Mud, madness and metal – these three words ring true when it comes to describing the behemoth that is Download Music Festival.
Download is one of the leading music festivals in the UK where some of the world’s rock royalty gather together for three days of metal gigging madness. You will find a fairground, international food and drinks stands, comedy tents, a market and a wedding chapel as part of the venue, along with two main music stages and numerous music tents.
Having previously attended a couple of other well known festivals, I felt I had sufficient knowledge enough to survive a week of rock and metal mayhem. Little did I know how different an experience this would be.
Arriving early on the Wednesday morning, two days before the music officially began and looking forward to enjoying the full Download experience, we set off with our tent ready to fight the crowds for a decent camping pitch. Despite the queue flowing back down the hill, entrance to the site through security and ticket office is relatively quick. After all, everyone just wants to get through and onto the site to the good stuff. We had booked a space in the Quiet camping area and an hour later, relaxing on the grass next to our spanking new tent we wondered if we had been a tad keen.
Three trips of carrying bundles and equipment later and were set and decided to spend the rest of the day wandering round the site in the blazing sunshine.
The Village at Download is pretty inclusive. With the nearest town a few miles away the festival supermarket is great for essentials. There’s a myriad of stalls selling quirky clothes, souvenirs and camping gear. The organisers have also thought of the practical things providing festival goers with hot communal showers and cash points. Last but not least the festival has its very own pub next to the popular comedy tent and sat on the grass in the darkened space with a beer in your hand, among a sea of giggling metalheads it’s impossible not to get caught up in the happy buzz of the fun.
Day 3 was the first day of music and it was as we hiked over to the stage arenas that the first rumbles of thunder hit our ears. A word of recommendation: no matter how sunny it is when you wake up, prepare yourself for all weathers. The arenas are a good 20 minute walk away and you don’t want to get caught out by a sudden change in the skies. No sooner had the first act burst onto stage, than a crack of thunder boomed through the sky and the rain poured down upon us. Within minutes the dry cracked ground was a stream of deep red mud and we were unbelievably grateful for the plastic ponchos we’d stashed in the backpack that morning. We slipped them on and what do you know, we kept them on for three long days…
It’s true the weather presents its challenges but don’t let this put you off, because the main event, the music is fantastic! You will have your main acts to see of course, and the electric atmosphere of an excited crowd at an open-air show creates a world of its own. But the beauty of music festivals is the other bands you’ll discover along the way. With three main areas of music playing for 10 hours a day, there’s no shortage of bands and you’re sure to come across new sounds as you wander round. If there’s a gap in your schedule, choose a group at random to go and hear. Trust me you will not regret it.
On the third and last morning of music, we packed up and carefully wheeled our things through the site back to the car and off we went to see the final acts. Needless to say wellies are an essential. Thousands of people walking through muddy village streets leave quite an impression, but some good clothing and a pair of boots will see you through no problem. Everyone is pretty settled in to camp life by this point and perched on a wooden seat with some hot food in hand, we looked around at the scattered crowds talking, laughing and bouncing to the drum’s beat and realised that we’d loved every minute.
That being said, we were looking forward to a night sleeping in a room that didn’t leak and so as the last band boomed their goodbyes, we made our way from the site and on to our Gloucester hotel and to sleep.
A word on Gloucester and The Cotswolds
Gloucester is a charming town, a mixture of old cobbled streets and modern shopping areas, there is a real range to see and do for the day trippers out there. To my delight, we discovered that this was the home of the original tailors shop from the Beatrix Potter tale, The Tailor of Gloucester and we made this part-museum, part-shop stop the main stop of our morning. Adult and young fans will recognise the clever scenes put together from the story and the truth of the Tailor’s tale will be revealed as you walk around the museum exhibits.
The Cotswold villages are about an hour’s drive from Gloucester and are little gems not to be missed. Famous for the quaint british scenery, the chocolate box houses lining the main streets will come as no surprise with the green countryside providing the perfect backdrop. These with unique shops and quality tea rooms and restaurants make for a happy place to explore and enjoy. We had happened to arrive here on the Queen’s birthday and to our DELIGHT, we found the main street of Bourton-on-the-water prettily decorated and celebrating the days event. Restaurants and pubs line the stream from the River Windrush flowing through the heart of the town and supply a scattering of table for visitors to stop for a bite and take in the subtle prettiness of the village.
Tips: There are just too many tips for this crazy week to post here.
Take a look at the posts below for more info:
Top 10… tips for surviving a music festival
Top 10… items to pack for a music festival