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.

Peace and quiet?

May 3rd, 2014

IT’S AN urban myth that the countryside is a haven of peace and quiet.

The Doyenne and I are home from a long weekend in Suffolk where we added a touch of tartan and Scottish brio to a family 60th birthday celebration. We stayed in a country B&B and were awoken each morning at an hour which would have been unearthly even if we hadn’t been partying the night before.
Around half past four the racket started – the dawn chorus we’d have called it in less arduous times.

The local hunt hounds were kennelled half a mile away and the dogs started hollering early – giving tongue, or speaking, the huntsmen call it. Noise travels far and travels clearly on the cool, still air at 5 a.m. The Doyenne would have added a few kind words of her own if she could have lifted her head off the pillow!

Peacocks are noisy brutes and the neighbouring farm kept a couple which chimed in for good measure. Adding insult to injury, a donkey – “herald of a noisy world” – cleared his throat and brayed incessantly.

Not wanting to miss the party, a loved-up gang of pigeons began their day with close harmony Barbershop outside our bedroom window. The sound of passing tractors was drowned out with the din.

East Anglia is a total contrast to home. Very flat – scarcely a hill above 100m – I didn’t think I would enjoy it the first time we went.

But it’s that very absence of elevation and the abundance of light that underscore the attractions of the Suffolk countryside. Horizons are distant and views infinite, colour and detail accentuated.

It’s richly fertile country much like Strathmore and the Howe of the Mearns but the fields are generally bigger than here at home.

They have finished their sowing down there. We passed some enormous potato fields, deep ridges straight as a die disappearing into the distance, doubtless planted with our good north-east seed.

Everywhere you look are great yellow blocks of oil seed rape blossom. Its pungent smell filled the car even with the windows closed. Banks of yellow gorse with its own coconut scent were a counterpoint to the golden fields.

They are big into pigs in Suffolk. Suffolk Whites are the home breed, and Gloucester Old Spot are popular with the organic smallholders. I made sure I included a local sausage with my full English breakfast. It’s hard water down there, which gives a funny taste to the tea.

Their season is about a month ahead of us and we drove past cascades of blossom-laden hawthorn hedges. Pink blossom scattered amongst the white, I learned, was mostly crab apples. At a lay-by I found a cherry tree with well formed fruit on it.

We don’t expect to see cow parsley flowering until the middle of this month. It’s in full bloom all along the Suffolk verges, epitomising its more engaging name of Queen Anne’s Lace. White dead nettle, so called because it doesn’t sting, flourished amongst the stingy stuff. Clumps of true English bluebells decorated the roadsides.

There’s a tradition of building with flint. It’s hard wearing and was a common material for churches, giving the buildings a blue-grey appearance. Round towered mediaeval churches are a feature of the area. Some are very large, reflecting the time when the countryside supported a population many times greater than it is today.

As you’d expect, there are thatched roofs. Red pantile roofs too. And examples of the county’s one-time 500 windmills. I called at Stanton Post Mill, one of the few working mills left, and bought freshly milled stoneground flour for the Doyenne’s home-made bread making.

They have roe deer, fallow deer, muntjac and sika deer. Albino specimens are seen amongst the resident herds of red deer. Voles, water voles and dormice are plentiful, so it’s no surprise there are vigorous populations of foxes and barn owls, little owls and tawny owls. Nesting boxes are set on poles the height of a roof ridge to encourage the owls to breed. You hear the song of skylarks from sunrise to sunset.

But for all the attractions, for me it’s a place to visit not to live. I was pleased to get home to my familiar hills.

Written on Saturday, May 3rd, 2014 at 10:48 pm for Weekly.