Years ago real oak wine and ale wooden barrels were commonplace in gardens throughout the UK - they had been normally seasoned. treated and converted into water butts as devices to harvest rainwater.
Nowadays, water butts made from real wood are much harder to find and the market is now dominated by plastic butts or wood effect barrels that are made from plastic resin, but they've been intricately designed and moulded to look just like real wooden barrels, wine barrels and beer kegs.
These containers are very realistic indeed - it's only when you touch them that you realise they are not actually made from real wood. They usually come with several accessories to make them look even more impressive, including brass, chrome or pewter taps and even an ornate-looking hand pump.
A good example of this style of butt is the Jacobean Dark Oak Hogshead Ale Barrel - this costs around £100 and is made from polyethylene polymer. It's frost-resistant, weather-proof and the makers claim it is virtually unbreakable.
Another delightful product is the 250-litre capacity Barrique Oak Wood Effect Water Butt - this is based on the shape and design of an old oak beer barrel and comes with a wall fixing bracket and stylish 3/4" brass tap.
An unusual twist on the wood effect concept is the tree trunk water butt - this polyethylene tank has been moulded from an actual tree trunk and holds 475 litres of water, more than enough for most people's gardening requirements. It's more expensive than your average traditional green or black plastic butt, costing around £250, but it's a wonderful garden feature than will certainly be the envy of your neighbours.
An obvious benefit of a butt with a wood effect finish is that it will be a lot easier to maintain and clean than a real wooden barrel. A quick once over with a hose pipe will soon have the exterior looking clean and fresh - that certainly wouldn't be the case with a real wooden barrel which would need to be scrubbed by hand and treated each year with wood preservative paint or varnish.
If you don't fancy a wood effect plastic butt you could consider buying another plastic container which has been crafted and moulded to look like various other materials including stone, marble, terracotta, slate and clay. These work very well in a modern urban garden setting..