Thursday, October 10, 2013

Georeferencing: Winnersh Triangle

Winnersh Triangle was another placename that just made my world as I used to wait on the train platform every morning in Isleworth. After Martins Heron, Bracknell, Wokingham, and Winnersh comes Winnersh Triangle, lilting along in its awkward way every day in the same order. While Martins Heron was almost idyllic in my mind (see previous post), Winnersh Triangle was just plain bizarre sounding.

There's something about the 'mushiness' of 'Winnersh' juxtaposed against the exactness and precision of 'Triangle' that is quite compelling for me. Also, a word like Winnersh would not appear in a North American placename, at least that is the way it seems to me when I'm waiting for the train in Isleworth (the latter with its weird (to my ears) enunciated 's').

The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names (Watts, 2004) has a listing for Winnersh but not Winnersh Triangle, because the latter is a train station, a 'place along the way' in between two other more primary places that gain a foothold in the scholarly listings simply by being included. Winnersh means 'ploughed field by the meadow' (Watts, 2004, page 686).  (wynn + ersc from Old English)

I did a search on Geonames to see how common the word 'triangle' is in place-names. World-wide, the word triangle appears in the GeoNames database 632 times, with multiple entries for places with names like 'Lac Triangle' in Quebec (which really does not look much like a triangle: irregular polygon would be more fitting). In the UK, the word triangle appears in the geonames database 3 times with: The Golden Triangle (a locality in Norfolk), Central Belt Lowland Triangle (an area in Scotland), and the railway station Winnersh Triangle.

Wikipedia notes the following about Winnersh Triangle: "Housing and then light industry followed the railway, and now Winnersh has two stations, Winnersh and Winnersh Triangle, the latter also being the name of the industrial estate that it serves. Modern Winnersh exists mostly as a sleeper town. Relentless housing development on all sides will soon see Winnersh exist as part of an urban continuum between Reading and London (citation needed)."

Winnersh Triangle then occupies a marginal or in-between position relative to both Winnersh itself, and to London/Reading.  This is part of its appeal for me.  A place with a name like this can only be marginal, to my mind, and can thus only be that much more attractive as a place to visit and study.

When you click on "Winnersh Triangle" in the GeoNames listing you are taken to an area that does indeed have three angles, a part of which does appear to be very industrial.  The edges of the 'triangle' are quite wobbly but smooth, almost as if the triangle is melting or slowly morphing into something else, perhaps a circle or an irregular polygon.  Winnersh 'proper' extends beyond the bounds of the triangle, but not that far.  

Have I visited Winnersh Triangle?  Yes, but only with my eyes from the window of the train.  This place is much more abstract in my mind than is Martins Heron, an observation directly attributable to the presence of the word triangle in the former, and the word heron in the latter.  But occurring as they did on the same string of place-names (and they are both legitimate placenames as evidenced by their listing on GeoNames, even though the Cambridge Dictionary does not list them, nor could it list every last named place in the topos of the UK), and the juxtapositions they placed in my mind (Martins Heron, Bracknell, Wokingham, Winnersh, Winnersh Triangle), by the time I managed to view these magical places in the flesh, my body was exceeding that visitation.  I was on my way to Reading, then Oxford with a return ticket to Egham the same day.

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