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.

Miniature train

December 4th, 2004

MACBETH DISAPPEARED at speed, in pursuit of I know not what – but it was hot, and it was beckoning! He was off up the track of the old Brechin to Edzell railway line, and was deaf to my whistles and threats.

The county of Angus is criss-crossed with reminders of the small branch railway lines that connected villages with larger towns, and the main lines. Travel within the county became easier and quicker, and produce and goods could be moved in bulk.

Those that survived more than a few years lost the battle in the 1960s, when Dr Beeching closed everything that couldn't show long-term viability. His legacy is the fretwork of disused lines which are mini wildlife sanctuaries.

Although some sections were incorporated into agriculture, the old cuttings and embankments have been left to grow quite wild. Pesticide and chemical free, they provide cover for ground nesting birds, and are naturally created insect banks. Down at ground level you can trace the runs and tunnels of all the small mammals, and they are shelter for rabbits and hares and roe deer.

It was quite common for landowners who sold ground to the railway companies, to include as a condition of sale the provision of a private station for their families' personal use.

One such was the Letham Grange station near Arbroath, the remains of which can be seen from the bridge over the main Aberdeen-London line, on the road from St Vigeans to the estate.

Ros Fletcher, whose family owned the estate, has told me that her great-grandmother was the last of the family to make use of the arrangement. Whenever she wished to travel, a message was sent to the railway company, probably the LNER at that time, and the train stopped to allow great-grandmother and her maid to board it.

The branch line from Arbroath to Forfar passed through the estate. Ros, and her sister Mrs Sue Cooke, remember it when it had already been closed to traffic, but they used to play amongst carriages which were stored on the line.

In the late nineteenth century a private, narrow gauge railway was built at Letham Grange, possibly as a way of showing off the estate. Nothing remains of it now, although the coal tender was used by the Fletcher family as a log basket. They would love to know where it got to.

Ed Dutch, who owned the post office and shop at Craigo, told me his uncle was head gardener at Letham Grange, and Ed remembered, as a very small boy, being given a ride on the miniature train.

It's a brisk, sunny autumn morning, or does December make it winter? Last night's frost is still on the grass and it's just the morning to take Macbeth another wild walk along the old railway line.

Written on Saturday, December 4th, 2004 at 9:39 pm for Weekly.