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.

… in his master’s steps he trod

December 12th, 2009

CATS PAWS riffled the shallow water covering the sands of the Annat Bank. The ebbing tide had almost completed its twice daily cycle of emptying the Montrose Basin and I was standing on the damp sand at the outfall of the River South Esk where it meets the North Sea, looking across to Scurdie Ness Lighthouse.

The Annat Bank is a sandbank which has been the graveyard of shipping entering and leaving Montrose Harbour for as long there have been boats using the port – at one time it was described as “that fatell sand”.

Only three years ago the coaster MV Emsland grounded on the Annat with a cargo of timber which had to be unloaded before she could be refloated to safety. At one time there were two capstans on the lighthouse side of the rivermouth to assist with hauling foundered vessels into navigable water, and I have an idea that there is still one of them lying above the high water mark.

It would shortly be slack water, when the outgoing tide has expended its energy and marks time for a short while before the ingoing tide starts its timeless, ordained flood. Oyster catchers were puttering about the tide line probing with their long orange beaks, searching for a tasty seafood lunch. In the afternoon sunshine it was a peaceful, pretty place to be.

Generations of Montrosians have shared the view. Wee hairy men must have watched with trepidation as Roman galleys sailed past the turf huts of the emergent community not yet known even by its original name of Celurca. Roman general Agricola's army, which defeated the Caledonians at the battle of Mons Graupius in 83AD, is said to have been supplied from a naval depot established on the banks of Montrose Basin.

Perhaps the Romans relied on a favourable wind and tide to work their way upriver. When wind and tide were against them the fishermen of the fishing village of Ferryden, on the south bank of the river opposite Montrose Harbour, relied on wife power to get their boats to their moorings. Kirtling up their skirts, and putting ropes attached to the bows of the boats over their shoulders, the women stepped into the cold waters and hauled their husbands upriver to the pier to discharge their catch.

Doubtless Montrose wives, looking across from their side of the river, rehearsed their replies if ever their husbands were foolish enough to suggest something similar!

Paw prints in the sand showed that today's generation, walking their dogs like me, share the excitement of being beside the sea.

It crossed my mind whether my literary heroine Violet Jacob ever travelled into the town from her home at House of Dun to walk where I was walking. Was I following bygone footprints where she had watched the “lang, lang skein o' beatin' wings” that inspired her wonderful poem “The Wild Geese”?

  

The ideal Christmas stocking size, Christmas present –  

Angus Whitson’s latest countryside collection – “Tales from the Scottish Countryside – New Walks with the Man with Two dogs”.

“From wood munching wasps and Sheriff soup to burrowing bees and singing mushrooms, “Tales from the Scottish Countryside” is bursting with delightful country tales told with all the knowledge, passion and good humour of someone who understands rural ways   Family recipes include Angus’s own Generous Pasta Sauce.”   (Scottish Home and Country, magazine of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes)

Available in hardback  from the publishers at       www.blackandwhitepublishing.com