ONE of the finest sights of summer is an English hedgerow dripping with the flowers of wild roses.

In their pale pink shade, they are so delicate and delightful, and yet tough enough to fight for space in the wilds of the countryside, competing with dozens of rivals and at the same time surviving the vagaries of our climate.

They do not appear to require the pruning and other ministrations of domestic gardeners, although it could be argued that nature takes care of this plant's cultivation requirements.

While most of us will quickly recognise the rose among the other wild flowers which bloom in the hedgerows and fields at this time of year, the truth is there are several varieties, some being white. They are all very similar in appearance, which means they can be easily confused with one another.

Probably the most common is the dog rose, a rather straggly plant with very prickly stems which tend to arch their way through other hedgerow shrubs and trees. It is a powerful climber which readily makes use of other plants to provide necessary support. The leaves have two or three pairs of toothed leaflets and a single leaflet at the tip, and these are often far smoother than those of a cultivated rose. In some areas, these leaves are made into a fashionable substitute for tea, although this is by no means a common drink.

The soft pink flower is rather flat with large petals and, in spite of its distinctive rose-like beauty, was once considered little more than a weed. Some authorities believe that is how it acquired its name, the prefix "dog" inferring that it was rather inferior to other plants, being of no worth and definitely of much lower status than cultivated roses. One writer of the past said it was fit only for the gardens of yeomen, inferring that one would expect to find splendid cultivated roses in the gardens of people of stature.

That is just one explanation for the dog rose's name. Another suggests the name originated in ancient Greece, where it was considered a valuable plant from a medicinal point of view. It was believed the roots provided a cure for anyone suffering from the bite of a mad dog. There is also on record the story of a Roman Praetorian guard being bitten by a rabid dog, and then cured with a concoction made from this root.

Another of its benefits is the syrup made from its hips. This has long been considered a very healthy drink, ideal for children as a nutritional supplement due to its wealth of vitamin C. Many of us will remember collecting rose hips, which were processed for this purpose in the aftermath of the war. I seem to think we were paid 3d per pound and the final result was a bottle of red liquid which was sweet to the taste and, in my view, very palatable.

Jam was also made from these fruit and even the seeds could be dried and made into a powder which was used as a remedy for some urinary problems. If you pushed those same hairy seeds down someone's back, however, they were a good substitute for itching powder!

Another pink wild rose is the eglantine, sometimes known as sweet briar. This is often confused with the dog rose, although the eglantine's flowers are rather smaller. Its hips are also used for making syrup and, like the dog rose, it grows in our hedgerows and woodlands and even as a cultivated plant in some gardens.

The downy rose is another pink wild variety and this can be recognised because its leaves bear a very soft, white downy growth.

Among the wild white roses are the field rose (which tends to grow in woodlands in spite of its name) and the burnet rose, which is noted for its extremely spiny stems. Although a wild plant, this is popular with gardeners because it quickly grows to fill a barren corner, but perhaps its most readily identifiable feature is its black hips. The hips of other wild roses are either red or scarlet.

The name rose, by the way, comes from several ancient tongues, including Latin and Sanskrit, and it means red.

But a curious question remains - if the wild rose was so widely regarded as being a lowly flower, why did King Henry VIII adopt it as the symbol of both England and the Tudors? And there is also the little matter of the white rose of Yorkshire and the red rose of Lancashire. Surely this kind of recognition means that the humble dog rose has blossomed into a flower of remarkable stature!

Shortly before settling down to compile this weekly budget, I was engaged in some research into the ancient and honourable game of darts. This is such a vital part of our pub life, with many village inns proudly boasting a competitive team.

The origins of the game are not known and there have been many wonderful guesses as to how, when and why it started, but even at the beginning of the last century it seems the game was far from the popular pastime into which it has now developed.

There is a rumour, which has never been proved, that darts was played by the Pilgrim Fathers on their way to America on board the Mayflower in 1620 and another source suggests that Anne Boleyn presented Henry VIII with a set of highly ornamented darts. And, of course, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth famously competed against each other in 1930, playing a game of darts at Slough Social Centre. Or so it is rumoured - but we do not know who won. And it has also been rumoured that it might one day become an Olympic sport.

What intrigued me during my research into this noble sport was the variety of dartboards. In my ignorance, and probably because I have played on what is called the standard board, I did not realise there are many others.

The standard board, sometimes known as the London board, appears to be the one most in use throughout the country. It comprises a circular target marked in 20 divisions with 20 at the top, with additional narrow bands which produce treble scores and double scores if a skilfully thrown dart lands in them. The centre is the bull, which provides a score of 50, and around the tiny bull is a larger secondary ring with a score of 25.

However, there is also a Yorkshire board which is very similar to the standard in size and design. But this one does not contain the band for treble scores, nor does it have an outer bull in the centre. I am assured that the Yorkshire board is used in lots of pubs throughout the county.

Surprisingly, similar boards are to be found in Kent, Lincoln and even Ireland, but the Lancashire board is quite different. This is sometimes known as a log-end and it is considerably smaller than the standard with a different arrangement of the target numbers. Its playing surface is only ten inches across and it has no trebles. The doubles are only one eighth of an inch wide and the inner bull (known as Little Audrey) is only a quarter of an inch in diameter. This is a very difficult board, especially for strangers. I wonder if the Lancastrians designed it for playing against Yorkshire?

There are other boards too, such as the Norfolk board, the Burton board, the Tonbridge board, the Sussex board and the fives board.

But perhaps the most amazing aspect of darts is when a player mentally calculates how to win when three darts are required to produce a score of, say, 104. Quick as lightning, he'll say: "You need triple 18, single 18 and double 16" or even "18, triple 18 and double 16." The skill is then to hit the right numbers.

A reader from Sinnington, near Pickering, has sent me some rustic tales and I thought the following was most apt.

A big estate in Yorkshire sent its gamekeeper to London for a two-week course on conservation. Upon his return, he submitted his extremely high expenses claim, whereupon his boss asked: "What did you live on?" "Nowt special," he said. "Just what I get here - venison, salmon, pheasant."