Yesterday I took a trip down to London to go to the British Library. On the 20th the current exhibition, Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, closes and I’m rather fond of certain aspects of the Gothic so I took a trip (also, I like old books).
I’m home, exhaustion has won out over excitement, and my blisters have blisters. London is a great place to visit, but I have no idea how anyone could live there. The culture shock when I got back this afternoon was slightly disorientating. It was so quiet!
I took advantage of this afternoon’s unseasonably warm sunshine to go for a walk in to Nottingham and explore a little bit. I have found the place I’m going for breakfast tomorrow and a shop I want to go in on the way to catch my train. Today however I eventually made my way to the Castle and spent a couple of hours exploring the grounds, museum and galleries. I thought some of the exhibitions were very interesting – ‘Threads’ especially – and clearly curated with children in mind.
I’m visiting a friend in Yorkshire for a few days and yesterday we spent the day in Leeds. It was very tiring and interesting. I have had a headache since waiting for the bus to come back to the village I’m staying in.
Leeds has quite a lot of shops, there is something for every taste. And as the train and bus stations are fairly close to the city centre quite easily accessible. There are also maps and decent sign-posting for the easily lost and confused.
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,
If any of you follow my Twitter (no? don’t worry about it, I’m not very interesting) you’ll know I went to a child’s birthday party last Wednesday (27/03/13). It wasn’t any old party though; as a treat for the child in question it was held at ‘The Magical Castle’ in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire.
The Magical Castle is an indoor play centre. It’s like a giant climbing frame with ball pits, slides, zip lines, a climbing wall and bouncy castle, for children and those of us adults who occasionally act like children. They do parties, if you book. It’s quite popular but I’ve never been before.
The ‘Castle’ structure is extensive with separate areas for very young children and a ‘party room’ that has been made to look like a circus tent and room for at least thirty guests. There is also a café for those who don’t fancy chasing around after their kids. It’s £1.40 for a tea or coffee, £1.30 for a scone or teacake. They also do wraps, naked potatoes, and chips for fairly reasonable prices.
The staff I met and spoke to were very friendly and helpful. They wanted the birthday boy to have a good time, and provided a treasure hunt for the party as well as the food. The party food was actually quite nice. Basic and it wouldn’t have fed the 10 children it was supposed to be for, except possibly the cocktail sausages, of which there were plenty. There was a choice of three types of sandwiches, chips and pizza slices, fruit and veg sticks, and cocktail sausages and sausage rolls, followed by jelly and ice-cream. The ice-cream was good quality, as was rest of the food provided and the fruit squash.
As a place to take the children if you happen to be in Cleethorpes and it’s raining it’s not bad. The admission fee varies between school holidays, weekends and bank holidays, and weekdays (it’s slightly cheaper) and by age of child; one free adult per child, £1.00 for each extra adult. As a place for a children’s party I would recommend it (from £8.95 a child). But book early if you want it on a Saturday, make sure you have more than ten children coming and take you own cake. They don’t provide the cake. The party bags are quite good as well. I put mine in the play box I keep for any visiting monsters. It had a colouring books, crayons, puzzle, stickers etc although the pink ‘princess’ theme was a bit much even if it does fit with the décor of the attraction.
For more information their website is:
I shall be off now,