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.

Saint and the cheese

November 22nd, 2003

TO HEXHAM again, but this time on grandparent duty so that son Robert and his wife Kate could travel to Munster in Germany where Robert's regiment is stationed. Four days without their parents might have been a bit alarming for granddaughter Cecily and grandson Fergus, but it was no less daunting for the Doyenne and me.

Anyhow it all passed off brilliantly, except perhaps for old Sheba who patiently endured two year old Fergus hurling himself in enthusiastic affection onto her sore old bones.

Hexham has a racecourse and there are racehorses in the fields beside the house. Macbeth was fascinated by such immense “dogs” and braced his nerves to creep up to the fences and touch noses with some of them. He turned tail pretty quick when they blew down their noses at him, and raced back to me, only at the last moment swaggering up as if to say – “just checking things out”.

The next door dog is called Hamish, which reassured Macbeth having another apparent Scot on his side. Hamish's owner tells me he is a Manchester terrier which is a breed I hadn't come across. He looks like a spring-loaded black and tan version of a Jack Russell.

On the way home we stopped at Turvelaws Farm beside Wooler where we were entertained on leek and tattie soup (the husband is a tattie grower), and equally appetising Cuddy's Cave cheese. The name derives from St Cuthbert who made a pilgrimage from Melrose to Lindisfarne and spent a night in a cave near the farm.

It's a delicious locally made mild cheese and I asked our hostess where I could buy some to take home. She directed me to two very helpful cheesemongering ladies in The Good Life Shop and recommended also their Northumbrian Nettle cheese which she thought we would enjoy. Too right – they both are (nearly were!) most tasty, and, as recommended by the cheesemongers, improved with a glass of good red wine.

“Turve” apparently is north-country for soil. And “law”, in this instance, I suspect is likely to mean low place, as the farm lies in a valley. So the name could be a reference to a low-lying fertile place, which is good news if you're growing tatties.

We drove south on the A68, and back on the A697 which is a road we haven't used for a while. You're still driving through the grand Border countryside, but we'd forgotten just how quiet this road is. Not that the A68 is particularly busy either. Northumberland is the least populated English county and this is very evident when travelling on these relatively car-free roads.

Sheba actually looks visibly relieved to be home again, to the familiar places and smells. After four non-stop days on duty the Doyenne and I were visibly relieved to get home too!

Written on Saturday, November 22nd, 2003 at 3:14 pm for Weekly.