Black Tor Rock
On the steep slopes to the north of West Okement River under the piles of Black Tor, there is a spectacular proliferation of broken granite that spills through the ancient oak wood of Black-a-tor Beare or Copse. That said it is surprising to see that both the trees and rocks have received comparatively little attention in the literature compared to the much better known Wistman's Wood near Two Bridges. Perhaps one of the best commentators on Black-a-tor is R.H. Worth (1953) who explains that the 'length of the wood is about 1000 yards' and that its width is 'from under 50 yards to over 100 yards'. He dates the current copse to about 1620 meaning that the present trees are now around 400 years old.
At the north western end he describes the ground 'as very bouldery but is the easiest of access in the whole copse'. He notes that 'within the wood boulders are very numerous and form much of the surface.' His commentary also provides a detailed assessment of the stature of the trees including measurements of height and girth.
Indeed it is at the north west end of the trees where the most impressive boulders reside. A short distance above the main path there is a wonderland of twisted oaks and humpbacked mossy rocks. The granite here is piled up through the trees like a secret but totally ruinous tor in a wilderness of rock. Some of the giant boulders have tumbled to the river's edge and further, a particularly striking example can be seen in the river bed at SX 5633 8937. Dave Brewer (DB 2002) notes this fine boulder, which is known as 'Black Tor Rock' (BTR), in his book on Dartmoor Boundary Markers and explains that it is one of two natural, uninscribed rocks in the West Okement River that denote the edge of the parish bounds of Okehampton Hamlets, the other being further downstream just above Vellake Corner. Unfortunately DB supplies a NGR of SX 5665 8885 for BTR that misplaces it by some 700 metres or so upstream to the south-east.
According to the Visit Dartmoor website Black-a-Tor Copse 'is one of the best examples of high altitude oak woodland in Britain. The lichens and mosses that drape the trees are nationally important and grow here in this unique clean air woodland. This is no average wood, granite clitter (rocks) is scattered in clearings and the wood is surrounded by moorland heath. This is a great place to come for moorland birds and to soak up an unusual part of the moors'.