A gypsy well is a simple method of getting water from a nearby source of water. It's something I know how to make but never use (perhaps a bit like first aid and may it stay that way) and I went out to recently to make one just to keep my hand in.
There hasn't been any rain for days and this is near to a large watercourse. I dig down with a folding spade until I start to get noticeable liquid in the mud, in this case about six inches or so.
Once I'd scooped all the liquid mud out the water slowly seeps into the bottom of the hole, with the emphasis on slowly. The patch is at the top of the hole in this picture.
I lined the edges with local flora, in this case reeds, rushes and Cat Tail leaves with a plug of dried grass inserted int to the base. This helps to keep particles out of the water and the dried grass also helps to hold the leaves against the side if inserted last.
And then slowly, slowly, bit by bit the water starts to make an appearance through the grass base.
The initial water is usually really dirty and is scooped out and discarded. Note that the Crusader cup fits nicely into the lined hole, this is no accident as it would be a tad frustrating to find that your vessel of choice was too big for the job.
As you can see the first cup full could easily be passed off as gravy by the deep brown colour it has.
Again the hole will slowly fill up again and although this second scoop of water is a little on the dark side it is actually noticeably cleaner and clearer than the first lot.
I allowed this to fill right up to demonstrate how it's the well that keeps on giving and I inserted my finger up to the grass base to measure the depth and this is about three to four inches deep. Despite a covering of Avon So Soft there were a few mosquitoes finding me rather interesting so because I wasn't using the well for water I filled it in and made a tactical withdrawal at this stage.
This shot was included to show the proximity of the watercourse just visible in the top left hand corner, with the edge of the gypsy well on the right. A very simple and elegant design that once made provides with little effort. I've only ever dug them by visible water and as I've already said I've never used one for water as my outings don't necessitate using one but it's always worth knowing skills. The water obviously needs processing before it's drinkable and these articles by Paul Kirtley on contaminants and this one on using a Millbank bag are great starting points.