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.

Month of new life

May 10th, 2014

MAY IS probably the loveliest month in my calendar of seasons. Hedgerow and woodland colours are asserting themselves and there’s an explosion of new life on the trees.

Beeches are amongst the most familiar and widespread trees in our Scottish landscape and were planted in large numbers by our agricultural improving forebears. They can live for more than three hundred years and our ancestors’ enthusiasm for the species is evident all over the north-east.

In March, out walking Macbeth and Inka, I saw their reddish brown, torpedo-shaped leaf buds and these have opened now into fresh, pale lime-green leaves. They have catkins at this time and the pollen comes off on your fingers if you touch them.

Stands of the gracious trees were widespread a century ago, lining roadsides and driveways to country houses. They can grow to over seventy feet and their branches would meet overhead, forming a canopy of shade.

Over time many have been felled or fallen victim to storms, uprooted by the wind, for they have only a shallow root system. But, driving round the countryside you’ll still see remnants of the old cathedrals of greenery.

The landward end of the Lang Stracht, approaching the Gannochy Bridge and the entrance to Glenesk, can be very picturesque on a spring afternoon with the sun filtering through the new foliage and dappling the woodland floor.

Driving up its long drive you get an impending sense of the grandeur of The Burn House, near Edzell. Some of the trees there will have been planted by its builder, General Lord Adam Gordon, around the end of the eighteenth century.

There are several splendid examples of mature copper beeches and an unusual variation, a split leaf or cut leaf beech, so called because its leaves are split in three.

Ancient and imposing, its long lower branches sweep almost to the ground, creating a perfect children’s secret den beneath its dense foliage. Some years ago Inka – that’s Inka One, grandfather of the present daft hound – put up a hen pheasant from its base and, on investigation, I found a nest with eighteen eggs.

We take veterans like these for granted. They’ve been there for generations, rooted in the same spot – patiently growing, season on season, taller and broader. They are more than just markers for dog walkers like me. You expect, as something ordained, to always see their familiar outline on the horizon.

Sometimes, suddenly one of the old warriors has gone. There’s a hole in the sky just like there’d be a hole in your face if one of your front teeth fell out. That’s how it was on Thursday morning.

I suspected nothing when I saw the unfamiliar vehicle in the lay-by as the dogs and I set off on the early walk. As we turned to come back I heard the chain saw’s unmistakeable whine.

Each morning the dogs and I have passed a tall beech tree at the start of that walk. Not any longer. By lunchtime it was away. Kyle Davis of K&S Treecare of Careston, near Brechin was directing operations, assisted by Joe Stubbs and Tomas Kyncl.

I could hardly credit that it had to come down. It had a fine crown of new foliage and looked good for another hundred years. But I hadn’t noticed the extent of disease caused by the loss of a major limb through storm damage.

When sap rises in a tree in spring, and the canopy of new leaves opens, a large branch can double its weight and the whole tree become like a sail in a high wind. This tree was unstable and clearly a potential hazard.

I was corrected when I referred to Kyle and his crew as tree surgeons.

Arboriculturists live the high life, working off ropes and harnesses at heights up to a hundred feet. It’s a physical job relying half on climbing, half on rope techniques, so Tomas’s rock climbing experience comes in handy.

Health & Safety and protective equipment are primary considerations, which is not surprising. Chain saws revolve at the equivalent of 50 mph, so there’s hardly time for second thoughts when you’re swaying in the breeze and the only things stopping you falling off your perch are your safety harness and climbing rope.

Written on Saturday, May 10th, 2014 at 1:01 pm for Weekly.