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.

The nature of golf

June 16th, 2007

“NATURE RED in tooth and claw  €¦” was scarcely how I would have characterised the Curlie, the one-time curling pond at the east boundary between the mid links of Montrose and the town's Medal golf course. I was with Denis Rice, a Montrosian who has returned to his home town and now lives scarcely a badly shanked golf shot away from the old pond.

Denis had invited me to join him to look at the birdlife, and it didn't take long to appreciate that nature makes no concessions to the urban situation. There were a number of adult mallard duck on the water but few signs of chicks. Crows, which nest conveniently in neighbouring gardens, and seagulls were devastation on the eggs, and then on the chicks when they first ventured from the nest. One hatch of five well grown ducklings was all that seemed to have survived.

We saw lots of coots which I have always associated with aggressive behaviour, and quite able and ready to attack small ducklings. Nonetheless their own chicks looked so vulnerable as they gamely swam after the adult birds, cheeping anxiously in case they were left behind.

The occasional urban fox, or maybe a visiting rural one, turns up on the chance of an easy supper and doubtless doesn't leave until he's catched it, further depleting the wildlife population. But that's the whole point about nature and survival of the fittest, the quickest and the most alert.

Neither I nor Denis (and his memories go back much further than mine, to put it delicately) could remember curling ever being played on the Curlie. In the bad old days, when winters were proper winters and the pond froze hard, the Rector of Montrose Academy would sometimes close the school for an afternoon so that pupils could go skating. There were also wild, undisciplined games of ice hockey – imagine such permissiveness today! And in the 1950s Arbuthnotts the boat builders (a familiar name to older Montrosians) had rowing boats for hire during the summer.

The origins of Montrose are very old but in parts there's very much a sense of it being a  planned' town; and when you look at the Mid Links, the strip of parkland which bisects the town, this is true. But the town has benefited from its natural resources.

The early golfing fathers realised the benefits for the game of the wonderful sandy links which shield the town from the North Sea. So much so that Montrose is the fifth oldest golf course in the world and one of the final qualifying courses for this year's Carnoustie Open Golf Championship, which is recognition of its quality.

The old curling pond has probably been there at least as long as the golf course and I'd love to see curling played on it again, for that's our game.

Written on Saturday, June 16th, 2007 at 11:28 am for Weekly.