

Access is quite simple and there are multiple ways to reach Birch Tor, but Bennett's Cross is perhaps the easiest with a direct path heading to the tor, descending and ascending wooden steps as it passes through Hambleys and Birch Tor Lodes. Due to the unstable nature of these workings with hidden adits it is advised that you do not deviate from the route. The wealth of former activity in the Redwater Brook valley that can be observed from Birch Tor, described by mindat.org as "possibly the largest and most productive of the moor tin mines", is a reminder of how much value the area was to one of Dartmoor's most important industries, and the visitor by all means should spend some time examining this interesting view from Birch Tor as well as exploring the tor's fascinating structure.

Birch Tor
The map above is not a navigation tool and we recommend that the grid reference shown below is used in conjunction with an Ordnance Survey map and that training in its use with a compass is advised.
Grid Ref:
SX 6867 8143
Height:
483m
Parish:
North Bovey
Tor Classification:
Emergent
Access:
Public
Rock Type:
Granite
Credit:
Ordnance Survey
Reference:
Ordnance Survey Maps
William Crossing (1912): Guide to Dartmoor
mindat.org: Birch Tor & Vitifer Mine

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