Download Festival Review Part 1: The Campsite and Village

Now that I’ve had a few days to recover, and arrange my thoughts I’ve decided that the Download Review will be a multi-part job. Today I’m going to write about the campsites and ‘The Village’.

I will be covering camping conditions, any ideas for what I’ll do differently next year, the general nature of the Village, it’s contents and examples of the price of food and other goods for sale.

It’s a fair trek from the drop off points and car parks to the entrance to the Village/campsites. The route had plenty of stewards directing people and they are quite helpful. There are a couple of companies offering the rent of barrows and trollies. We tried both types. The barrow was cheap but a little unstable and we could only get our tent in to it; the trolley came with bungee cords and a very helpful young man who packed most of our bags onto it securely. Drawback: £50 including a £40 deposit, so we could only afford it one way, and we had a time limit of 90 minutes. It was enough time but I still felt a bit rushed considering how long it took to get our tent up.

TIP: Take your own trolley. Collapsible trollies are available in diy shops and garden centres and they can be used around the garden as well as for Download. 

In order to get to the campsites you have to go through the village, ignore it all until you get your tent up, there will be plenty of time to explore later. The stewards inside the Village will know which campsite has the most space and will direct new arrivals. We ended up in White campsite.

There are metalled tracks running through the campsites that lead from one campsite to the next. They provide a road that you should stick to and they allow emergency vehicles in and out (not to mention the lorry that cleans/emptied the toilets). They get a bit slippery in the rain but they are easier to walk on than churned up mud.

THE CAMPSITE

We found a good spot to camp, there was enough room for our tent, we were near the path, toilets and water supply, but not too near. There was also a coffee and doughnut stand and a corner shop. The campsite information hut was also nearby. It was manned 24 hours and there was security about at all times.

The information point staff were very friendly and tried to be helpful, but they didn’t know where the water points were.

The toilets were plentiful and cleaned regularly. There was a queue in the mornings when people started to get ready for the day, but generally it wasn’t as horrendous as I’d been lead to expect.

TIP: Taking your own loo roll and babywipes is a must. Really. Loo roll does get supplied to the toilets but it goes quickly

TIP: Anti-bacterial hand gel is a necessity. A bottle small enough to fit in your pocket is a godsend.

The water supply is adequate, there are raised sinks that can be used for washing and filling small bottles and also points for filling larger containers. We filled a five litre container fairly quickly and it tasted alright.

TIP: The water points are busy in the morning, going in the evening and filling a large container means you’ll have water for the morning without having to queue. We took a collapsible water carrier, they carry a decent amount easily and don’t take up much space in your bag.

The tents were quite close together and as the weekend went on the amount if litter became offensive. I took a black bin liner and we put all our rubbish in that. On Monday morning I took it to the bin by the coffee shop.

IF YOU WOULD BIN IT AT HOME BIN IT AT THE FESTIVAL. Just because some normal social rules don’t apply doesn’t mean all civil behaviour should go out of the window. Someone has to tidy up that field when we’ve all gone home, it’s good manners to make their job as easy as possible, after all it’s because of their hard work that the festival happens at all.

TIP: Take a couple of black bin liners, it makes keeping the tent tidy a lot easier.

The campsites are not quiet places, but most people are friendly and will help if you ask a question. Don’t expect to get too much sleep; the shape if the valley funnels the sounds of the arena and village, and joy of joys it’s right underneath the flight path of East Midlands Airport. Expect low flying aircraft. People also continue the partying until four or five in the morning.

TIP: If you actually want to get some sleep, take earplugs. Failing that you can always nap during the day.

It got cold at night, but once I’d acquired another hoody and blanket I was fine. On the subject of suitable clothing I would suggest taking proper wet weather gear. A poncho works fine for showers but we had thunderstorms and got soaked through.

Take a couple of spare pairs of undies, socks and jeans, because no one likes being stuck in wet clothes for five days. A clean t-shirt a day is also a good idea. Hoodies are a must, at least two. You can wear them during the day and sleep in them at night. They are practical and comfortable as well.

As to footwear, wellies are traditional for these events, but good solid walking boots work well. Take a spare pair of shoes though, there’s a good chance you’ll be dumping your boots on Monday morning if the weather is really bad.

Don’t forget your bed socks. Like I said, it gets chilly at night.

I also took my swimming costume and a towel. I won’t bother next year; the showers are in the village. I washed my hair and face in the tent and wetwipes took care of everything else.

Only solid fuel cookers are allowed, hexi stoves and single use barbecues are stipulated on the Download website. The BBQs are good if you plan to cook outdoors, but if you want to boil a kettle in the morning, the hexi stoves are better. One fuel block boils a kettle, and they warm the tent up nicely, just make sure you are safe. Keep stoves away from the tent walls, have plenty of ventilation and be on stable ground, and have water on hand.
We lived on porridge, tea and noodles, with the occasional burger or bacon panini. But more of that later.

I recommend getting waterproof kit bags and packing your clothes into them before putting then in to your main bag. If it rains (which it will) the extra protection means you will have some dry clothes to change in to. If you do get damp a spare guyline can make an improvised clothes line.

THE VILLAGE

One part fair, one part shopping centre and one part cafe. All covered in mud (and eventually straw).

This is where you’ll find the shower block (huge queues) and secure lockers (also huge queues to get locks and wristbands). The lockers are small but the safest place to charge your phone up. At just over twelve pounds for the duration if the event, compared with what some of the stalls were charging, it is worth it. Three of us used my locker. It cost £2 for each additional person using the locker, but we all agreed it was an acceptable cost.

I didn’t go on any if the fair ground rides, because I didn’t feel up to it, but they seemed to he fairly popular. There was entertainment available in the village until 3am in two large tents, comedy and music.

Shops

Selling everything from camping essentials and clothing to onesies, jewellery and band merchandise, the Village has pretty much everything. It also has a supermarket supplying bread, fruit and tinned goods, as well as sweets and you can get cash back if you spend over a fiver.

Shop around and take note if where things are cheapest. I needed a hoody. We found a place selling them in a range if sizes and colours for £10. I basically lived in it for four days. It’s very warm and I wouldn’t have been able to get one cheaper anywhere. Also socks, three pairs for £10, for long socks at one stall, two pairs for £5 at another.

The silly hat stands did a good trade as well from what I could tell.

Food and drink

Is expensive, as you’d expect, but there us a wide range available. Here’s some examples

Bottles of water £2
Chicken chow mien £7
Bacon Panini £5
Choros and chocolate £4
Cheese burger £4.50
Chips £3
Doughnuts and coffee £7

Next year we plan to take tea and porridge, and then have a separate food budget. The supermarket isn’t Aldi, but for bread rolls, tinned hotdogs and eggs, it’s not too bad. Also, really cheap Pringles! Fruit was a but expensive though. People with their own transport went into Castle Donington for shopping trips, so that is also an option. If I have my license by next summer we might do that.

TIP: There are drinking water points in the campsite and arena, take refillable bottles and use them. It’ll save you a fortune and prevent dehydration.

In general the people on the stalls are friendly and helpful. If it’s quiet they’ll have a natter and wish you a good festival.

And that’s all for today, I’m working for the next ten days but hopefully I should he able to get my reviews of events in the arena online in Saturday night.

I hope this post will be helpful to people going to their first festival this year or planning to go next year. Anyone with other advice is welcome to add it in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

Rose

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