EARLEY Despite the name – Earley derives from the Anglo-Saxon words for eagle and wood – there is nothing rural on the horizon here. There are three parts to Earley – Maiden Erlegh, Lower Earley and Earley proper. By some calculations Lower Earley is the third biggest housing estate in Europe, clamped to the southern underbelly of Reading, right beside the M4. Prices range upwards from £125,000 for one bedroom to £425,000 for five bedrooms, but some residents describe living here as tough. The provision of facilities has not kept pace with new houses. Old Earley has the oldest and most expensive properties – older in this context meaning late 19th and early 20th century. Prices range from £180,000 for a two- or three-bedroom Victorian terraced house to £300,000 for a three-bedroom semi and £480,000 for a large four-bedroom house. Maiden Erlegh Park is a belt of ancient woodland with a lake, maintained as a community nature reserve.
The area is nicer than the less appealing parts of Reading, but still rather a suburban sprawl. The centre of Reading is about 15 minutes away by car, and the ‘village’ – a misnomer if ever there was one – is enlivened by a large hall of residence for students of Reading University, mostly overseas mature students.