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.

Hole in the wall

October 22nd, 2011

WHEN SOMETHING new turns up that I think I should have known about I sometimes wonder what I’ve done with my life.

Last week I visited the farm of Willanyards on the Montrose/Forfar road to be shown a bee bole by farmer’s wife Mrs Kay Cessford. They are not a common architectural feature of Scottish farms and I can’t recall seeing one before – which surprises me.

Bole is a good Scots word meaning a recess in a wall, and in this context the Willanyards one was intended to shelter three of the old fashioned coiled straw bee skeps. There’s a lug at each side on which, presumably, a shutter was hung in winter to protect the hives from the elements. Economical and simple in construction, it was incorporated into the wall when it was being built anyway – just the way a canny Angus farmer would have done it when the late-Georgian farmhouse was completed.

If you’ve no romance in your soul you’d likely say it’s just a hole in the wall, but like eel traps which I’ve written about previously, that bee bole represents a bit of all-but-forgotten social history.

No less than now, honey was a valued addition to the family diet and I believe it had quite wide medical applications too, and even sometimes formed part of the farmer’s rent paid to his landlord. So that hole in the wall played a significant part in the family’s life.

The Cessford’s clearly have an eye for historical detail for in another part of the garden wall they have incorporated the old stone doocot frontage, with three entrance holes, which they recovered from the old steading of nearby Grahamsfirth Farm.

These small domestic lofts usually built into the gable, although I’ve seen them over the front door, of farmhouses provided a welcome source of fresh meat for the family, especially the squabs or tender, nearly fledged pigeons.

I was a bit blown away by the view from the Willanyards farmhouse which sits half way up Bolshan Hill and looks across the Vale of Strathmore. From Turin Hill to the west you can see eastwards along the long dramatic backdrop of the Grampian foothills to about where the cliffs at the top end of St Cyrus Bay drop down into the North Sea.

I took the dogs with me and they had to wait while I had a welcome cup of tea before we left. We took the side road round by Burghill Wood overlooking Brechin on the way home, and walked along the Brechin Path Network on the part called Rough Moss.

A change of scenery does us all good – you can get a bit stale always taking the same paths. The wind had dropped and the sun warmed us and, all in all, it turned out an altogether satisfactory afternoon.

Written on Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 at 6:39 pm for Weekly.