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.

Memory lane

August 26th, 2006

THIS WEEK'S piece comes from the Borders where the Doyenne and I are visiting son James and his family. They live in a secret, out-of-the-way corner five miles from Peebles. It's well off the main road, so quite safe for grandchildren to race about in complete freedom.

Their unusual house is all wood construction, with shingle tiles, and was built very much with sustainability in mind. And their garden has been a delight – it's full of butterflies. It's not until you see them again in some numbers that you realise how much you've missed them.

Red admirals, peacocks and large whites feed on borders of scabious and catmint. Bumble bees, which are under threat in our countryside, feed on clumps of white globe thistles. Honey bees from the hives in both James's garden and his neighbour's, are also attracted to the thistles' nectar.

Neighbour Wendy pointed out a perfect example of nature's mimicry. A hover fly had assumed the markings of a bumble bee, and at a casual glance it was easy to mistake it for one. It had the bumbler's distinctive yellow stripe on its rump but the giveaway, if you are an entomologist like Wendy, is the eye shape and the antennae.

She also told me about wasps scraping minute, wasp-sized bites of wood from the walls of the house, which they chew to make the paper with which they make their bikes. James has even heard them, in very calm conditions, munching away at his home!

Because we regard wasps as pests and swipe at them with rolled-up newspapers, we forget to wonder how they make their extraordinary nests. I once took a deserted one off the ceiling of the shed and broke it open – it really is another of nature's miracles how such an apparently flimsy construction can be home and breeding chamber to such large numbers of the insects.

We took the chance to do a bit of  remincing', as an old lady used to say to me, and drove down to Tibbie Shiel's Inn at the head of St Mary's Loch. After an excellent lunch we took the single track road which links the A708 to Moffat with the A701 to Dumfries. Past Megget Reservoir and on to Talla Reservoir, which looks a bit like Loch Lee until it bends away northwards at its west end. We last drove over that road when we were first married, more than forty years ago.

But the highlight (apart from Mathilda's second birthday, of course) was seeing a kingfisher. I was walking quietly up what is known locally as the Cuddy Burn, when the electric-blue and orange flash burst out of a hole in the bank. It saw me, did a loop-the-loop and shot off up the stream. It's donkeys years since I last saw one.