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.

An early riser

June 9th, 2012

WIDE AWAKE at 4.30 in the morning – at this time of year I wake up as dawn starts breaking. As often as not this spring it’s been the best part of the day with the early sun keeking through the trees. I think there must be leverets in the woods at the back of the house because there’s a hare that sits on the grass outside the kitchen window and moves quietly on when I go down to make a cup of tea.

Wednesday, you’ll remember, the heavens opened and it poured all day – “Rain you couldn’t ignore” a neighbour called it. It stopped in the evening but I knew the River North Esk would be in spate with the amount of water that had fallen. The following morning, by 5.30, I couldn’t do with lying in bed any longer and I took the dogs through the Blue Door at the Gannochy Bridge and up the river.

The river drops down a series of waterfalls as it reaches The Loups and the level had risen so high overnight that the falls had all but disappeared and a solid surge of water, like Newcastle Brown Ale, was fairly brawling through the narrow channel between the high rocks.

In the 1930s the owner of The Burn estate had a fish ladder cut out of the rock at The Loups. It’s on The Burn side of the river but out of sight from the path on the bank. You can see it once the river level drops – a stepped passage which breaks the force of the water when the river is in spate and lets migrating salmon upriver to spawn.

It all brought to mind a song my father sang from his student days – “The burn was big wi’ spate, / An’ there cam’ tum’lin’ doon / Tapsalteerie the half o’ a gate, / Wi’ an auld fish-hake an’ a great muckle skate, / An’ a lum hat wantin’ the croon!”

Father had one singing note and two songs, the other of which was “There was a wee cooper wha lived in Fife”, which made for tuneful car journeys when we went on holiday!

My great literary heroine, Violet Jacob, wrote a short story called The Lum Hat, but that’s another story altogether.

It seems that everyone but me has heard the cuckoo calling at the foot of Glenesk. It’s not so very long ago that you heard their two-tone call the length of the glen by this time, but they have got fewer and fewer each season so hopefully this is a good sign.

One of the sparrowhawks has been visiting again for I found the warm remains of a young blackbird, feathers plucked from its breast scattered round, lying beside one of the bird feeders. I can only assume I surprised it by opening the back door without realising it was there for I wouldn’t expect it to leave its half-eaten prey behind, especially as it may have a mate sitting on eggs which it would share it with.

I’d not heard of a bacon cupboard, let alone seen one, until recently. I’m not sure it’s a piece of furniture that’s traditional to Scotland although this one came from a roup in Aberdeenshire. It’s a high-backed settle to keep the draughts off the occupants and built onto the back is a narrow cupboard where hams were hung to slowly cure in the heat of the kitchen.

The dawn chorus is joined by two bulls in nearby fields. Each has a harem of cows to attend to and the fields are separated by a high wall. Each thinks the other is skulking behind the wall with improper intentions towards their ladies and they bellow out challenges about what they’ll do if they so much as catch the other looking over their fence.

I watched them one morning. One stood in the corner of his field pawing the ground, throwing up divots of grass and describing in detail what he had in mind for his adversary. On the far side of the wall the other charged up and down threatening and swearing in language you wouldn’t care to hear if you were Daisy the cow.

The bellowing Bulls of Baal were late starters compared with these two.

Written on Saturday, June 9th, 2012 at 6:07 pm for Weekly.