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.

Urban wildlife

April 7th, 2007

GRANDPARENTAL DUTIES can never be taken lightly. It's important to remember that little minds and little hands need plenty to keep them occupied. It's grand to find a new place or a new adventure that catches the grandchildren's imagination, but there's something heartening about revisiting a familiar spot or a regular ploy.

Edzell Castle, the playpark at Arbroath seafront, Kinnaber beach – all have special memories for one or other grandchild, but a regular favourite for all is the Country Park at Brechin Castle Centre which has turned into a wonderful wildlife sanctuary.

Twelve years ago it was farmland. Today the agricultural focus has shifted to give youngsters an opportunity to see livestock at close quarters, to get an introduction to the countryside and understand its relevance to all our lives.

Walks and trails, with sheltered picnic spots, take you around over sixty acres to look at Aberdeen Angus and Highland cattle, Highland ponies, ewes with their lambs and a friendly pet goat. There's also a belted Galloway, one of our oldest native cattle breeds. The name doesn't mean it's had a skelp round the ear – they have a wide stripe, like a white cummerbund encircling their bodies, which is very distinctive.

In the Pets Corner is a collection of hybrid hens and bantams as well as a new aviary with parakeets and exotic sparrows. There's lots of wild birdlife too. In the large pond are a Canada goose and a swan, which have been resident for the last couple of years and now show no inclination to leave.

Colonies of common gulls, blackheaded gulls and terns are growing. Look out for mallard duck, tufted duck and teal, our smallest duck, and the unpredictable kestrels and sparrowhawks. When I was last there the oystercatchers were piping up to let everyone know they were back for the season.

Maturing trees and bushes and shrubs provide cover and nesting sites for a mixture of woodland and heath song birds, and there's a great feeling of permanence now. If you are lucky you may see the secretive roe deer that can find shelter in even the smallest stand of trees.

Tracks of hares and rabbits appear in the muddy banks of the ponds and the burn, so it's no surprise to come across the tracks of foxes too. It's just nature seeking to feed off nature, as ever it has done.

For small legs (and perhaps even elderly ones!) there's a people-carrying tractor and trailer to take you round the park. Youngsters have a wide choice of play equipment and for big bairns, like grandfathers, there's a ride-on miniature railway to take the grandchildren for a trip.

For obvious reasons it's not really the place for dogs, but then we're spoilt for choice for dog walking in this neck of the woods, so they don't miss out.