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.

Horse power vs donkey power

November 19th, 2011

MY TAUTOLOGY blunder – the Vale of Strathmore – may have run its course. I got a call from a retired farmer at the head of Glenesk who told me that he grew up calling it the Howe of Strathmore, much as we refer to the Howe of the Mearns.

However, the next pitfall could be duplication as it’s always been my understanding that the plain that forms Strathmore runs from Stonehaven to Perth, so presumably the Howe of the Mearns is part of the Howe of Strathmore. And we shouldn’t forget the Howe of Fife, or is that just another snare for the unwary?

Whatever – as my informant is somewhat smoother in the tooth than me I vote that older, wiser counsels should prevail, and I’m all for the Howe of Strathmore from now on.

On Wednesday I met a man whose first job when he left school was as cuddy loon at the Woodston salmon fishing station at the upper end of St Cyrus beach. The fishings at that time belonged to Joseph Johnston & Sons, one of the east of Scotland’s largest commercial salmon fishing companies, but the once-familiar arrow-shaped stake nets and jumper nets have now all but completely disappeared from the beaches.

The cuddy loon’s job was to lead the cuddy or, in this case, a donkey down the steep track from the Woodston bothy at the top of the cliffs to the fishermen who emptied the nets of their catch at each low tide. The fish were packed into wicker panniers and the cuddy and the cuddy loon made the steep ascent back to the cliff top.

In due course the cuddy was replaced by a mechanical pony which was a small Ransome caterpillar-tracked tractor. I certainly have memories of the mechanical pony but the cuddy loon was before my time.

I’ve seen old photos of a cuddy loon and even if he hadn’t been holding the cuddy’s head he’d be instantly identifiable as he’s the only one in the picture wearing leather boots. The fishermen are wearing thigh-length waders because they had to wade into the sea to carry out their work.

There seem to be more geese than I can remember for several years working the fields round our way. They’ll feed on the stubble fields until they are ploughed and on grass fields until the grass is frosted and loses its nourishment.

Then they’ll invade the winter barley and winter wheat where their large paddle feet compact the ground, inhibiting growth. They don’t nibble the young shoots which might otherwise still grow; instead they’ll pull the shoot and the root out of the ground together and it’s easy to understand how a large skein of several thousand hungry birds descending on a field can cause tremendous damage. Small wonder farmers don’t welcome them.

Written on Saturday, November 19th, 2011 at 10:03 pm for Weekly.