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.

Our debt to nature

October 16th, 2010

FALLEN HEROES, to my way of thinking, hardly seem more tragic than trees blown down in the wind.

A veteran beech tree lies in a grass paddock which the dogs and I sometimes pass   It blew down in the gales a month or so ago   Its leaves are fading for lack of nourishment and it's sad to see it laid low.

The elements can display almost unbelievable ferocity and from a distance it looked as though the old tree had simply snapped off six feet from the ground   I'd normally expect trees to be uprooted in such wild conditions and as the cattle had been moved to another field, the dogs and I went to investigate.

Two hundred years old – maybe more – scarred and gnarled trunk, with a circumference of about sixteen feet, the old man is lifeless now   The core is rotten through, blackened and spongy, and I understand why it snapped like a matchstick.

It'll likely end up as logs on the Big Hoose's drawing room fire, which seems an unfitting end for such an ancestor   There's plenty good wood on the limbs to make a table or chair, or other piece of furniture to commemorate a long life.

In Victorian times they made nick-nacks from such windfall   When I was a youngster an elderly friend of my mother's gave me a wooden piggy bank made from part of a historic elm (I think) which blew down on Perth's North Inch   Nae idea where it is now – nae money anyhow!

The village of Laurencekirk was long noted for the manufacture of wooden snuff boxes which have a cleverly concealed hinge on the lid, invented by a Mr. James Sandy, which creates an airtight join and keeps the snuff inside, dry   Wouldn't it be grand if another Mr Sandy appeared with a woodworker's knowing hands and skills.

I always appreciate letters from readers   Some weeks ago I wrote about the absence of butterflies in the garden and a lady told me about the legend of the butterflies  €œwhich have no voices (but) when released they rise to heaven and whisper our wishes to God €.

We all whisper our wishes to our god in our own way, and she went on to say that  €œthe sight of a butterfly always lifts my spirits (and) acts as an affirmation that, beyond the throb of this busy world, nature beats her own, steady rhythm, providing us with moments of quiet and gentle beauty to be cherished €.

It's a very personal way of reminding us to be aware of the countryside we are part of, the wildlife we have responsibility for and the need to safeguard both   We are the only animal on the planet with the ability to do so and, if we fail, we don't just fail ourselves but our children's, children's children.

And there's more now –
See my new blog – A Breath of Fresh Air from Scotland

Written on Saturday, October 16th, 2010 at 1:24 pm for Weekly.