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.

Thorny dilemma

December 28th, 2013

GETTING OUT into the countryside isn’t just something you do with dogs the way I do.

A story from a reader illustrates what I mean.

Eddie Stobart, the road haulage firm, has an Eddie Stobart fan club. One of the benefits of membership is that girls – only girls apparently – can apply to have a truck in the 2000-strong fleet named after them. Their name is painted prominently on the front of the cab for all the world to recognise.

The reader applied for membership on behalf of his god-daughter. Everyone congratulated him on his originality and thought no more about it. But they hadn’t taken account of the gift’s effect on the recipient’s imagination. She downloaded the app that came with her nomination and can track her vehicle’s whereabouts wherever it is in the UK.

One weekend it showed up close to home in the Midlands. The whole family dropped everything, jumped in the car and followed the truck.

With signals getting stronger they raced down the M6 and, to their horror, saw her truck travelling in the opposite direction. Father made a smart U-turn at the next exit and, fixing on the signal again, they hot-footed after the receding vehicle.

For three hours they tailed it at 50mph until the driver pulled into a truck stop. He was highly amused at being hijacked by the young highwaywoman and lots of photographs recorded the modern-day holdup.

The young lady had successfully tracked down her truck and its driver, but – and this is my point – the whole family had enjoyed a day in the country. Motorways can seem sterile, tarmac ribbons but they are built mostly well away from urban areas and you travel on them for miles through rich countryside and wild places.

The central reservation and verges are generally pesticide-free, and wildlife friendly habitats have developed along them. The Eddie Stobart truck tracking family could have expected to see kestrels, buzzards, with luck a red kite, skylarks, starlings, butterflies, foxes in the dusk as they start hunting, deer, rabbits, wild flowers all happily adapted to living alongside the mayhem of passing traffic.

That’s the trouble, it’s naturewatch at 70mph.

Recent mention of red squirrels has brought comment about a sudden drop in numbers where they were previously plentiful. It’s usually followed by the observation that readers are seeing increased numbers of buzzards.

I’ve little doubt that the two are linked as I’ve heard so many stories of buzzards targeting red squirrels as a quarry species.

It presents us with one of these thorny dilemmas. Should we let one species reduce the numbers of another until they fall below a sustainable level – in other words let nature find its own level?

Man has been managing the environment for eight thousand years, give or take a millennium. The natural landscape continually shrinks as a result of our activities. If we want a balanced wildlife, maybe we should be prepared to intervene and reduce predator numbers in order to sustain the prey species.

I don’t pretend to know the answer, I just know it can be a bit sparky getting there.

It’s more than forty years since the Doyenne and I were last at a concert in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. We took a night away to hear a programme of mediaeval carols sung by the inspirational a capella choir, The Sixteen.

A night out in the big city – pavement living someone called it – was enlightening. Everyone in a hurry, pushing and shoving, in a rush to get somewhere else fast. So different from our normal pace of life.

We loved the music, an indulgence for the Doyenne, but were thankful to get home. Country living we call it. Sophistication is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Last Saturday was the winter solstice, the shortest day when the sun was at its lowest in the sky. The sun is always welcome but it can be a bit of a seasonal hazard for driving. Several times I’ve been brought almost to a halt, blinded by the glare bouncing off wet roads.

The next celestial event is the March equinox when day and night are the same length. For me, that’s the start of spring.

Written on Saturday, December 28th, 2013 at 12:51 pm for Weekly.