Dartmoor: Oddy, Nympenhole, Viper - separating fact from fiction
The paragraph that piqued Tim's interest; "On the north-east is Ease Down, with its long slopes, and the granite pile upon its highest point; and below Ease Down, Manaton Tor; above the church, and below Manaton, a spur runs out between the valleys, and there are Latchell Tor, Nympenhole, and the Ridge."
Using this, Tim was able to rediscover Latchell Tor many years ago, within the Letchole Plantation. Nympenhole, however, proved elusive. The main issue is that most of the land from Water along to Houndtor Ridge is inaccessible to the public.
I should point out that it is always better to seek landowner permission when on private land. On this occasion, we were on a marked track and saw no "Private" or "Keep Out" signs to deter us.
|Water Rock (Alternative)|
Now we turned our attention to Nympenhole; plotting a rough sight line on a map, from King's Tor to Latchell and further to the ridge (which is obviously Houndtor Ridge), narrows down its location.
I had also found, online, that the book had been serialised in a newspaper called the Palace Journal, This began in 1886 with the purpose of providing an educational and cultural centre for London's east end community. An archive can be found on the Queen Mary University of London Archives. Our section of interest was published on 16 January 1889.
Within, it revealed a further mention of Nympenhole, when describing the location of a house called Gratnor. ".. Beyond the stream the ground rises steeply. This is the slope of Oddy Tor, by some called Nympenhole and by others Viper Tor. It is clothed with thick woods, dark and impenetrable, which hide the moss grown boulders on the top."
Of course, this was fiction and there was every likelihood that Gratnor only existed within the book so I checked both the 1881 and 1891 census to confirm there was no house of that name in the area. I expected that outcome, but as the author had used actual names of other places on Dartmoor, there was every chance that the surroundings were very real and our lost tor existed.
|Outcrop within a wall|
We came to our prize a few minutes later, exactly where we had expected it to be! We were certain we had found the tor mentioned by Sir Walter Besant; "Oddy Tor, by some called Nympenhole and by others Viper Tor".
We arrived back at the cars, in Manaton, with time on our side. Tim suggested he could show me a hidden outcrop on the steep slopes of Trendlebere Down, a short drive to the south of here. I'll leave that for another post.
UPDATE 04/11/2018A look at the Tithe Map for Manaton has revealed two plots of land; "No. 686 - Higher Nympkinhole" and "No. 689 - Lower Nympkinhole" sitting below another tor, discovered by Tim Jenkinson, called Water Cleave Tor at SX 716 814.
Beside these two plots of land is another called "No. 684 - Grattner Moor".
So, whilst Sir Walter Besant's descriptions do not fit, it is likely that Water Cleave is the inspiration for the tor from his book but we must also consider that perhaps the name "Nympenhole" was taken and some artistic licence was applied to the locality. If it is our error in interpretation, how odd (or Oddy even) is it that his text led us straight to this other tor? If it is our error, I, for one, am glad because we would never have discovered it.