Half of Britain's land mammal species live in or travel along hedges and three-quarters of the country's breeding birds are known to have nested in them. 1000 different flowering plants thrive in hedges attracting 20 butterfly species.

The earliest hedges date from Anglo-Saxon times (450-16 AD) when woodland strips were left as boundaries between settlements.

More than half of today's hedges were planted during the 18th century Agricultural Revolution when millions of acres of common land were divided into fields and miles of hedge were planted. The 20th century has produced a second Agricultural Revolution. Field patterns have altered once again in response to farming changes. But this time the effects on hedges are disastrous.

Some animals rely on hedgerows as corridors more than others. Hedges provide the only route along which smaller mammals such as voles, shrews and mice can travel in safety. Stoats and weasels also take advantage of the shelter offered by stalking in its shadows for their next meal.

Many birds such as wrens, yellowhammers and linnets for example now rely on hedgerows for nesting and feeding. Hawthorn hedges are particular favourites.

About 50% of British insects are also of woodland origin. Lush hedgerow vegetation provides food for butterfly caterpillars such as orange tip, brimstone and holly blue and flowers which burst into bud in spring and summer attract bees in search of pollen. With so much much wildlife dependent on hedges there should be concern about the effects of hedgerow destruction on wildlife. The shift towards intensive arable farming in the east makes hedges redundant as stock barriers and many are destroyed to make more land available for cultivation. Arable farmers also claim that hedges are a liability in corn growing areas because they shelter cornfield pests such as aphids, weevils and moths but hedgerows also harbour the enemies of these pests. Insect eating birds, ladybirds and ground beetles are all effective pest controllers. Again we see that nature is self-regulating when we do not interfere with its system.

Miles of hedgerow have been bulldozed not just for arable farming but even in dairy and sheep farming. Often farmers find barbed wire or electric fences more convenient to maintain. It is all well and good to grow to be able to have fertile land in which to grow crops to feed our nation but when that corn is destined to join Europe's mountain of surplus grain, you cannot help questioning the wisdom of these farming policies when at the same time our wildlife are being deprived of their natural habitats.

For the red fox hedgerows are a valuable hunting ground. Small mammals such as voles, hedgehogs, mice and rabbits, young birds and insects are an important part of its diet, as well as the fruits and berries which cover the hedges in autumn.

So nature has a balance within it and does not need the hunting of foxes across the countryside leaving a trail of destruction in it's wake, in order to maintain it. Nature is self-regulating. Fox hunting is not environmentally friendly, it is twisted entertainment for human beings.

There is little difference between the cost of maintaining hedges and that of replacing fences. The government could help in this by offering a better grant system for hedges which might encourage more farmers to restore their hedgerows.