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.

Days of frozen fun

December 7th, 2013

I GREW up in Montrose. The Curlie was in easy walking distance of home. In the days before indoor curling rinks it was the curling pond.

The long-defunct Montrose Curling Club had played on the Mary Loch, at Little Mill on the outskirts of the town, on the Brechin road. It was drained in the 1920s and there’s no trace of it now.

In the glory days of the 1940s and 1950s, when the winters were hard and the Curlie froze, it was pretty lively round there. I don’t know how much curling went on because my father didn’t play and it was twenty years before I was introduced to the roarin’ game. But there were days of ice skating and, if I remember right, wild games of free-for-all ice hockey.

The Curlie was just a country pond then, on the edge of Montrose Golf Course and fringed with rushes. Then the site was enhanced, edged with concrete slabs and became a community asset, if that’s the right description.

Whatever regular maintenance there was to begin with must have ceased and the Curlie is three-quarters overgrown with tall bulrushes. Little chance now of a bonspiel, as a traditional outdoor curling match is called, or of free skating – and ice hockey is out of the question.

However there’s a resident population of waterfowl, as I discovered when I took a stroll there earlier in the week. Hard to say how many waterhens there were as they kept popping in and out of the cover of the bulrushes. The resident pack of mallard duck are obviously fed by walkers as they followed me expectantly, looking for a treat.

The black-headed gulls were easily identified by their red beaks (and red legs too if they hadn’t been swimming). Except, of course, they’re white-headed at this time of year. In winter they lose their summer cap of black feathers except, of course, they are actually brown. A couple of herring gulls had joined the party – they are all scavengers and were likely waiting to steal scraps thrown to the ducks.

A heron stalked grandly along the front of the bulrushes, ready to strike at any prey with its deadly pick-axe beak. It must have felt I was invading its personal space with all the photos I was taking for it took off in that hunched-up, huffy-like way they have of flying.

The golf links are a wonderful area for walkers to exercise their dogs, with scattered patches of whins and broom for dogs to hunt amongst. It’s the fifth oldest golf course in the world where the Royal & Ancient game has been played for more than 450 years.

Curling was born much the same time, the oldest written record of the game being 1540 – so perhaps here’s a corner of Montrose that’s just drenched in sporting history.

Country friends, who are regular readers, have an old rhododendron thicket in their garden. Harry, a neighbouring Jack Russell and regular visitor, was rootling around the rhodie and disappeared into the undergrowth.

They watched him backing out of the foliage followed by a roe deer calf which clearly was in the mood to play. The calfie was followed by an irate doe which was having none of it and chased Harry all the way back to the house.

Being in the right place at the right moment is when you often see nature at its most uninhibited.

How many readers know that you can only legally clean out a nesting box between August and the end of the following January i.e. outwith the laying months?

You should have cleared last summer’s nesting material out of your nest boxes by now and scoured them thoroughly with boiling water only. This gets rid of parasites that can survive over winter and cause disease in next spring’s chicks.

It looks like we’re in for a severe winter so it’s worth putting up nest boxes now to provide roosting shelters for the small garden birds like wrens, coal tits, robins. A wisp of hay or a handful of wood shavings in the bottom will provide extra warmth for the birds.

And you’ll need to remember to clean them out again before 1st February.

Written on Saturday, December 7th, 2013 at 11:59 am for Weekly.