Without doubt, the common or garden earthworm is one of, if not the most important organism in the animal kingdom.

Indeed, Charles Darwin doubted if there were many other creatures that have played such a vital role in the history of the earth, acting as miniature ploughs long before man began tilling the ground.

Although Britain boasts twenty seven species, only two or three occur in our gardens and all are hermaphrodites containing both male and female reproductive organs.

Up to twenty eggs are laid in batches every two weeks. Each worm can eat its own body weight every day and with every hectare of grassland supporting as many as a quarter of a million individuals, it is easy to see just how valuable their activities are.

Prime recyclers, they eat rotting vegetation, dead leaves and soil, the waste products of which are then expelled as fine rich worm casts to decorate our lawns.

Constant tunnelling also aerates and neutralises soil creating a perfect growing medium for plants.

Earthworms are a major food source for a wide range of birds including the songthrush (pictured) hedgehogs, moles, foxes and badgers, the latter two animals capable of hoovering up great numbers from grass on a warm rainy night. During drought and hard frosts, badger cubs can suffer.

Compost heaps form an ideal habitat for brandling worms, identified by their red and yellow hoops.

When fishing as a boy I collected brandlings and hardened them off for a few days in tins of spagnum moss and they made ideal bait for coarse fish and trout.