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.

Here we go gathering nuts in October

January 5th, 2008

YOU TREAD on some unexpected things when you go out in the countryside – the expected things you know about and have learnt to step round!

I wouldn't normally investigate what felt like a wee bool stone under my foot, but when I picked it up it turned out to be a walnut. Not just a walnut that you'd buy in the shop to crack open after Christmas lunch – this one still had the remnants of its green outer shell which protected the nut as it grew, a bit like a conker in its prickly casing. We – the dogs and I, that is – were walking in the grounds at The Burn House, outside Edzell (where the walk through the Blue Door is) when I came on this unexpected find.

Warren Sanders, the Head Gardener at The Burn, tells me he has five of the trees in the grounds, which were likely planted for their ornamental value, but only two of them have produced nuts in recent years. He has seen broken shells round the paved surrounds of the house where jackdaws and crows have dropped them from a height to shatter the shells and get at the sweet nut inside (much like seagulls drop mussels on rocks on the seashore). I suspect this one was meant for the long drop too, but was dropped long before it was intended, and got lost in the grass.

Walnuts are one of the trees that produce catkins in spring, so I shall be on the lookout in two or three months time to see where I can gather the nuts in the autumn.

Warren also explained about the regeneration programme he has introduced using suitable self-seeded saplings of beech and oak and ash, to fill in blanks round the policies of the house caused over the years by loss to disease and storm damage. It's a practical and economical answer to sustainability – in the main drive alone more than sixty new trees have been planted.

If he's lucky, Warren will see his saplings grow to about three or four metres high. Old Lord Adam Gordon, who completed The Burn in 1797, planted out the house policies with trees he knew he would never see grow to maturity. But he had the vision to imagine the landscape that we see today and he wanted to create that vision so that others could enjoy it – as I, and many other walkers who take advantage of access to the grounds, most certainly do.

“A woman, a dog and a walnut tree, the harder you beat them the better they be” is one of the more puzzling proverbs of the English language. I totally dissociate myself from the first two, and why it should ever have been thought beneficial to beat a walnut tree to encourage it to flourish, I cannot imagine.