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.

Land of eternal discoveries

July 4th, 2015

DSC02722YOU’D BE forgiven for thinking that Macbeth has been forgotten because I’ve not said much about him over recent weeks. He’s still very much part of the family but his role is more of an indoors one these days. The days of keeping up on long walks are past but he still imposes his small self but large personality on the family and on Inka who he clearly regards as unhinged and quite fushionless – a thought I sometimes share!

He’s just had his gentleman’s summer trim and looks more like something off a chocolate box lid again. We can see his button black eyes and his black snout which had disappeared under an excess of overgrowth. More to the point he should feel the heat less and hopefully be a bit more active.

Most mornings there’s great play about being ready to take a breath of fresh air. We know now that is exactly what he means. He comes to the door, has a breath of fresh air and turns to go back indoors again. An unseemly discussion follows as we coax, cajole and eventually drag him, protesting, off on his walk.

Most of his days now are spent sleeping and we have concerns about his future. But however else he may be failing his appetite remains undiminished, so we reckon he’s just using old age as an excuse.

Family tradition
Pathfinding is a bit of a Whitson family tradition, especially when the family were young. We would take off in the car down a road we’d never been down before, to see what was at the end of it.

Last Saturday, you’ll remember, dawned sunny and after the weather we’d endured earlier in the week, it was an opportunity not to be missed. I suggested to the Doyenne we go pathfinding. After a lifetime of living in and around North Angus and the Mearns I can still find roads I’ve not been on.

We bundled the dogs into the car and headed for Cairn o’ Mount, turning right at Clatterin’ Brig at the foot of the long hill and heading through narrow Glen of Drumtochty. You pass little Loch Saugh which I fished once with my father over sixty years ago, and which I’ve always meant to fish again.

When we passed the foal in the picture it appeared to have just been born. By the time I returned to take the photograph it was on its feet and looking quite independent and frisky.

Through Drumtochty Glen and we turned left at the outskirts of Auchenblae onto the high road that runs along the shoulder of the hills to Fetteresso. A finger post to Rickarton caught my eye. It looked ideal for pathfinding and we turned onto a narrow road running along the edge of Fetteresso Forest. Below it were glimpses of a stream which turned out to be the Cowie Water which flows through Stonehaven to reach the sea.

The Cowie, and Carron which also flows into the sea at Stonehaven, and further south the Bervie Water, all were well known Mearns sea trout streams when I was young. I don’t hear much about them these days but the whole state of game fishing is greatly changed now.

The Slug Road
It’s a short road and a winding one and joins the A975 Stonehaven/Banchory road known locally as The Slug. The name apparently derives from Gaelic meaning gorge or ravine. It was part of the old network of drove roads and appears in Haldane’s The Drove Roads of Scotland which is the best history I know of the cattle droving trade.

We headed for the A92 and the coast. This is a favourite road, looking down on the rocky Mearns shoreline. The sun was bouncing off a calm sea, the air pressure was high and the weather settled. Two yachts, all sails set, were making passage up the coast on the offshore wind.

We were ready for lunch and dropped into Gourdon and the Harbour Bar. We ordered crab rolls – white rolls stuffed with a whole crab, cooked fresh off the boat and served with mayonnaise. Foods for the gods really – you couldn’t ask for better.

Bird song or bird call?
Bird song is different from a bird call. Song is concerned primarily with attracting a mate and then warning off other males and establishing and defending territory, especially a nest.

Bird song can be quite elaborate and tuneful. Bird calls are often staccato warnings of imminent danger.

Inka had his nose stuffed into a corner in the garden fence. I thought it was probably the rabbit that comes in from the neighbouring garden and teases him, daring him to try and catch it.

He couldn’t stand it a moment longer and made a dash at whatever he was scenting. A blackbird unhesitatingly flew at him with angry shrieks, ready to protect her chick against all odds. I’m glad to say the chick was on the other side of the fence and hopefully suffered nothing more than a nasty fright.

It was no bird song we heard – it was aggressive alarm calls.

Written on Saturday, July 4th, 2015 at 7:06 am for Weekly.