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.

Learning to live in nature

August 1st, 2009

RETURNING TO somewhere I've visited and written about before is always exciting. This week I went back to the Murton Nature Reserve which lies east of Forfar on the Forfar-Friockheim road and which I first wrote about in March 2006.

Since then the reserve has matured from what I referred to as a  reserve in the making' into a thoroughly balanced and well-managed community asset   It is five years old now and Al Borland the resident Ranger's vision of Murton as a resource, especially for youngsters who have become disengaged from standard education, is showing remarkably positive results.

The reserve provides vocational training and an alternative route for young people to gain educational qualifications which will take them on to fulltime employment. They train in estate skills such as fencing, path repair, hedging and soft landscaping and the schemes bring them back into an educational stream which encourages them to learn, and points them towards lines of personal success and the opportunity to gain SQA awards. .

An important introduction in animal handling under the direction of assistant Ranger, Alison Elliott, is an incubation and hatching course using quails. These calm and easily handled birds are ideal for people with no experience of handling small and defenceless animals. And their eggs are sold locally which contributes towards making the project self financing.

The fundamental concept of the reserve as a conservation area and sanctuary for wildlife remains as important as ever. Murton is on the flight line of the River Lunan and lies between Rescobie Loch and Balgavies Loch, another reserve. As a result the wetland area at Murton, which was under development three years ago, is now another stop for ducks and waders. There is a resident pack of greylag geese, our only breed of native breeding geese, and six families of young were hatched this spring.

A community farm is on track to open in the autumn which will have poultry, cattle, sheep, ponies and a restaurant. It's a bold project, for it will be run by the youngsters who will maintain the land, collect the eggs, feed and groom and generally care for the livestock, and run the restaurant.

The Murton volunteers gain a sense of responsibility, and learn to value and appreciate what they have created from their own efforts. They see the reserve very differently from the adults who visit Murton for the walk and the wildlife.

But it's a place for all ages and very much worth a visit. There is disabled access particularly for motorised wheelchairs, and entry to the reserve is free – although donations are welcomed. The sign directing “Caution – Ducks Crossing” makes it clear who has priority here. With nesting birds and other resident wildlife populations it's understandably not a place for dogs, but our two didn't miss their usual walk when I got home.