Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Peace and quiet

April 26th, 2003

SQUALLING SEAGULLS, whaups (the Scottish name for curlews) with their bubbling call that sounds like a special stop on an organ console, the cockerel next door, oyster catchers “kleeping”, jackdaws “chacking”, the inevitable cock pheasants showing off to one another, cushie doos or wood-pigeons adding a gentler note to a new dawn chorus.

Peace you can expect up the glen, but quiet is a harder commodity to find. The wildlife community is different, as I could tell from the clatter of noise that woke me every morning. All the small songbirds worked hard to make themselves heard above the bigger birds.

We – the Doyenne and I that is – had joined daughter Cait and her family and a heap of friends and children for a long Easter weekend at Tarfside, the village at the top of Glen Esk. This glen is a great favourite of the Whitson family, and Cait and her husband were reviving the breaks we took up there for thirteen years during school holidays. La D. and I were there to add a steadying influence to the event.

We had a wonderful away-from-it-all time, with lots of good company and food. The youngsters had freedom and fresh air. We danced reels, and one of the guests played his pipes. On Saturday night more friends tipped up for supper and when darkness fell the owls hollered in protest.

The short, springy turf of the old whisky road, along which illicit whisky was smuggled many generations ago, was a treat for Sheba's old bones to walk on. This is nesting time for the grouse, so I couldn't let Macbeth have too much freedom up the hill, for fear of disturbing them. There are rabbit holes galore which accounted for the kestrel I saw on our walks.

A pure black Highland bull in a field at Millden, halfway up the glen, was an unexpected sight. I've only ever seen the red variety, but there he was with the distinctive wide sweep of horns. My old friend Angus Davidson, retired from farming at Glen Effock, could tell me that while this variety isn't common, they are not so unusual to breeders.

During our conversation, sustained by a memory of the whisky trail, Angus pointed out his bird feeder which is visited by lesser spotted woodpeckers and green woodpeckers. They are incomers to the glen. There were none when Angus was a boy. I had hoped to hear a cuckoo but it may be just too early for them to have arrived from their wintering in Africa.

The exceptionally long dry period has resulted in forest and heath fires all over Scotland. Although there has been rain, the glen is still tinder dry. Walkers can help care for the countryside by observing the Countryside Code, and taking the greatest care when extinguishing cigarettes and matches.

Written on Saturday, April 26th, 2003 at 7:42 am for Weekly.