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 silent spring?

February 22nd, 2014

DOWN SOUTH – Brighton & Hove, to be precise – and you can’t get much more south than that unless you jump on the Isle of Wight ferry. That’s where the Doyenne and I were at the beginning of the week.

We were up at crack of dawn on Monday morning to be at Aberdeen’s airport to catch the early plane.

I wondered if our flight path took us over any of the flooded areas in the south. I was interested to see from the air just how widespread the damage has been. By comparison we’ve got off lightly with the weather this winter in our corner of the north-east of Scotland.

In the event we flew above a blanket of cloud in bright sunshine for the whole journey.

Property and livelihoods have been devastated and it’s going take the people affected a long time to pick up the threads again of a normal life. But you have to fear for the effect the flooding has had, and will have in the longer term on the wildlife in the Somerset Levels and southwest counties of England.

I believe that the countryside is important to the health of the human spirit. But the countryside is only the countryside because of the life that lives in it.

They’ve been able to move farm stock and humans to safe ground but what of the other life on the ground, above it and below?

I hardly know where to start. The garden song birds – robins, thrushes, blackbirds, tits, finches – feed on insects, larvae, seeds and worms. It’s a bleak future for them as their food sources were engulfed by the water weeks ago.

Rabbits, voles, moles – all burrowing animals – will have been overwhelmed. Badgers are burrowers too and the floods may have provided a natural solution to the controversial badger cull.

Hedgehogs don’t burrow but they hibernate over winter. They won’t have seen it coming. Gone!

Bumble bees are in the news because of disease transferred to them by honey bees. But most of the bumble bee species nest on or beneath the ground. They will be lost, as will miner bees, so-called because they too nest underground.

Last year butterflies were making a comeback from several disastrous breeding seasons. What hope for them now in these flooded areas in the wake of the endless, torrential rain?

Where do you stop? What about snakes and other reptiles? Amphibians like newts, frogs and toads might be expected to thrive in such a watery environment. We’ll never know how many were swept away on the crest of a wave, too small to be able to defy the inundation.

My understanding is that it will take weeks for water levels to subside and the ground to dry out. Speaking to retired Mearns farmer Gordon Robertson it seems that the winter crops sown in the affected parts of the country will have rotted out after three weeks under water.

The soil structure is ruined and the farmers’ next problem is to get the land drained and dried out sufficiently to sow another crop. The purpose of ploughing is to aerate the soil and promote growth. It won’t be possible initially to put heavy machinery onto the sludge left by the floods as they will just sink beyond their axles. It’s a precarious outlook.

Scavengers such as carrion crows, gulls and magpies, and foxes may be this winter’s beneficiaries. Dog walkers like me may face a silent spring.

We’ve not escaped unscathed but we can count ourselves lucky in the north-east to have avoided the depth of misery they’re experiencing down south. In large measure it’s been the luck of the draw in the path taken by the Jet Stream which has steered the destructively persistent stormy weather along Britain’s south coast.

There will be endless debate as to how much of it has been self-inflicted by man’s intervention or, in some cases, lack of intervention with nature. I have faith in nature’s survivability and capacity to bounce back but we too easily forget that the world is vulnerable to everything that we humans do.

The problem is that we humans are the only species that have the ability and knowledge to care for our world. Nature’s losses are our impoverishment too.

Written on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 at 11:07 am for Weekly.