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.

Swept under the carpet

December 3rd, 2011

LIFTING CARPETS can be revealing. A reader, lifting her old living room carpet to lay a new one, came across some pages of The Courier and Advertiser of Saturday August 27, 1994 which had been used for underlay. 1994 isn’t so very long ago – unless, of course, you weren’t even born then – but the old paper has provided fascinating reading.

Being Saturday, it was publication day for my predecessor, Colin Gibson’s, Nature Diary. His column appeared in the same place in the centre page of the paper as Man with Two Dogs continues to do. Nature Diary appeared for a staggering forty two years – without a break. If I should manage to equal that record I shudder to think how old and unsavoury I shall be.

He didn’t just write the words; Colin Gibson was a fine artist and he illuminated his articles with a black and white scraperboard drawing illustrating each week’s subject. My best throw is two dogs – one of which is unquestionably unsavoury!

The subject for 27th August was the River North Esk and the ravine known as The Loups where the river narrows to a rocky channel by The Burn estate which, one way or another, has provided me with lots of ideas for this column while the dogs and I have been out walking there. He went on to talk about The Muckle Ditch which I have several times meant to research and write about.

Lord Adam Gordon built The Burn House between Edzell and Fettercairn. If you’ve ever done the walk through the Blue Door beside the Gannochy Bridge you’ve probably gazed up at The Burn House, the Georgian mansion gazing down at you from an elevated position above the river.

In his capacity as head of the army in Scotland during the Napoleonic Wars, Lord Adam ordered French prisoners of war to work on his estate constructing riverside paths and planting trees. The success of their efforts is still plain to see today.

Colin Gibson wrote that Lord Adam then used the French prisoners to dig The Muckle Ditch, a huge agricultural drainage ditch that runs from near Tillytoghills Farm between Gannochy and Fettercairn, finishing about halfway along the Lang Stracht. Here’s where my mentor and I diverge. My research suggests that the ditch wasn’t started until 1818, some seventeen years after Lord Adam’s death.

It’s recorded as being 18 feet wide at the top, four feet at the bottom and nine feet deep. I certainly know all about that because the first time I came across it, a couple of hundred yards inside Edzell Woods, I didn’t know what it was. I decided to cross it and dropped down into the bottom.
Getting out was like climbing the north face of the Eiger and I was scarlet faced and plottin’ by the time I succeeded.

Written on Saturday, December 3rd, 2011 at 10:09 pm for Weekly.