September 2005


Earley Old English 'Earnley -eagle wood'
Welcome to the first newsletter of the Earley Environmental Group. Our numbers are steadily increasing, and together we can provide a powerful voice in the future to protect and enhance our local natural environment. Just adding your name to the membership is already contributing to this protection. Earley is a pleasant place to live, with many positive attributes, and so it has become increasingly popular and urbanised. Urbanised it may be, but it doesn't mean that little can be done to keep or improve our remaining green spaces and all of us, as a group, can do something in the coming years to ensure this. The newsletter will keep you informed and, hopefully, open people's eyes to what is on offer environmentally in Earley.


We are a fledgling group, and a beginning has been made with baseline environmental surveys for the civil parish of Earley not a small task. As soon as these are completed, we can then go ahead with more detailed survey work, when members can, if they wish to, contribute by giving some of their time (no expertise needed). We have ideas for many projects, which we will outline in future newsletters - so much to do, but Rome wasn't built in a day! Firstly, we are especially keen to record all notable trees in Earley, and to survey and record the remnants of old hedges. In the meantime, keep sending in your garden wildlife surveys - extra forms are available from the Town Council Offices, Radstock Lane , or our website. The good news is we have now established a website at

Leave the car behind and get to know your Earley

Want to go for a walk but don't know where to go?


You can start your walk from either side of the lake, in Lakeside or Instow Road . Don't just take the path round the lake. Delve into the rest of the nature reserve, beyond the weir. This is an old woodland site, with woods shown on maps of 1750. Do a full circular tour of the wood, noting some of the large, mature oaks, finally emerging near the Gemini Oak, which may have sprouted from an acorn when Queen Anne came to the throne in 1702. Two trees joined together, or one divided into two? (Good place for a photograph.) Younger walkers can try to count how many different species (you don't need to know the names). With luck, you may even see a kingfisher along Maiden Erlegh stream. The Reserve website has a map and will tell you all you need to know. A free leaflet is also available from Earley Town Council Offices, Radstock Lane . Let us know if you have a favourite walk in Earley.
Red Kite

Kite flying in Earley

There is some speculation that the name of Earley may come from the Old English meaning “Eagle-Wood”. There are no eagles now, but there are certainly other large birds of prey to be spotted over Earley. If you're lucky, you'll see a large bird of prey with a forked tail circling round – a Red Kite. Sometimes you may see more than one. They've been sighted at various times over Silverdale Road, Rushey Way, the woods in the Maiden Erlegh Nature Reserve, the University and Reeds Avenue. Until recently very rare, these were reintroduced into the Oxfordshire countryside some years ago and have flourished. A walk in the Chilterns will certainly ensure seeing them. The clue to their presence above you is the mewing sound. They feed on carrion, worms and small mammals. To see a photo try

Has anyone seen one land in Earley? Let us know.


“Every community has its special trees. Some are widely appreciated and much visited, others are local landmarks, known only to a few people, but all are worthy of celebration”

Once a small hamlet of narrow country lanes and farms, Earley has been transformed into a busy, residential area with little original open space left. What can be found, like skeletal remains, are mature trees which once lined quiet country roads or were part of woodland belts. When you next pass down an old Earley road, look for trees, particularly oaks, which may silently line it. Sometimes they may be in an avenue, sometimes in a remnant of hedgerow or perhaps isolated and ending up beached in a street shrubbery or someone's garden. These may have been youngsters when your great, great grandparents, were babes in arms. A few of them are older than even the oldest occupant of Earley by perhaps three hundred years. The clues to their early existence can be found in old maps of Earley.

Ancient trees, depending on your point of view, may look decrepit and almost dead, or impressive, grand reminders of our past. Their value to wildlife is now being recognised by all the experts. Hopefully, in time perhaps, everyone in Earley will come to view our old trees with respect and affection.

