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.

Cobwebs cleared

November 16th, 2013

LOCATION, LOCATION, location – it’s such a help having the right location when you have a weekly column to fill about the countryside and the outdoors.

We are lucky, living where we do in the north-east, close to the foothills of the Grampian Mountains and never far from the temperate – although you might sometimes question the description – waters of the North Sea.

The psalmist could have hailed from the north-east, lifting his eyes to the hills one moment and praising the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep, the next.

Tuesday was one of those sparkling days when it’s a crime to stay indoors and I bundled the dogs into the car and headed for the sea. We’re blessed with three stunning beaches within easy driving – Lunan, Montrose and St Cyrus – and I’ve known them all my life.

I took the pretty road from Marykirk past the rugged Stone of Morphie, beneath which are supposed to lie the bones of a Viking warrior killed in battle. The road dips down to join the A92 just above the old Lower Northwaterbridge railway viaduct. The estuary of the River North Esk looked its best in the sunshine, winding the last mile to the coast and the line of waves breaking on the beach.

Destination was the St Cyrus National Nature Reserve at Nether Warburton. SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) have a visitor centre in the old lifeboat station there and it was encouraging to see two dog bowls with fresh water at the door.

I introduced the dogs to Kim Ross, the Seasonal Reserve Assistant, who greeted Macbeth like an old friend, having lost her own Westie, called Misty, in February.

An informative exhibition tells you about the abundant plant, bird and insect life which flourishes in a micro climate created by the high cliffs which protect the dunes from the prevailing westerly wind.

There’s a conundrum there too. In a cave, SNH staff discovered the barrel and breech – the wooden stock had long rotted away – of a French army Fusil Gras M80 rifle. It was the weapon issued to the fictitious Beau Geste when he joined the French Foreign Legion and was used by the Legion in the Boxer Rebellion and in WW1. The question was, why had it been hidden in a cave at St Cyrus?

Salmon fishing was an important industry on this coast, going back to mediaeval times, and my surmise is that a salmon fisher, who had fought in the trenches in France in the Great War, smuggled it home as a war trophy. It was a serious military offence, but was not unknown.

The weapon would have been useless as it was of a calibre not used by the British army, and he would have been unable to get ammunition. To cover up his misdeed my fisherman hid it in the cave where it lay out of sight and out of mind, until now.

Inka loves the beach. He runs free and I can keep him in view all the time. Wind whipped spindrift off the crests of the waves and he plunged through them like a black torpedo. Macbeth never ventures deeper than his little fetlocks and panics if he gets too far below the high water mark.

The tide was coming in as I discovered when my shoe filled with seawater while I was preoccupied with taking photographs.

Our east coast beaches are not noted for the warmth of the water. My childhood memories of St Cyrus beach are mostly of skinny bairns being cudgelled into a battleship-grey sea by insensitive mothers, insisting it was good for us. It might have sounded more plausible if they had come in too, instead of building fires and boiling cups of tea!

It had been a good morning and the wind had blown away the cobwebs.

We drove back over the Stone of Morphie road. As we breasted the crest I lifted my eyes to the familiar hills. A plume of smoke trailed across the face of The Wirren at the gateway to Glenesk. It was muirburn; the deliberate burning of old, rank heather to improve moorland biodiversity and encourage growth of fresh, green heather shoots which are a mainstay of the red grouse diet.

Written on Saturday, November 16th, 2013 at 11:16 am for Weekly.