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.

A dreich day

January 18th, 2014

THERE’S A green mound in a field on the east side of the B966 Edzell to Fettercairn road which had been in my mind to investigate for more than twenty years. My father looked round it after archaeological excavations had taken place there and he described it as a Roman marching camp.

These were temporary camps, thrown up quickly for one or two nights protection by an advance force for the main marching column following on behind. There are quite a number of them documented in the north-east of Scotland.

Tuesday looked set to rain all day. After lunch I pulled on my wellies and waxed jacket, threw the dogs in the car, and drove the couple of miles to the site.

On the summit there’s evidence of the excavations. What seemed pretty clear is that it is not a marching camp. Large boulders protrude through the ground suggesting permanent structures.

It’s marked on the Landranger map as Green Cairn fort at the Cairnton of Balbegno. Research revealed that it is the site of a vitrified fort dating back before the Roman incursions into Scotland.

It’s hard to draw comparisons between this one and the White and Brown Caterthuns, two other well known local vitrified forts, ten miles south as the crow flies. The substantially larger Caterthuns, several acres in size, sit atop two prominent hills, with tremendous fields of vision for defensive purposes.

What is astonishing is that all three were built by blue painted wee Scotchmen without JCBs, picks or shovels, horses or wheels – just their bare hands. They certainly understood more than just basic engineering skills.

The weather cleared and a watery sun made a brave appearance. We’d spent more than an hour there and the dogs had walked themselves. I’d walked in my father’s footsteps and I’d learnt a bit.

A turned out to be the small pond, the size of a tennis court, in the middle of a rushy field and hidden from view from the road. I saw nothing moving on it, but in spring I shan’t be surprised if there are a couple of pairs of duck nesting close by, so I’ll be keeping my eye on it to see some ducklings.

The rain didn’t let up all day on Wednesday and it was back into the wellies and the waxed jacket. There was only one word for it – dreich. The Scottish vernacular is blessed with some wonderfully strong, atmospheric words.

We went a favourite walk to the loch at the foot of Glen Esk. There wasn’t a breath of wind, everywhere was hushed, no pigeons flew overhead, the usually raucous rooks and jackdaws were uncharacteristically silent. A weeping mist cloaked the countryside, shrouding us in our own private world.

I’d never seen the lochan like it before. A ribbon of mist veiled the far end. It was eerie – it could have been the set for a horror movie.

All the colour had been sucked out of the landscape. A raft of duck sitting on a sheet of ice in the middle of the water were almost invisible. It was as though I was seeing everything in black and white.

I lost my stick. It’s not the best stick in the world, lovingly carved from a Scottish Blackface ram’s horn. Mine is quite plain and carved from imported buffalo or some such animal.

But I’m used to it. It’s an old friend – my hand knows instinctively where it should fall on the hand piece. I’ve taken a stick on my walks for ten years now and it’s like an extra limb. I put it down when I started taking photographs and as I moved on I forgot where I left it.

Then I lost Macbeth. He’d got fed up waiting for some action and wandered off to find his own. I tried to second guess which direction he took and got that wrong too. For about twenty minutes I tramped through the wood calling for him.

Of course he turned up in the most obvious place, giving me a look that said – “Oh there you are. I wondered where you had got to”!

Now I need to go back and find that stick.

Written on Saturday, January 18th, 2014 at 7:12 pm for Weekly.