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Black Tor (Butterdon)

There is no denying that some tors on Dartmoor are majestic outcrops that stud the various hilltops and valley sides that draw in visitors from all over, yet there are occasionally very disappointing outcrops that make one question the definition of a 'tor'. The best examples are perhaps Aish Tor near to Poundsgate and Black Tor below Butterdon Hill, but the latter is interesting in so much that it was mentioned in a book by the well-respected author Samuel Rowe.

In a Perambulation of Dartmoor from 1848, on p.169, Rowe refers to a Black Tor above Black Pool and the only possible candidate for the name is this exceedingly unremarkable set of emergent granite rocks just to the east of the Harford/Ugborough parish boundary. Described in passing from Western Beacon, the author writes: "Bending our steps northwards, and skirting the western slope of the hill, we shall notice some remains of hut-circles, and observe below Black Tor, a large pond, which, in winter, might almost aspire to the distinction of a mountain tarn." One may question the possibility of this name being in reference to Butterdon Hill, as in old times the term 'tor' was sometimes used to refer to a hill, but that cannot be true here as Butterdon is mentioned on the previous page. Interestingly, though, this Black Tor is omitted from Rowe's 'List of the Tors, Hills, Eminences, and Rocks of Dartmoor and its Borders'.

The site that Rowe most probably refers to is a completely disintegrated rockpile at SX 6556 5844; indeed Ken Ringwood (2013) refers to "one tiny granite outcrop with a small amount of associated clitter", and Terry Bound (1991) speaks of "no obvious pile as such, but there is a small stack ten metres to the east of the line of boundary-markers". However, the tor does provide a lovely bench from which to sit and admire the distant views off the edge of the moor, a vista that the southernmost part of Dartmoor illustrates so wonderfully of the South Hams with the coast visible on a clear day.

To compensate for the ruined tor, there is an abundance of nearby historical interest, such as on the path to the west between Black Pool and Butterdon Hill where there are a number of parish boundstones that denote the boundaries of Harford and Ugborough. This parish boundary is believed to contain the most boundary markers of any Dartmoor parish boundary at over 80. The stones nearer Brown Heath in the north are hard to locate because they are so buried, but those near to Black Tor are fine examples and one at SX 65507 58270 is marked on maps as the 'Longstone' on account of its thin outline.

On Butterdon itself, a short rise above the tor, there is an Ordnance Survey triangulation point and prehistoric cairns, whilst just to the north-east is the southern terminus of Dartmoor's second-longest stone row, the Piles Hill to Butterdon row, which runs parallel to the aforementioned parish boundary. Inspite of Black Tor's lack of stature, there is so much in the immediate vicinity for the rambler to visit, and for the sake of the excellent views commanded it is worth a quick look whilst walking along the path between the aforementioned pool and hill.

Black Tor (Butterdon)
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 6556 5844
Tor Classification:
Rock Type:
Samuel Rowe
Samuel Rowe (1848): A Perambulation of Dartmoor
Terry Bound (1991): The A to Z of Dartmoor Tors
Ken Ringwood (2013): Dartmoor's Tors and Rocks

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