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.

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This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Beauty of the wild

August 2nd, 2014

BOG STAR is the Scottish name for one of our loveliest wild flowers. Grass of Parnassus is its English name but it’s a star wherever you find it.

Described as a ‘flower of cold beauty’, it’s not a grass – that name comes from the delicate green stripes running through its ivory white petals. The flowers grow singly on long, smooth stems with a single heart-shaped leaf near the base.

As the name suggests it’s a wetland and wilderness plant and I found a little clump by the side of a wee Aberdeenshire loch as I walked Inka. Macbeth’s days of yomping through long heather on moorland walks are past and he and the Doyenne took a more measured stroll together

There is a delicacy and dignity about the flower that befits its association with Greek mythology’s sacred mountain of Parnassus, home of the nine Muses, always depicted as women of divine beauty.

I was lucky to find them as much of their normal habitat has been lost due to land drainage, often in connection with forestry.

The Doyenne and I had escaped for the day and we chose a good one for it. We drove over Cairn o’ Mount and the long views across Deeside gladdened the spirit, the Grampian Hills – to continue the classical allusion – marching westward like so many Roman legionaries.

Crossing that summit takes you not only into another county but into another micro climate. The whole of the north-east was basted in sunshine on Monday but I have driven from bright sunshine on one side into teeming rain, snow even, on the other. The topography is different too. As the Doyenne has remarked – there are no flat fields in Deeside.

We took our picnic by the loch side. Electric blue damselflies, or damoselflies, flickered across the water’s surface. Others flitted through the reeds fringing the shore, safe from hunting swallows.

A pair of swans with five cygnets were out on the loch. It was comical watching the cygnets. Their necks weren’t long enough to upend themselves like their parents to feed on the pond weed on the bottom, but they were experimenting with dooking their heads under the water to see what it was like.

Inka threw himself into the loch to cool down. A tufted duck, which must have had ducklings nearby, burst out of the reeds and began harassing him, flying aggressively at his head, calling loudly and skittering across the water feigning injury to distract him. Not that Inka paid a blind bit of notice but I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

I spoke with the gamekeeper who looks after the adjoining moor. He had been up counting grouse since 5.30 that morning. It’s no nine-to-five job – early mornings and late nights are part and parcel of a gamekeeper’s life.

Grouse numbers are encouragingly up on last year and would have been better, but ravens flying in from neighbouring estates had devastated the chicks before they had fledged.

Look out for another of our bonniest wild flowers. You’ll find harebells in the woodland fringes and roadside banks until the end of August. They are another flower that grow singly on stems that look too fragile to survive a puff of wind, but are surprisingly wiry and robust.

Grannie’s tears they are sometimes called, possibly because their blue bells droop rather wistfully at the end of thread-like stalks. But it has always seemed an inappropriate name for such a pretty plant.

In the early days of this column I was taken sternly to task for referring to them as bluebells. I resorted rather weakly to the excuse that my Loanhead auntie, who was rather fierce if you were a small boy, always called them that and it was ingrained in me from childhood.

Mary McMurtrie, in her book Scottish Wild Flowers, which is now a real classic, refers to them as Scottish bluebells or harebells. And Scottish Bluebell matches, practically a cultural icon – although, significantly, now made in Sweden – have a drawing of harebells, or are they Scottish bluebells, on the top of the matchbox.

Most confusing. Anyway, the Doyenne and I came home feeling the better of our expedition into the Aberdeenshire heartlands.

Written on Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 at 10:22 am for Weekly.