9 February 2021

Paul West back where River Cottage Australia started

| Ian Campbell
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Paul West in his home at Bermagui. Photo: Ian Campbell

Paul West in his home at Bermagui. Photo: Ian Campbell

Paul West has become a favourite son of the Far South Coast of New South Wales. The time and energy he brought to the region and its people as host of River Cottage Australia made him so.

Filming on the TV series based at Tilba ended four years ago, having moved away Paul and his young family are back in the region and putting down roots at Bermagui, just 24 km south of the old River Cottage farm.

“The whole time we were away we mythologised the South Coast, it served as our North Star to where we wanted to be,” Paul explains while holding a cup of tea in his Bermagui kitchen.

“After River Cottage finished my wife and I were a little bit uncertain about our future – as tends to be the case when you become unemployed.

“And we weren’t sure if this was genuinely where we wanted to be or because River Cottage had brought us here.”

READ MORE What happened to Paul West and the River Cottage?

Paul, Alica, Otto, Bowie and their famous dog Digger stuck around for a little while after filming ended but the need to chase work lead them to Newcastle and Melbourne.

“We were trying on other areas that had been significant in our adult lives,” Paul says.

“About a year after leaving here we both [Paul and Alica] had the conversation and said – no we definitely want to go back.”

Paul’s new book is available now in all good book stores – like Candelo Books, Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Following the release of Paul’s cookbook and a three-month family camping trip to “shake off the city dust” the Wests are back in a house they bought during their River Cottage days just a stone throw from Bermagui’s main street.

“This morning, I woke up and went outside to see the sun rising, I could hear the ocean and there’s a Whip Bird that comes and says ‘good morning’, then we fed the kids breakfast, walked one block to drop Otto at daycare, then went for a swim at the beach, chatted to some people, saw some whales breaching, and was back home by 9:30 – that’s the lifestyle on offer here!” Paul chuckles.

Having come from a country childhood himself, Paul wants his boys to experience the same, something that wasn’t on offer in busy Melbourne.

As is the case for many regional families – earning a living is the challenge now. Paul’s new book ‘The Edible Garden’ is part of that fix, with a second book on the way, as well as regular freelance work with the ABC, and appearances at food and lifestyle festivals and events around the country.

“But I don’t want to be a FIFO worker – I don’t want to be absent from my family and leave my wife holding the bundle and I don’t want to be the absentee community member. My family will be here for a long time and I want to be able to contribute to the community in a meaningful and constructive way,” Paul says.

“How that looks yet – I just don’t know. The dust is still settling for us.”

Having gardened in rental properties for the last two years, