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.

Keeping it in the family (or Spoilt for Choice)

April 7th, 2012

I TOOK it badly when winter interrupted the summer we were enjoying. There was plenty warning about the snow so it was no surprise when it came last Tuesday, but the steep fall in temperature was still a bit of a shock to the system.

Such a change from three weeks ago when we had the whole family staying. It doesn’t happen often but we had gathered everyone under one roof to celebrate a landmark family event.

We’re a pretty outdoor-loving family and the good weather meant we could open the back door and bung all the grandchildren outside while the grown ups planned walks and put the picnics together. It was great news for Inka who will walk as far as you care to take him, but Macbeth is starting to think that the onslaught of years has taken its toll and if there’s one stravaiging idiot in the family he sees little reason to add to the number.

Walkers are spoilt for choice in our part of the country. There’s glens and woods inland and marvellous beaches at Lunan Bay, Montrose and St Cyrus. We chose Montrose and despite being the weekend we had the top end almost entirely to ourselves. The tide was right out and just on the turn, and we walked on firm sand up to the rivermouth of the North Esk.

At low tide, for the last quarter mile or so until it meets the sea, the river runs almost self-consciously through a narrow channel in the sand, scarcely recognisable from the broad, confident flow half a mile upstream where it runs past Kinnaber.

When I was a youngster you could see the WW2 concrete anti-tank blocks which formed a defensive line all along the coastline, but over the years the build up of sand changed the outline of the dunes and they disappeared. But there’s been erosion and some of the dragons’ teeth, as they were called – from Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, in Greek mythology – have reappeared.

There were pill boxes too – lookout posts made of reinforced concrete with not even an apology towards comfort. The windows were blank holes, open to the elements. When a freezing wind came shrieking in from the east filled with stinging sleet, or whipping spray off the crests of the waves, it must have seemed like a refined sort of torture to toonser lads sent to these lonely spots on sentry duty. On the other hand if they’d been there a fortnight ago they’d have come off duty with a healthy sun tan.

So I was able to share a wee bit of military history with the grandchildren – spiced up with some doubtful, and certainly irrelevant, additional facts!

On the Sunday there was general agreement that we should go up Glenesk (a favourite of the Whitson family) and introduce the grandchildren to Drake’s Pool. Drive through Tarfside and head straight on past St Drostan’s church. The road runs out and becomes a farm track to the Baillies. Cross the Easter Burn at Burnfoot and a hundred yards further on turn right off the track and park beside the Water of Tarf.

You may get peace up the glen, but quiet is a different commodity. Whaups, the proper Scottish name for curlews, were courting and the birds were haunting the glen with their plaintive ‘coor-li’ cries and the male birds’ bubbling call which sounds like a trill on a woody flute.

In the face of all the best grandparental advice, grandson Alfie decided to go in for a dip. There may have been warmth in the sun but it certainly hadn’t got into the water which still had snow from the higher slopes in it.

There’s a point when boys become acutely aware of the effects of freezing water on their nether regions. Alfie reached that point when the bottom of his dookin’ suit was barely damp!

What a day it was for the Doyenne and me – surrounded by our family. You need to sup up the pleasure of these occasions, for grandchildren grow up and go their own ways and it becomes difficult to gather everyone together.

Nobody gave a thought to their mobile phone – in any event it would have been wasted effort for you can’t get a signal.

Written on Saturday, April 7th, 2012 at 10:59 am for Weekly.