One day soon after our arrival, Richard took a spade and began to dig around the concrete shape on top of the well. Soon he had uncovered a heavy concrete lid about four feet in diameter placed on top of a square of concrete, under which we supposed we would find the well. Richard bent down to move the lid aside but it resisted his casual approach with dignity and it took considerable effort on his part to get it to move at all. However, slowly it slid aside and revealed a square aperture containing a spider’s web of pipes and associated ironmongery, and we had to peer hard beyond this network to see the dark, glistening liquid a long way below. The well was found to be a cylinder between ten and eleven feet deep. It was about thirty inches in diameter and had been built using stone and cement. The water filled approximately the bottom metre of this - measured with a very long wooden pole with the resultant wet part showing the depth of the water. It was a very long time before I realised that the water returned to this level with time after each running of the pump. We are in fact taking water from the water table and the small amount we use can have little effect upon its overall level. We have now worked out (possibly the first time in my life I have used my Grammar School mathematics ‘how to find the volume of a cylinder’!) and know that there is usually around 100 gallons of water in this private reservoir. In the early days, before I had taken all this into account, I worried about every drop I used, imagining that this would be used up in no time. I would go for a bath and sit shivering in a bare two inches, fearful that every egg cupful would be the last to splutter from the taps. Everyone that came to the farm - and we had quite a number of visits from the local community curious to meet their new neighbours - would be quizzed on the history of the well at Low Arvie. I found out that it had only run dry when the farmers who had leased the buildings in the last five years, had tried to water 90 cattle from the well over the winter. Obviously ninety cattle drink a huge amount of water, far more than two people can use, and gradually my panic began to subside. Always of the opinion that knowledge is better than ignorance, I have tried to become acquainted with the well and how it works. Unfortunately this has meant moving the heavy lid every time we want to measure the level, which I could not possibly do on my own and so poor Richard is pressed into service.
The first spring that we were at Low Arvie was the driest that Dumfries and Galloway could remember and not even a drop of rain fell for three whole months from February to the end of April. We watched the level in the well very carefully and I began to ration use of the dishwasher and washing machine. The lowest level we measured was around thirty-six inches, which still meant we had 80 gallons there. We agreed that if we used the dishwasher in the morning and the washing machine in the afternoon (or vice versa) then we could still enjoy our daily baths (in rather more than two inches) each evening. We did decide to leave the last bath water in the bath and use it to refill the toilet cistern for as long as it lasted, in order to limit the ‘pull’ on the well. I found by this means that the toilet takes a huge amount to fill it after each flush and often the bath water ran out well before the next evening.
The crucial factor with a well is the time it takes to regain maximum depth and with this careful usage we came through the dry spell with no trouble.