Take, for instance, the old oak at the school end of Maiden Erlegh Drive . This has a whopping girth of over 18 feet, nearly 6 metres, a true ancient. Once part of the avenue of trees lining the drive to the old Maiden Erlegh House, it has seen many comings and goings. If only it could talk. No doubt it might remember well the fantastic parties Solly Joel held in Ascot Week, or the showgirls from the West End theatre owned by Solly, who came to swim in the Pompeian pool. It probably doesn't appreciate the indignity of having graffiti sprayed on it. It's every bit as historic as an old timber framed cottage but, whilst the latter is protected, our old tree is much more vulnerable. Please tell us if you have an Earley 'tree story' to tell.

EEG 's aim in the future is to ensure the continued existence and safety of as many Earley notable trees as we can, and to enhance the locality with new planting where possible.

Go to website

Check out TREE CARE on the site.


Did you know that this area of the country is a 'hot spot' for STAG BEETLES ? You may have been lucky enough to see the males in flight on summer evenings between May and August. Our Chairman, Stuart Hine, is a leading entomologist at the Natural History Museum and conducted his own stag beetle survey in his Earley garden in June. He found " 4 males in/over the garden on Friday evening, 6 males on Saturday and 5 yesterday evening. All were captured and released later the same night, so some could be the same examples from the previous evenings." Did you find any in your garden? Let us know. If you want to know more about these beetles, get a free leaflet on Friendly Gardening from PTES 15 Cloisters House, 8 Battersea Park Rd, London SW8 4BG

Interested in MOTHS and want to learn more? Well, you're in luck, as the BerkshireMoth group meets a stone's throw from you at theInterpretation Centre, Instow Road , Earley. All are welcome. Meetings are held on the 2 nd Thursday of each month. (See 'Events') Website;

Grahame Hawker, our Vice Chairman, is an expert on butterflies and moths and has made the Maiden Erlegh Reserve a great feeding and breeding place for these beautiful creatures. Log on to whereyou can find out more about the National Moth Night (held on 9 th July), featuring Grahame and Mark Calway. Grahame says - "In general 2005 has been a poor to average year for butterflies in Earley, and probably for most of the S.E. , although a few, like the Comma and large & small Whites have bucked the trend. If you have evidence to the contrary on other species, please let us know." If you need inspiration to keep a record of butterflies, try Linda Walls' website, which is her personal butterfly record, with excellent photos. Linda lived for eleven years in Wokingham before moving to Cirencester.


Autumn is a time of many comings and goings in the bird world. Something we don't fully understand is how birds can use the stars, the sun or the earth's magnetic field to find their way. Swifts will already have left on their trip to their second summer season in Africa .

The Swallows , which are streaming overhead in early Autumn, will make a remarkable journey, reaching Botswana , Namibia or South Africa by Christmas. The swallows on our telephone wires have witnessed places and things we humans will never see. A 4 month outward trip, 2 months rest, and then they make a much quicker return journey, in less than 2 months. Why? To get the best territories.

Autumn brings its glut of berries and seeds. You may find that you're not alone in fighting for a place in the car park. The Waxwing , which loves rowan berries, may come to us from its Northern home to find these at the local supermarket. One of our members recorded seeing a flock of these birds on a rowan at Do It All, Winnersh in February of this year. You might be lucky.

If you thought of your garden blackbird as a true Brit, think again. Our locals are joined by blackbirds, chaffinches, robins, starlings even wood pigeons who could be Polish, German, Norwegian, Swedish, Estonian, French or Icelandic.

Blood is thicker than water, especially for the little groups of Long Tailed Tits flitting through your garden. It will usually be an adult pair, with offspring, and non breeding siblings, all blood relatives.

The female robin must qualify as a real feminist bird. Uniquely, among female birds she sings in winter, not to entertain us but to make sure she keeps her exclusive feeding territory. A real feisty little bird.

Remember, many of our small garden birds will rely on you for survival in the winter ahead. (Bird seed, including niger seed, and a good selection of feeders available locally at Pet Fayre, Maiden Lane Centre).
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