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.

English country garden

April 29th, 2006

WE SCOTS don't have a monopoly on thrift. The Doyenne and I are back from a holiday in Brighton in West Sussex where the traditional building style uses Sussex flint. Although some of it was mined (from mines going back to Roman times), most flints were gathered up from fields after ploughing – effectively a free by-product of agriculture.

Old churches and walls, and many of the older houses are built with them. Bound together with chalk and brick they provide a long-lasting weather-resistant outer harling with a lifetime akin to Aberdeen granite, if the age of some of the buildings is anything to go by.

Glinting in the sun after rain, the flints are known locally as Sussex  diamonds'.

It was a family visit to help my sister celebrate a milestone birthday and she had arranged daily trips into the Sussex countryside. The Sussex Downs are a beautiful part of the south coast, still heavily wooded and predominantly agricultural, with a rich legacy of cultural connections demonstrating the important role the countryside has played in shaping our artistic heritage.

The Downs were a source of inspiration to writers such as Jane Austen, and the poet Tennyson. JMW Turner painted some of his most notable landscapes on the Petworth House estate. Not far from internationally famous Glyndebourne Opera House is Brinkwells, home of Edward Elgar, where he composed his stunning cello concerto in E-minor.

Goodwood Racecourse plays host to the sport of kings and, still on the royal ticket, we visited the splendidly exotic Brighton Royal Pavilion which was built for the Prince Regent who became George IV. The cost of building this extraordinary  weekend hideaway' was quite staggering. And the cost of preserving and maintaining it today seems no less exorbitant.

But for me the most significant connection with the Downs is the great Reverend Gilbert White of Selborne, who spent a lifetime there ministering to his flock and whose systematically recorded observations of the wildlife of his parish single him out as our first true natural historian.

Sadly, we can't really compete with the atmospheric English country pubs. I supped several tasty locally brewed beers, and there were interesting local cheeses to try, too. I forgot to take a note of their names, but the pleasure's in the memory now.

We were away just five days and returned to fresh green shoots of spring in fields that had been brown earth when we left. We also welcomed our first swallow, although a St Cyrus reader reports she saw a whole summer's-full on Easter Sunday.

And the dogs? – they were living it up in spanking new kennels with underfloor heating. Old Sheba will be spinning in her grave at the thought of such decadence! We were all delighted to see each other again and I was near licked half to death.