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.

City of villages

July 7th, 2012

WE’VE BEEN on our travels again, the Doyenne and I. Last week I wrote about our holiday in Sutherland and we’re back now from a long weekend at the other end of the country.

They say that London is a city of villages and as the original metropolis grew in the 18th and 19th centuries it absorbed the outlying communities which supplied it with services and goods.

Today, when you’re in the city centre, fighting the ants and drones rushing every which way except your own, it’s hard to avoid the thought that London City is just a huge, mindless urban sprawl. But the reality is that these original communities have retained deep-rooted elements of their historical identity.

We were visiting family in Enfield, north of the city, which is an old market town where they still hold a weekly market. As is found all over London there is a green lung of woodland on the edge of the town. This is Hilly Fields wood where Enfielders walk and our hosts exercise Dixie, their Cairn Terrier/ Shih Tzu cross – an offbeat blend but a quite delightful nature.

I expected to see more wildlife than we did but that may have been because we were walking on the boundary between town and country and there was too much disturbance. Certainly there are small garden songbirds like robins and tits, and also jays and magpies and jackdaws which are great opportunists and quick to colonise and dominate areas where the feeding is easy.

They are in the wood but we didn’t see any of the famous London parakeets, but we were woken by urban foxes yowling outside our bedroom window. They have become so integrated into town living that I don’t see how they can be regarded as truly wild animals any longer.

It had been several weeks since the dogs and I last walked up to the wee loch at the back of the house, so we put that right on Wednesday.

A solitary mallard duck was all I saw when we got there and I would have carried on with the walk but Inka, plowtering around the rushes at the water’s edge, startled a couple more which paddled energetically out into open water.

The conditions were humid and close and there wasn’t a breath of wind. Apart from the growing activity on the loch there was no sound of other woodland or field birdlife. It was as if the oppressive atmosphere had stunned everything else into silence.

We carried quietly on and I watched two dabchicks. They are awkward birds on land and are much more at home on water, and swim and dive freely. I don’t expect them to stay up there much longer unless they have a second brood. They arrive each year just to nest and the next time I likely see them is swimming in the slack water of the nearby River North Esk.

I hadn’t noticed the oystercatchers on the far shore which rose with indignant cries, circled the trees like a squadron and returned, skimming so low over the water’s surface it seemed they must fall in, to land again on their favourite spit of shingle. I don’t know what the collective noun for oystercatchers is. There’s a fling of sandpipers and a congregation of plovers and if a reader can give me the name for a group of oystercatchers, I shall add it to my list.

A grey heron stood motionless in the shallows, doubtless keeping a weather eye on us. They are normally the shyest of birds and slip away on slow, powerful wing beats at the first sign of disturbance.

Macbeth, gliding amongst the reeds like the shady character he is, attracted the attention of a raft of mallard resting at the top of the loch. They are inquisitive birds and some began swimming down to investigate. One had an unusual white rear end which may have been a hybrid result from a union between a wild bird and a white farm yard bird.

So it was all a lot busier than I had imagined when we first arrived. And back home we have a brood of swallows in the garage which are just about completely fledged and ready to fly the nest.

Written on Saturday, July 7th, 2012 at 1:34 pm for Weekly.