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.

Fishing village architecture

December 18th, 2004

I LEARNT a couple of things I didn't know when I stopped to talk to Malcolm McCormack who was cutting the beech hedges on the road from Templewood to the top of Stracathro Hill.

I've always imagined the hedges belonged to the Council and so were maintained by the Council. But no – all the roadside hedges belong to the adjacent landowners and Malcolm, who works for Careston & Stracathro Estates, told me he was at the start of seven miles of hedges to be cut.

He showed me that the tops of the hedges are cut in an A shape, which is a conservation requirement. It stops snow building up on a flat top, when the weight of it can split open the hedge, possibly killing off some of the bushes but also losing winter cover for the song birds.

I was on my way to Montrose because I had a great fancy to be beside water. I sneaked into Johnston the Bakers to buy a forbidden pie for my lunch, then drove across the temporary Bailey bridge over the South Esk and on to Ferryden.

The last ferry at Ferryden is more recent than you might think, although it was a privately run enterprise. Ferryden resident Donald Cameron worked at Glaxo for many years and in the early 1970s rowed himself to work each day.

When traffic lights went up on the old Montrose suspension bridge prior to its demolition three months ago, Donald jumped in his dinghy each morning because it had once again become his quickest way to work.

Like every east coast fishing village which was built before planning regulations, the oldest part of Ferryden grew somewhat randomly. Some houses have gable ends facing onto the water, and the frontages of others look across the river. Most cottages have upper storeys which originally would have been net stores. They're all converted now making bigger, more comfortable homes.

I drove to the end of River Street, which as you would expect runs alongside the river, and parked to eat that sinful pie. Eider duck were swimming in the shallows. The drakes are the flamboyant ones – sharply defined white backs and black wings. The smaller females are brown and almost mousy by comparison.

The females line their nests with soft down plucked from their breasts. The eiders' nesting colonies used to be  farmed', and the nests were robbed of their warm lining for  eiderdowns'.

I try not to tell the Doyenne about the pie incidents because they just exasperate her. There was an occasion when we were on a strict diet regime together and had agreed to admit any lapses. So when she asked me what I had for lunch I replied, with transparent honesty – “Fish and vegetables”.

I must have a crystal head because she saw through that one almost straight away!

SATURDAY 25/12/2004 – Christmas Day   No publication

SATURDAY 01/01/2005 – New Year’s Day   No publication

Written on Saturday, December 18th, 2004 at 9:20 pm for Weekly.