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.

Awaiting spring

March 2nd, 2013

THE GLEN of Drumtochty is a steep-sided, narrow glen between Clatterin’ Brig, at the foot of the Cairn o’ Mount, and Auchenblae (B966).

When the family were young we used to walk from the Forestry Commission car park beside the gates of Drumtochty Castle up the forestry track to the viewpoint at the top of the hill. Families grow up and go off to make their own lives and it was a walk that got neglected – until Tuesday, that is. The sun had shone all morning and it seemed a good day to revisit old haunts.

Crossing the Clatterin’ Brig the fancy took me to have a look at the view from the top of the Cairn o’ Mount, and I turned left up the long hill (B974).

The Cairn road has been under snow and closed for quite a number of days in recent weeks. It’s all clear now but the vegetation on either side is dead and dull, variations of brown, light and dark. Once we get a period of steady heat the fresh green shoots of spring will transform the landscape.

As a historical aside – many years ago I knew an Alyth man called Adam Brown who drove the first charabanc over the Cairn in the days before the road was made up and tarmaced. It must have been a bumpy ride for his passengers because it was one of the traditional drove roads for bringing cattle from Deeside down to the cattle fairs.

Adam told me that the most difficult part was the last left-hand bend before the summit. I’m not surprised – a touch of frost can still bring the traffic to a standstill at the same spot.

It wasn’t the best viewing day; there was a haze over the coast. Looking down into the Mearns it’s clear that the farmers are pressing on with ploughing in preparation for the spring sowing. Lots of freshly turned brown earth where there had been tired, yellow stubbles.

I turned back down the hill and headed for Drumtochty.

Before reaching the glen proper I passed Loch Saugh which was still partly frozen. A pair of mute swans and a solitary dabchick, energetically swimming across the open water, was all the wildlife I saw.

At this point you’re in what is known as Strath Finella, so named after the wife of a Lord of the Mearns who was involved, Lady Macbeth-style, in the murder of King Kenneth II in revenge for his part in the murder of her only son.

There’s a Castle Hill – a likely spot for a murder – and a Priest’s Well, Abbot’s Face and Friar’s Glen all marked on the map, indicating a significant past community. After the deed Finella fled to the coast and, so the legend goes, was herself murdered in what we know now as the Den of Finella.

At this time of year the low sun penetrates for only a short time between the stands of tall, mature trees lining the track through Drumtochty Forest. Although the snow had mostly melted the ground still held the frost and despite the heat in the sun it was chilly in the woods. We’ll be back again when spring is a bit more forward.

Later, I walked the dogs last thing under a near full moon. I could clearly hear a pack of geese flying low overhead but they were completely invisible against the cloudless, night sky. This is because I was looking into infinity. Without a background of cloud to reflect off the geese could have been the size of V-bombers and I still wouldn’t have seen them.

A final word on the Drumtochty walk. It’s an odd thing to find myself mentioning but left in the middle of the track up the hill was a dog poo bag neatly tied up to prevent the contents soiling the environment. I don’t wish to decry the good intentions of fellow dog walkers but, in the open countryside, why?

Plastic bags can take several years to biodegrade, the contents would disappear in days if left to nature. I realise poo bags are not pleasant things to carry around but the effect here was the opposite of what I imagine was in the dog owner’s mind.

Written on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013 at 10:55 pm for Weekly.