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.

Local history

April 1st, 2006

RAPID RESPONSE to mention last week of Milldens Mill came from retired Dundee solicitor Alec Robb, whose great grandfather Charles Mackenzie was the miller there for some years until he left in 1848.

The mill is very old. A date stone on a gable-end dates it back to 1685, but a mill is believed to have been on the site since the fourteenth century. Mills were very important to the locality they served. Transport was poor and farmers relied on the local mill to grind the flour for their basic staple bread.

Milldens Mill is especially interesting because it is the last privately owned working mill in Angus. As well as grinding corn there was also a threshing mill in the lower part of it.

Dave Murray, who helps look after the building and mill machinery, reckons the threshing business would have started to decline in the 1930s. Mechanical threshers, drawn behind the steam engines which powered them, brought the threshing machines to the farms, saving the farmer time and transport costs to and from the mill.

Farmers Stephen and Tom Sampson had the mill in operation when I visited. They showed me round and explained that it is still very much a working mill, though it is restricted now to milling wheat for flour. We had to speak above the gentle, comfortable rumble of turning wheels and mysterious, clacking wooden parts hidden below the floor.

There is a simplicity of design and engineering about these historic water powered mills. Water is diverted from the river into the mill lade and directed to the mill wheel, which turns the machinery inside the mill. There aren't many working parts, but they are large and have evocative names like pit wheel, wallower and stone nut.

To watch the grain fed into the hopper and then see and feel the coarse milled flour crumbling between your fingers, is to step back generations. Everything is done in much the same way as it was done several hundred years ago. Everything still works because it has always worked. And so long as there are interested people to care for it, Milldens Mill will be working for future generations.

I had a word with Jim Wallace of Angus Chain Saw Service who is a fund of history of the Lunan valley. From Milldens down to Kirkton Mill near Inverkeilor the river powered meal mills, saw and threshing mills, spinning mills and flax mills. Lawton Mill, Hatton Mill, Waulkmill, Millfield – just some of the other names that testify to the past contribution that the waters of the River Lunan made to the local economy.

It was conversations with John Compton of Rescobie about eels and eel traps that sparked off this interest in the Lunan valley. It's remarkable to think how much activity took place over such a short distance.

Written on Saturday, April 1st, 2006 at 4:44 pm for Weekly.