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.

Disappearing history

March 7th, 2009

IT WAS the moment of calm when the sea was neither ae thing nor t'ither – just fidgeting in the slack water of the dying whispers of the ebbing tide as it steadied itself for the relentless six hour flow back up the beach to high water. Macbeth and I breasted the sand dunes at the outfall of the River North Esk and gazed out over the iron grey of the North Sea.

I count myself lucky to have two wonderful beaches – Montrose and St Cyrus Bays – within such easy reach to walk on and to exercise dogs. I get cross that I spend too little time by the sea and the shore because, however wild the conditions, I always feel calmed by the constancy of the sea's incessant ebb and flow. I should just rouse myself and go there – there's only myself to blame.

It's not often I have the whole beach entirely to myself, but there was not another soul to be seen. I could talk to Macbeth and talk to myself and there was nobody to wonder who the daft mannie was. St Cyrus church spire poked heavenwards to the north and the white finger of Scurdie Ness lighthouse marked the southern limit of Montrose Bay.

The sands are studded with wooden stumps, blackened by the sea – the remains of the posts for the ropes which secured the salmon fishers' stake nets fifty years ago, and more. I can remember them clearly.

Like arrowheads they poked out into the sea – two, sometimes three netted chambers into which the salmon swam and could not escape. Fly nets they were called locally, because the fishermen walked out on high footropes stretched taut between poles, with a handrope to steady themselves, to empty the nets of their catch with a heavy long-handled net called a scum net. It was said the fishermen looked like spiders climbing along their webs to catch a fly.

The fly nets are long gone, as now are the jumper nets which developed from them. The jumpers had the same arrowhead chambers but were an altogether simpler method of fishing and could be managed by just two men. The stake nets were manpower intensive and couldn't survive the need for cost cutting and fiscal efficiency. The commercial salmon netting stations have almost all been bought out and closed down, but they were a bit of industrial and social history that's all but gone forever from the east coast of Scotland.

Macbeth and I turned to walk upriver back to the car. A single grey partridge, one of our declining native breed, erupted from the dunes. He looked like an old cock bird that preferred a solitary life and had left the security of the covey. I doubt he'll be mating this season, and he too will soon be gone forever.

Written on Saturday, March 7th, 2009 at 2:20 pm for Weekly.