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.

Little things mean so much

July 9th, 2016

DSC01687AT LAST I’m seeing butterflies in the garden and out on my walks with Inka. Usually isolated Small Whites, but a Ringlet passed me on its way to only it knew where as we walked along the shore of the loch at the foot of Glenesk. I wished it well and hoped there was a mate at the end of its journey.

Until now I’ve mostly seen only the small white daytime moths fluttering round the edges of woodland. I never cease to be surprised at how fast these apparently fragile insects can fly. Of course they have huge wingspans in relation to their body size which must be very efficient for propelling them. I’ve been told that their erratic, flittering flight pattern is a defence mechanism to confuse predators.

And as I write this it occurs to me that they never glide while in flight, as birds do – their wings are constantly flapping while they are airborne. It must be to do with the obviously different wing structures of the two species. But I’m straying into deep waters now and perhaps there is an expert out there who can provide a more informed explanation.

The latest newsletter from Butterfly Conservation, the butterfly and moth conservation and education organisation (butterfly-conservation.org), is alerting members to look out for Peacock butterflies which start to emerge this month. They are easily recognisable – pillar-box red wings with large hypnotic ‘eyes’ at each of the four corners.

Fragile future
Butterflies and moths are important quality-of-life indicators of the health of our countryside but too many of their species are in danger of becoming, if they are not already, endangered. I suspect that they were high on the list of potential victims that never entered the minds of the Brexit – or indeed the Remain – campaigners as they battled to capture our hearts and minds to vote their way in the Referendum.

We should remember that nature’s losses are our impoverishment too and if we want a meaningful post-Brexit landscape we must speak up for it.

On the other hand, it is encouraging to see greater numbers of bumble bees than in recent years. I hardly see any honey bees but that may simply mean that there are no hives locally.

There’s lots that we can do in our gardens to encourage butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects. In our small garden we have two buddleia bushes, geraniums and honeysuckle which are bee friendly, and a solanum bush which is a great attractor.

Sunflowers, zinnias, sweetpeas are also beneficial in bringing insect life to urban gardens. Trees are just as important in their various seasons. Willow catkins provide nectar in early spring and lime trees and sycamores later in the year.

Pretty but prickly
The roadside verges are filled with wild roses. Most common are the dog roses, though what the association can be between some of the hideous hounds I have known and anything as fragrant as roses is beyond me. Their delicate flowers in white and varying shades of pink are short-lived but they lighten up our lives. Later, in autumn, their bright red hips provide another cheerful display.

I sometimes drive past a ruined cottage which has a Scots rose, or Burnet rose, in the garden. It’s the prickliest of the half dozen species of our wild rose and is also known as the Jacobite Rose.

Hugh MacDiarmid saluted it in his poem, The Little White Rose.

The rose of all the world is not for me. / I want for my part / Only the little white rose of Scotland / That smells sharp and sweet – and breaks the heart.

The legend – for how do you separate reality from all the myths surrounding Bonnie Prince Charlie – is that when the Bonnie Prince landed at Glenfinnan, at the head of Loch Shiel, he plucked a Burnet rose and pinned it to his bonnet. He greeted his loyal clansmen, raised his royal standard and that was the start of the fated 1745 Jacobite Rising.

The rose has since been forever associated with him and is regarded as the origin of the white cockade, or bonnet badge, worn for recognition by the Jacobite clansmen at the Battle of Culloden.

You might think that Clan Rose would have adopted a Scots rose as its plant badge. But no – their badge is wild rosemary.

Colour and scent
Stately pink and white foxgloves add welcome colour to the roadside verges. They thrive in poor soil so you’ll see them growing profusely in woodland margins, especially where trees have been felled.

The wild honeysuckle – Shakespeare’s woodbine – is in full bloom. Out with Inka last thing the night air is infused with its romantic scent. What better memory to fall asleep with. And it will continue to flower till early autumn.

Words are my seed corn and I keep my ears open for gems that I can share with readers. We all know the expression about the organ grinder and the organ grinder’s monkey. I was amused by a variation – I want to speak to the engineer, not the oily rag!

Written on Saturday, July 9th, 2016 at 2:25 pm for Weekly.