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.

A river ravaged by rainfall

February 6th, 2016

DSC03208ON MONDAY Inka and I joined fellow dedicated dog walker Robert Galey, and Jack Russell Bella, on the bank of the River North Esk to take a look at Morphie Dyke some two miles downriver from Marykirk Bridge. The name is misleading for it is actually a weir of some antiquity.

A mill lade leads off on the north bank of the Dyke which powered the Mill of Morphie which was a meal mill in its working days. On the south bank another lade, marked on the map as an aqueduct, supplied water to Montrose and the adjoining village of Hillside.

Historically the Angus North Esk has been a prolific salmon river. A salmon pass was built into the dyke to allow passage of fish upriver to spawn and to enable the salmon smolts, second or third year fish, to migrate to the sea where they grow into adult fish before returning to their mother water to start the spawning cycle all over again.

In the past, in adverse conditions the dyke presented a major obstacle to running fish and they congregated in the pool below, providing a catching bonanza for fishermen. These glory days are past now, probably for ever. The dyke suffered considerable flood damage several years ago and looks to be even more broken up now and allowing unrestricted passage up the river.

Even on the relatively short distance Robert and I walked it was clear there has been quite severe damage to the banks caused by the recent rains. I kept my eye on Inka who plunged into the water which was still running strongly. If he’d got too far out he’d have been whirled down to the North Sea and washed up in Denmark.

Swimming golf balls
Robert finds golf balls on his walks down the riverbank. They can only come from Edzell Golf Course which has several holes bordering on the West Water which runs into the North Esk. There must be some undisciplined members up there guilty of wildly slicing their golf balls unless, of course, there’s a broken golfer so despairing of his game that he is hurling his equipment in the river.

The winter solstice – 22nd December 2015, this year – marks the longest day in the calendar but it still takes most of January for the days to begin to noticeably draw out.

January always seems a long month and February’s arrival is a welcome blessing. I get up in the morning to a lengthening dawn and don’t need to arrange my working day around taking Inka for his main walk before 3pm to be sure of enough light to appreciate my surroundings.

A break in the incessant rain towards the end of last month meant that for several evenings Inka’s walk last thing was by the light of the silvery full moon. The night-time countryside came alive again – tawny owls were tentatively calling to each other and geese were moving between feeding grounds. Pink footed geese in particular will flight by the light of the moon, but you’d never know it if you didn’t hear their wintery calls keeping in touch with each other.

Happy return
With the experience of recent weeks I couldn’t afford to ignore a sunny morning like last Wednesday. This week’s picture was taken at the wee loch at the foot of Glenesk.

Over the years pairs of swans have visited the loch around this time and I’ve always hoped they’d stay and nest. One pair stayed for three weeks and after they disappeared I discovered what looked like a destroyed nest, but it was hard to be sure. Meantime I keep on hoping.

Last weekend the Doyenne and I took a walk at The Burn House outside Edzell where we lived for six happy years. Aconites were always a feature of spring there and although they are later than usual, possibly because of the weather, the familiar yellow banks of colour were in full bloom. Snowdrops are late too, although a St Cyrus reader tells me her first flowers appeared on Hogmanay.

The Doyenne has put away her jelly pan for the next few months after finishing the second batch of marmalade. She is a victim of her own talent. If she didn’t make such delicious jams the family wouldn’t descend like gannets and carry it off. Friends look forward to a jar too. Not that I mind it going to deserving households – well, not a lot!

An Irish girl reminded me that last Monday, 1st February, was St Brigid’s Day traditionally regarded in Ireland as the first day of spring. Despite Storm Henry’s unbidden intrusion – the last, hopefully, of a damp start to the year – spring really does feel on its way.

As a historical aside Brigid was a contemporary of St Patrick and, as was the case with many of the early saints, she is credited with some startling miraculous achievements. She was said to turn her bathwater into beer so that unexpected visitors should always have enough to drink. It takes the current rage for recycling to a new high.

Written on Saturday, February 6th, 2016 at 12:23 pm for Weekly.