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.

Well worth a visit

March 1st, 2014

TO INDULGE my favourite occupation of looking at boats in harbours I took myself over to the fishing villages of Johnshaven and Gourdon – Gurdon as it is spoken locally.

For a century they were two of the main stations on the Montrose and Bervie Railway (it became Inverbervie only in 1926). The line opened in 1865 to provide a fast transport link taking the fishermen’s daily catch to market.

It met a real need in the community for, according to the recently published Fishing Communities of Angus and The Mearns by David Adams, by 1881 there were 59 and 108 boats fishing out of the two villages respectively.

But that was the high point in the villagers’ fortunes and the records show declining numbers of boats and fishermen thereafter.

The recent weather hasn’t favoured the few boats still fishing out of the two harbours. I was told of one boat which has managed to sail on only ten days in the two months since Christmas. That’s a day a week.

Our prevailing wind is the west wind but for the last three months the fishermen have had to contend with easterlies seesawing between north-east and south-east.

It’s not just that they are sea winds, blowing the heavy weather onto the shore – it’s been the ferocity of the wind. Wind against tide can create a dangerous swell.

The hazards for men who go to the sea in boats are no less risky today than they were in 1890. Then the Gourdon fishermen agreed to subscribe a penny in the £ from their earnings to pay for the Maggie Law, a 30-foot, clinker-built inshore lifeboat, which was built by local boat builder, James (Jeems) Mowatt.

I took the opportunity of being in the village to pop into the Maggie Law Maritime Museum to see the old lady. She has survived her century and a quarter in remarkably good shape considering she was built specifically as a surf boat and was launched usually in the most violent sea conditions.

Marine steam power was becoming increasingly common by the end of the 19th century but, cost apart, the requirement here was for a boat that was light and sat like a seagull in the water, and was sturdy enough to hold her own in the worst weather. The Maggie Law had a crew of six oarsmen and a helmsman all drawn from the fisher community.

Dave Ramsay, the museum’s Project Director, showed me round. The two-storey building was the old Coastguard Station and looks over the Gutty, the original slipway of the original harbour designed and built by Thomas Telford.

There’s lots to see in the surprisingly small space available and upstairs there’s an ever-growing archive. It’s well worth a visit but, if you can’t get to Gourdon, visit www.maggielaw.co.uk and click on the Armchair Tour.

What with trips down south and other distractions it has been several weeks since the dogs and I took the familiar walk to the wee loch at the foot of Glenesk.

We were greeted with the piping call of oystercatchers flying overhead. They overwinter at the coast and this is the time they begin to fly inland to prepare to nest.

I watched them land above the spit of shingle where they always congregate – just half a dozen of them but that number will grow tenfold before they start to pair off in a month or so.

Unexpected things happen in nature and you wonder if you can really believe your eyes. Sitting at my computer on Thursday afternoon, writing this very article, an unfamiliar slatey-grey bird, maybe the size of a mistle thrush, alighted on the fence in the back garden.

I’ve seen a merlin, our smallest bird of prey, probably only five times and always regarded them as birds of the open moor. I didn’t expect to see one so close to the village even if we live right on the outskirts.

I was sufficiently unsure of the sighting to phone an ornithologically much better informed friend who confirmed from my description that he thought the visitor had been a tiercel, or male merlin.

They are beautiful birds, but they are beautiful killers. That’s how they survive. We humans eat lamb chops!

Written on Saturday, March 1st, 2014 at 7:54 pm for Weekly.