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.

Family, friendship and fun…

October 29th, 2016

20161022_153304_richtonehdrFROM PLYMOUTH in the south they came and Inverness in the north, and points in between. Four blew in from New Zealand representing the world-wide reach of the Doyenne’s family. Aged from two to 86 and almost every one a Webster – a maist unseemly crew.

Seven years ago the younger members of the Webster family realised that they had cousins who were just names as they had never met. There were second cousins who knew nothing about their counterparts within the extended family. Suddenly there was an ongoing on-line conversation that resulted in us booking The Burn House at the foot of Glenesk, near Edzell, for a weekend for a worldwide Webster Gathering.

It was a howling success and afterwards cousins kept in touch with second cousins, meeting up with each other and friendships flourished. So much so that, seven years on, we did it all over again last weekend.

Fifty of us – there would have been 51, and a fourth generation, if we’d held it in a fortnight’s time – took over The Burn once more.

From early afternoon on Friday they drifted in for tea and cake. One nephew jumped on a train to Aberdeen that morning, borrowed a motor bike and rode to Cromarty on the east, whizzed across to Torridon in Wester Ross, and back east again to Edzell to join the party. A round trip of a mere 350 miles!

The bar opened and then it was supper time. The noise of talk and laughter was deafening. Afterwards we assembled in comfy chairs in the drawing room in front of a roaring fire. A lot changes in seven years – small people had grown into teenagers, teenagers into adults and there were new partners to meet and greet and get to know.

Everyone was surprisingly fresh the following morning. The weather could have been better but no one really noticed. A party toured Fettercairn Distillery. The visit ended with a whisky tasting which set them up for the afternoon.

Several drove to the head of Glenesk and walked to Loch Lee. One couple attempted to climb Mount Keen, the most easterly of the Munros (mountains over 3000 feet), but they missed the track – how can you manage that with finger posts pointing in the right direction?

Most took the well-known Blue Door walk along the bank of the River North Esk to the Rocks of Solitude and the strange Doulie Tower which sits high on a wooded bluff overlooking the river.

The Burn sits in 200 acres of mature woodland. The first Gathering, seven years ago, was in May and we had all the fresh greenery of spring. As you can see from the picture we timed it right this time for the blazing, autumn colours of the Scottish Fall.

Aged, ornamental patricians planted to shelter the house left their imprint too – “the deep scarlet glow of the trees in the dusk was unbelievable…. and set against the tawny beeches it was the best autumn colour show I have ever seen.”

Seeing red squirrels was an experience for the visitors from the south. Apart from small, isolated populations, the grey variety now pretty well dominate England.

It was something of a homecoming for the Doyenne and me for we lived for six very happy years in the Courtyard House at the back of the Big Hoose. We opened the back door and walked out into woodlands – an ideal place for the Man with Two Dogs and for the dogs too.

On Saturday morning I heard the noisy clamour of geese. I watched skein after skein – several thousand birds – leaving their overnight roost and flying east towards Montrose Basin.

I’ve noted in past years at this time, on three or four random evenings, huge numbers of geese flying in to roost on the small lochan west of The Burn. On Monday afternoon I walked round there with Inka and the muddy fringes were paddled hard with the birds’ large webbed footprints.

In tune with the Scottish mood we organised a ceilidh for Saturday evening. The Strathmore Ceilidh Band provided the music for dancing and, without so much as a fiddler’s bidding, everyone poured onto the floor the moment they struck up.

There were smiles on everyone’ faces and we danced reels, jigs and square dances and an occasional waltz for the oldies to wobble to. I danced with my two granddaughters which added a touch of glamour to my evening.

A Dublonska Polka, thought to originate from Azerbaijan, added an exotic whiff of the East to the proceedings. Grandson James has taught himself to play a banjo which belonged to his great-grandfather and he entertained us with his new skills.

It’s the mix of place but mostly of people that makes a weekend like this so successful. We ate, we drank, we sang, we talked, we laughed, we remembered – one or two even shed a furtive tear – and we all went away with a hantle more memories and the promise to do it again, but not to wait seven more years.

Written on Saturday, October 29th, 2016 at 10:31 am for Weekly.