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.

Butterfly bush boost

August 30th, 2014

TWO PEACOCKS in the garden, I mentioned casually. The Doyenne was up like the end of a press and dashed to the window to see. I had to gently explain that I meant two peacock butterflies on the buddleia bush.

Regular readers know how much in recent summers I have bemoaned the absence of butterflies generally, let alone in the gardens. Not just butterflies, but bumble bees, honey bees, hoverflies, even wasps – all the pollinating insects that gardeners and farmers rely on. This summer has seen a welcome improvement.

For four years the buddleia, which is known as the butterfly bush, sat grumbling in a pot by the front door, producing scarcely any blossom and growing nowhere. This spring we transferred it to a corner of the garden. Freedom to spread its roots and flourish has transformed it – more than trebling in size and throwing out large pink flower spikes which the butterflies have made a beeline for, if you’ll forgive the mixing of metaphors.

Small tortoiseshells, red admirals and peacocks have been feeding greedily on what is still a small bush. Small whites have been regular visitors and the number of honey bees has been encouraging. It’s been a better season too for bumble bees, not just in the garden but pretty much everywhere I walk with the dogs.

It’s next year that I’m getting excited about. All this insect activity must surely mean lots of eggs being laid and, nature and weather permitting, a garden insect bonanza next year.

Our cotoneaster and guelder rose, which is a viburnum, are butterfly and bee friendly shrubs and, following our success with the buddleia, I’ll transplant the berberis from its pot into the garden. I’ll plant a white buddleia too and hopefully we’ll have a regular nectar bar in a year’s time.

We’ve been on granny duty with the grandchildren at Munlochy on the Black Isle. Dogs went too, of course, because they enjoy seeing Tiggy and Porage – that’s the dogs, not the grandchildren. (To think of all I taught him and my son calls his dog Porage!).

The Black Isle peninsula is one of Scotland’s breadbaskets. You might think the name comes from the dark, fertile soil but they say it comes from the mild winter mini-climate when the fields are frost-free and black and the rest of the country is snow bound.

With the Cromarty Firth on one side and Moray Firth on the other the views are all extended. Munlochy sits on a ridge running north-east to south west. An old military road runs almost the length of the ridge, much of it through Forestry Commission plantations. It’s a secure place to walk dogs when two of them aren’t your own and we are not terribly used to each other.

Grandson Fergus has pointed out the summit of Cairn Gorm which gives its name to the whole mountain range, poking up on the skyline away to the south. Across the Cromarty Firth to the north, the whaleback massif of Ben Wyvis, another Munro, fills the horizon.

The harvest is in full swing. Farmers are taking advantage of the settled weather and all round there’s the sound of combine harvesters spewing out their tail of threshed straw and a stoory cloud of dust and chaff hanging in the sunlit air.

We made what, for me, was a memory lane trip to Ullapool which is only fifty miles away. From 1949 to 1956 we caravanned for a month at Leckmelm farm, three miles south of Ullapool, and they are still the gold nugget holidays I never forget.

In those days the last miles from Garve to Ullapool were single track and could be a nightmare for my father pulling a caravan and the fish lorries hurtling south without much of a care for anything coming north. But nothing stays the same and today there’s a fine two lane road and everything hurtles north now.

What hasn’t changed are the unforgettable views north to Coigach and, looking south, to An Teallach which my mother loved waking up to each morning through the caravan window.

But I’m not sure how wise it is to revisit these childhood memories after sixty years.

Written on Saturday, August 30th, 2014 at 11:24 am for Weekly.