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.

Stories of the sea

November 24th, 2012

THE SEA sang her siren song on Wednesday and I answered the call.

Bundling the dogs into the car I chose a different route from usual to drive to St Cyrus beach. We took the road from Laurencekirk over the whaleback ridge of Hill of Garvock.

Looking inland, there’s a tremendous viewpoint just below the summit with a 180degree panorama view up and down the Howe of the Mearns and the Howe of Strathmore. The views on the other side, over the coast and out to sea, are just as rewarding.

Garvock means rough field and that windswept hill top must have been a hostile place to cultivate in early centuries when farmers had just rudimentary plowshares to break the ground.

By early afternoon the sun is getting low in the sky and can be quite blinding when you’re driving. I parked at the St Cyrus Nature Reserve information centre and passed the time of day with a friend who had been walking his dog and was just coming off the beach.

There was a bit of spider activity – fine-spun filaments of spider silk drifting in the light breeze enabling the spiders to effectively fly over distances that would take them a spider age to walk over, round and under all the obstacles.

St Cyrus beach holds many memories; it was always a great place for youngsters. As often as not perishing cold, but when you’re young and the sap is rising you never notice such inconveniences – anyway making a fire from driftwood was an essential part of every trip. It was good, too, for beachcombing for floats from fishing nets – cork, plastic, galvanised metal and, if you were really in luck, an occasional glass one.

I set out with the dogs along the track that runs behind the former Tay Salmon Fishers’ bothy, which goes back to the days when the salmon netting in St Cyrus Bay was leased partly by that company and partly by Joseph Johnston & Sons of Montrose. It’s a short step to the Nether Kirkyard which is steeped in local history.

I’ve always known the old burial ground as Beattie’s Grave because it was the spot in 1823 where George Beattie, a Montrose Writer or solicitor, chose to blow out his brains in despair when he was jilted by the farmer of Stone of Morphie’s daughter in favour of a socially more favoured suitor.

It’s an ancient place of worship and many of the headstones are embellished with skulls, crossed bones, winged souls and hourglasses reflecting the transient nature of life. One epitaph reads – “As runs the glass, man’s life doth pass” – the sands of time interacting with the sands of the beach. Wheatsheafs, scissors, square and dividers identify the occupations of farmer, tailor, wright.

A stone-slated watch house is built into the corner of the wall where relatives kept watch to stop grave robbers exhuming newly buried bodies and carrying them off to the medical school at Aberdeen University. The body snatchers of the nineteenth century didn’t operate just in Edinburgh.

By 3 o’clock the moon had risen, the day had lost its warmth and the light was fading. I’d come to be beside the sea and we walked along the tide line.

Two small waders – Sanderlings, I think, for they are winter visitors – kept moving on ahead of us, busily probing the sand for food. I realised how little wildlife I had seen. I’d heard no birdsong in the reed beds in the dunes and saw only one other seabird – a black-backed gull.

I was compensated by a lovely sunset; pink sky spreading out to the north and east, but blink your eye and it changes – transient life again

Beyond Montrose the welcoming wink, wink, wink of Scurdie Ness lighthouse sent out its reassuring message to mariners – three flashes every twenty seconds to help them identify their position in wild conditions.

As I put the dogs back in the car for the journey home a skein of geese swung noisily over the cliffs above Kirkside, likely heading for Montrose Basin. It was a satisfactory end to our afternoon.

It was lucky I chose Wednesday for it was the first day of sunshine and blue skies for nearly a fortnight and Thursday, you’ll remember, the heavens opened again.

Written on Saturday, November 24th, 2012 at 11:24 pm for Weekly.