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.

Glen Esk holiday

April 2nd, 2005

RED SQUIRREL, cock pheasant and one of our native grey partridge – quite an eclectic mixture to find at the bird table when I arrived home after Easter weekend up Glen Esk.

And of course all the usual tits and finches were hanging off the nut baskets, and a couple of blackies were scraping around for rejects from the seed feeders.

Daughter Cait had organised another visit to St Drostan's Lodge at Tarfside where we have spent so many Easter breaks, and we were joined by son-in-law Gibson's family. The weather wasn't very cheerful, but you can't stay indoors in a place like the Glen.

We had several walks which provided lots of interest for the cousins from Glasgow. A great spotted woodpecker in an old Scotch pine paradiddled a salute just above our heads. Woodpeckers aren't commonplace in Glasgow, so this was a new experience. I was just sorry we couldn't see the bird because they have such handsome plumage.

There were branches lying on the ground stripped of their bark. Roe deer or rabbits had resorted to eating the bark, probably when the recent snow made finding other food difficult. We stood on a bridge and the Doyenne taught the youngsters how to play Pooh sticks. If you weren't brought up on Winnie the Pooh this will mean as little to you as it did to me originally.

I took a John Buchan novel with me because I hoped I'd have time for some reading. He is another of my literary heroes. His accounts of the countryside in which his stories take place are so graphic I have no difficulty picturing the broad sweep, as well as all the little details, he describes.

I'll bet like me, you thought the expression  between a rock and a hard place' was of fairly recent origin. But it was Buchan who coined the phrase in 1929 in  The Courts of the Morning'.

The idea of going into the country for peace and quiet is badly misplaced. It's well wooded round Tarfside, and owls were  coffee shopping' all night long, waking me up several times. Oystercatchers were also active throughout the night and their shrill, startled  kleep kleep' calls were just as intrusive.

Seagulls, probably black headed gulls, chimed in about first light, and then the cock pheasants added their tuppence-worth to the racket.

Dr Angus Hunter, the Doyenne's god-son, and his brother Robin made up the party. Being active chaps they set off into the hills with their mountain bikes. After seven miles Angus got a flat tyre and for one reason or another couldn't repair it.

I assumed he put the bike on his shoulder and walked out. “No, no”, Angus told me “I ran back to the car, pushing it”.

The Doyenne and I don't go on holiday for such nonsense!

Written on Saturday, April 2nd, 2005 at 11:55 am for Weekly.