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.

Power of nature

January 12th, 2013

IT’S THE time of year when haddock roe is available and I jumped at the chance to buy some from Caroline’s fish van which calls at Edzell each Tuesday. The haddock is followed by cod roe which is larger and coarser, but no less tasty for that.

It’s a favourite supper and the Doyenne fries the sliced roe in olive oil along with sliced bacon and tomatoes. It’s a short season and I make the best of it while it lasts.

The subject of rain has been a constant source of conversation. Several friends have had the misfortune to be affected by flooding and the after effects which will last for weeks. On the road from Murlingden, near Little Brechin, to Edzell I saw a telling example of just how destructive the forces of nature can be.

What seems to be just a drainage ditch clearly burst its banks quite spectacularly, carrying away a complete section of the road that crosses it. There must have been a tremendous pressure of water going down the den for there’s a gap of eight feet at its widest and the road’s impassable now for the foreseeable future.

It’s a rural road which has stood up to heavy agricultural traffic over the years but it couldn’t withstand the unstoppable power of water in spate.

Forty years ago, in the days of Angus County Council, they employed Council roadmen whose job was to keep ditches and gullies open and free of obstruction to ensure water drained freely away. But policy changed and the roadmen were made redundant, and the ditches were filled in with pipes which in my experience have never had the same capacity to carry away rainwater as a deep, open, free-flowing drain.

Forty years ago the Doyenne and I were bringing up our family at rural Logie Pert, between Montrose and Marykirk. Our house was the old manse which my mother had renamed The Kirklands.

Jocky Elrick was our local roadman and lived in a council cottage several hundred yards down the road from us. We saw him most days, pushing his bike which served as his barrow – no question then of a council vehicle – with his ditching tools tied onto it with old fashioned binder twine.

He was a short man, bent from a lifetime of working over a spade. Sometimes the only way you’d know he was there was the plume of pipe smoke drifting into the air from the deep drain he was working in.

Jocky lived with his son and on warm summer evenings the two of them sometimes sat outside their cottage playing their squeeze boxes. Memories, memories – it’s what the Man with Two Dogs thrives on.

I joined Robert Galey, a keen dog walking friend, and Bella, his slinky Jack Russell, and we walked down the River North Esk from Morphie Dam which is half-way between the Marykirk Bridge and the rivermouth below Kinnaber.

It’s good for the dogs to have a change from just my company and I enjoy the company of someone who is familiar with the ground we’re walking on.

The dam is actually a weir which fed the mill lade for Morphie Mill on the north bank and the aqueduct on the south bank that supplied the old Hillside Waterworks.

Driftwood, tree trunks, branches, palettes, sand and gravel littered the riverbank and Robert confirmed there had been considerable flooding of the low lying fields.

That’s not the only thing that floats down the river. Edzell Golf Course sits on the bank of the Westwater which joins the North Esk just below Stracathro. On his walks Robert regularly picks up golf balls which have been sliced I believe the term is (not being a golfer) into the Westwater by overenthusiastic, or maybe they’re despairing, golfers who believe that one day, with sufficient practise, they can master the game!

As I’m writing the house is filling with the tantalising smell of freshly baked mince pies. With the family coming for the weekend the Doyenne is using up the last of the Christmas mincemeat.

They’re another of those seasonal treats that I look forward to each year. She reckons she’s made fifteen dozen this year – do you suppose she’d notice if I slipped into the kitchen and pinched just one?

Note: Saturday had barely dawned when Robert called to tell me that a hook would be the shot responsible for golf balls landing in the Westwater.

Written on Saturday, January 12th, 2013 at 12:23 pm for Weekly.