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.


August 16th, 2003

PURPLE HEATHER covers the hillsides of the Angus Glens at this time of year. August is the best month, for the heather is in full flower, and it really is “purple blooming”. With the weather so fine these recent weeks I took myself up Glenesk for a walk. In the mid afternoon the sun was still baking hot and walking up even the slightest incline produced a healthy perspiration.

Whaups or curlews flew up in front of me with their sad bubbling calls. They protect their territories, challenging intruders like me and gliding round on extended wings until I had passed. With the exception of a couple of rabbits that exploded off into the undergrowth, scarcely anything else seemed to have the energy to move.

I sat down for a breather beside an abandoned cottage and let the world pass me by. I had got high enough to benefit from a warm breeze of wind blowing off the hillsides. A kestrel appeared briefly, hovering twice before deciding there were no good pickings worth hovering for. A solitary Red Admiral butterfly wavered past me. Three, or perhaps there were four, house martins cartwheeled round the old cottage where presumably they nested and rested.

One moment the hill faces were shimmering purple, and rich green bracken glowed on the lower slopes. The next, the shadows of clouds darkened them, briefly fading them like washed out old breeks. The heather looked almost black, broken by lighter patches where it has been burnt to encourage new growth for the grouse which feed almost exclusively on this plant.

On the way down to the car I passed several dozen beehives, so there will be heather honey on some lucky people's toast this winter. Wild mushrooms were an unexpected find and I picked a large spotted handkerchief-full, some as big as saucers. They have a distinct, strong flavour compared to the cultivated variety and were delicious with omelettes. The soup the Doyenne made with the rest was black as tar, and was what my Mother would have called a “rib sticker”.

As I was climbing into the car Alastair Skene drew to a stop on his tractor. Born and brought up in Glenesk he entertained me with stories from his childhood when he and his schoolmates ran home after school in the dark winter evenings to escape being caught by kelpies and other hideous spirits. And he told me about stands in the hidden parts of the glen where illicit whisky used to be distilled.

The River North Esk is very low, which isn't good news for the fish. Widening banks of stones and boulders have appeared as the water shrinks into the middle. Just like us humans, fish need plenty of oxygen to flourish. When the water is so low the oxygen gets used up and the fish become sluggish.

Written on Saturday, August 16th, 2003 at 8:18 pm for Weekly.