Swales have been part of permaculture lore for decades, and you can learn more about them at Permaculture News.

"Vertical swales" are something different which we think we've invented, or at least come up with independently. Dug to a depth of 60cm,  our vertical swales are nearly filled with gravel and then completed with a 10cm layer of mulch and manure. Each vertical swale has a drip irrigator above it with the aim of injecting water deep into the hard clay. Diagram of a vertical swale

We've built half a dozen vertical swales at the northern end of our raspberry field hoping that they will become oases of fertility for the raspberry plants to send their roots into. The basalt gravel will also release minerals as it interacts with the acidic clay. Early results were promising, except that the extra growth in the swale also attracted the attention of wallabies. With better wallaby protection we hope to see some good results next spring.