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.

Border country and recycling a bridge!

May 7th, 2005

THE DOYENNE and I had a hectic long weekend down at Hexham, on grandparent duty. Oldest grandson James came with us to visit his cousins Cecily and Fergus, and sharing all the interesting sights and stories with him, especially around the Borders, added to the fun of the journey.

We pointed out the Eildon Hills where King Arthur is said to sleep, awaiting the call to ride out with his Knights of the Round Table and save all the maidens in distress, imprisoned in the topmost chambers of every Peel tower. When we stopped on the Border, James liked the idea of standing with one foot in England and the other in Scotland.

As we neared Hexham he told us about Hadrians's Wall which he had learnt about at school. We'll explore a bit of it the next time we go down.

Son Robert and his family live close to Hexham Racecourse, and their house is surrounded by racehorse paddocks. All around we heard the bubbling calls of curlews, which tend to be noisier during their breeding season. The birds have obviously been plentiful locally for a long time because one of the neighbouring cottages is called Curlew Cottage.

On one of our walks I taught James how to make a whistle by stretching a blade of grass between my two thumbs. At the first screech a hare got up almost beneath the Doyenne's feet and took off across the field. We all had a look at the  flap' it had made for itself in the grass, and had lain pressed flat along the ground hoping we'd never notice it and pass on by.

The big expedition was to Cragside House near Rothbury, which is an extraordinary Victorian pile built on the side of a crag. It has a quite overpowering marble fireplace about the size of a village hall, which weighs ten tons and had to be built onto the rock in order to support it.

Just outside the village we saw a sign to Wagtail Farm, so these attractive little bobbing birds must also have been a feature of the district for many generations.

On a totally different tack, I went to a presentation on the progress of the replacement bridge being built over the River South Esk at Montrose, given by Angus Council's site engineer, Montrosian Ewan Smith.

I thought there might be something to hear about the effect of the building works on the wildlife, but disturbance seems to be minimal. The duck in particular, and the migrating salmon appear to be quite unaffected by Man's intrusions.

What impressed me most was hearing that the engineers can use the original approach causeways on either side of the river, built in 1829 for the original stone bridge, to carry the new road over the river. Now, there's recycling on a grand scale!