I just got back from another weekend in Nottingham and this time I stayed at the hotel that is right next to Rock City, partly because it was the cheapest hotel available for the night and partly because HIM – no other excuse needed.
I found this hotel on bookings.com, and for two nights I was pleased with the price. Unusually enough I was able to get a single room. It was an easy hotel to get to from the train station, once I got to Maid Marion Way, and very close to Rock City which was a bonus.
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
Cost: £37 (inc. online booking fee)
Double room, 1 adult, no refund available if cancelled.
I stayed here in December and was quite impressed except that then I had booked a twin room and we got a family room instead – I ended up in a child’s bed while my companion got the double bed. So, as it’s ten minutes away from Rock City, essentially just around the corner from that venue, it seemed the obvious place to stay again.
I arrived in the late afternoon and was greeted by cheerful reception staff members who efficiently dealt with my check in and directed me to my room after answering questions about the restaurant and bar without hesitation.
The servers in the restaurant, later that evening and in the morning, were personable, helpful and quick to assist. They were very solicitous of my comfort without being pushy.
It was clean, quiet, and good value for money, providing budget accommodation that didn’t feel ‘budget’. In a good location near Nottingham Trent University, the shopping and entertainment areas of Nottingham and on the tram route (there’s a stop almost outside the door) it’s a central point if you are visiting the city for business or pleasure. The use of key cards to use the lifts and to enter the hotel after 11pm made me feel secure. Check in is from 2.00pm and check out is 11.00am.
The room was clean and comfortable. Facilities included a compact bathroom, with four towels; freeview television; hairdryer; desk and chair; easy chair and small table; tea and coffee (plus rather slow boiling kettle), as well as a 30 minutes free WiFi. I didn’t make use of the WiFi but the instructions for connecting to it were very simple and explained on a card in the room. I could have done with clearer instructions on how to use the television though.
The bed was firm but comfortable; the bedding was of a good quality. There was adequate lighting and heating, although I found the room a little too warm during the night. If I hadn’t been so exhausted I’d have got up and changed the temperature – instructions for this were provided.
I slept well, disturbed only by the creaking above as people moved about of the top floor about midnight – I can’t have been the only one who went out for the evening. I wasn’t disturbed in the morning by traffic noise or other people getting up, their noise was muted.
The bath/shower were easy to use, and the water temperature fairly comfortable and easy to adjust. The towels provided were of a good size and quality.
The restaurant is open 5.00pm – 10.00pm for evening meals and 6.30am – 10.30am for breakfast.
I had the Premier Breakfast which was excellent value (£8.25 all you can eat full English and continental breakfasts) and cooked just right, neither too hot nor cold, nor had any of it dried out (or become soggy) under the heater. It was very filling and kept me going until I got home mid-afternoon.
On Monday evening I had the chicken Caesar salad. A full, and substantial, chicken breast had been grilled then sliced up. The salad was fresh and crunchy, there was a touch to much dressing and cheese for my taste but I certainly enjoyed it.
I was seated quickly and waited only 20 minutes for my meal. The menu selection was comprehensive although it seemed to lack in basic meals – everything was a little too fussy and pricey.
A good value budget hotel, with decent rooms and friendly staff. Eat breakfast there, but tea (dinner, supper) elsewhere unless you really don’t fancy wandering around the city. Book rooms as far in advance as you can for the best prices. I booked three months in advance and chose the cheapest option but without the opportunity to get a refund if I cancelled.
It’s near the city centre and easy to get to from the train station – either by walking or tram. If you walk it takes 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how fit you are – a lot of the way is uphill.
I enjoyed my stay at this Premier Inn, and next time I’m in Nottingham I shall stay there again.
Palmers Lodge, College Crescent, London, NW4 5LB
Dates stayed: 1st– 4th March (3 nights)
The rooms were warm (a little too warm at night), clean and comfortable. I felt secure enough that I was prepared to leave most of my belongings in the room while we went out.
The beds were single bunk beds and about six foot long – only just long enough. I had some trouble climbing up to the top bunk on the two nights I had a top bunk but once up there I found them private and comfortable. I the mattress was fairly thick and quilt likewise. The single pillow was a bit thin but functional. The bedding was clean and of decent quality. Beneath the beds were two large lockable drawers, provided you brought your own padlock. They were large enough to store a back pack and coat, or probably a large rucksack.
Basic but clean and comfortable. Hairdryer provided. The communal bathroom next to the room we spent the second night in was better than the bathroom in the en-suite room we spent the first and third nights in.
The TV lounge was large and equipped with a selection of chairs, tables and sofas, as well as a large flat screen television and six computers and a shelf of books. There were also a couple of vending machines with snacks and drinks. Free tea and coffee was also available.
The entire hostel has free wifi access, for which we were given user names and passwords upon check-in. The wifi was a bit patchy but when it worked it was a decent connection.
The bar was expensive and didn’t have a huge range.
The restaurant, providing evening meals, was also a little expensive and the chef rude. The food wasn’t too bad. I liked my burger and chips but my companions complained that the spaghetti bolognaise sauce left something to be desired.
The free continental breakfast was adequate and filling, although it was a bit crowded between 8am and 9am. The conservatory was a more pleasant, and less crowded, place to sit and eat.
Laptop and passport safes were available near the front desk. I didn’t make use of them but they looked secure.
There is a cash machine in the front lobby if you find yourself out of cash. It charges £1.80.
The left luggage cabin provides a fairly secure place to leave baggage if you get there too early to check in to your room (check in is 2pm, check out 11am). I used it twice and always felt comfortable leaving my belongings there. The key is on a stick and kept at the front desk. It has to be signed for.
The ladies and gents on the front desk were helpful and friendly, even when busy they made an effort to converse with all guests and assist where necessary.
I’ve never stayed in a hostel before but if Palmers Lodge Swiss Cottage is anything to go by I shall definitely have to look in to it. They are cheap (£63 for the 3 nights) and comfortable, providing a welcoming place to stay in London. Near shops and take-aways, it is easy to find somewhere to eat. It is very handy for the Jubilee Line as Swiss Cottage is a five minute walk down the road. It was also easy to book the beds on the website, with a variety of rooms available. I am definitely staying there next time I go to London.
All the best,