North Bench Tor
North Tor, Bench Tor, Benchy Tor, North Benchator, Benjy Tor, Benjay Tor, Benjie Tor
The River Dart below Dartmeet meanders between billowing hills that are crowned with domineering crags that top the wooded canopy on both sides. After passing beneath Luckey Tor, the river approaches a rocky section known as Broada Stones (Broadstone) and bends to the right where high above its right bank lies the magnificent rocks of North Bench Tor standing sentinel above the valley.
This tor, as its name suggests, is the northernmost of the outcrops that stud the Bench Tor ridge that continues in spectacular fashion southward for 400 metres or so towards the South Tor, and, as Crossing (1912) remarks, "consists of several piles, two of them being named in an old deed North Bench Tor and South Bench Tor respectively, which overlook the Gorge of the Dart. Another is known as the Eagle Rock." The exact location of the Eagle Rock remains unknown to us; even Hemery's (1983) reference - that being to "One of the smaller piles" - gives no precise details about which of the numerous outcrops it refers to. Some speculate that the North Tor and Eagle Rock are one and the same, but this cannot be proven and is certainly not in keeping with the previous commentaries on its location.
The bold promontory of the tor reveals an awesome rock face on the south-east side that plunges down the hill in dramatic fashion. You will see that the rock type halfway down is unique in its composition appearing as a pale-coloured rock with smooth edges. Collingwood (2017) explains that "This is due to the presence of an intrusion of aplite or 'granulite' - a fine grained granite that was intruded as a result of late hydrothermal activity after the main magma intrusion." This characteristic of the tor makes it beloved by rock climbers who take advantage of its strong holds.
North Bench Tor's hanging cliff gives way to an immense rock field on the north and east slopes that tumbles down to the Dart; moss-covered emergent outcrops are found below the main mass but are rarely visited on account of the surrounding difficult, steep terrain. Below North Tor on the south-western slope, two abandoned millstones can be found at SX 68987 71842 and SX 68971 71828 respectively - these reminiscent of stone cutting in the area many years ago. Bench Tor is easily accessible due to its close proximity to Venford Reservoir where there are two car parks. From the eastern end of the dam the walker may choose from a number of grassy paths that lead to different sections of the tors many outcrops, however from this perspective they are noticeably low. But head to the North Tor that is backdropped by Sharp and Mel Tors and experience a thrilling vista that encompasses much of the beautiful Dart Gorge and you will not be disappointed.