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.

Down by the riverside

January 10th, 2004

LAST SATURDAY, the first of the New Year, the Doyenne and I took the dogs off down the bank of the River North Esk to where the river finally meets with the sea. We'd just entertained son Robert, his wife Katie and their lively young family to a quick and rowdy lunch. It was time for some peace!

The sea is a relentless beast. We climbed over the dunes that protect the land from the tides and stood for a while on the sand just watching the waves break unceasingly on the beach. The mid-afternoon sun was getting low in the west and we cast enormous shadows.

To the south, at the end of Montrose Bay, Scurdyness lighthouse was blinking its message of comfort to mariners. Looking northwards up the coast the tall spire of St Cyrus church rises prominently above the cliffs that the village is built on. It must have been a daytime aid to navigation for generations of sailors and fishermen, and probably still is, despite modern satellite systems.

We turned back up the riverbank again. Flotsam and jetsam is strewn all around the river mouth, thrown up on the banks by the high winter tides. Several small packs of geese flew in to feed on stubbles at Waterside Farm on the far side of the river.

In the Fluke Hole, a large pool eroded into the riverbank, two swans were elegantly passing the time of day. Curlews with their curving, probing beaks were feeding in a grass field. “Whaups” was the traditional Scottish name my Father always used, and they have an evocative melancholy cry that conjures up the open, windswept places where they are often seen.

The river runs a lot faster than it seems. It is tidal by now and there are few shallows to break up the surface of the water, which has a deep and uninterrupted flow in its last fling before it meets the sea. Soon the spring run of salmon will be heading upriver to spawn.

There were only two other families on the beach, walking their dogs like us. We are so lucky to have such marvellous beaches at Montrose and St Cyrus to walk on. Perhaps they are undervalued, but they are certainly under-used, although it was great to have the privacy of all that sand and sea to ourselves.

Macbeth nearly blew a gasket sniffing all the absorbing smells he found in the gorse clumps along the riverside. Old Sheba had been there before, seen it all, and even had the hair shirt! “If age but could, and youth but knew” – she seemed to say as she just kept hirpling along the track.

As we reached the car the smell of peat smoke drifted from one of the cottages. Now, that's quite unusual in this part of the world.

Written on Saturday, January 10th, 2004 at 1:58 pm for Weekly.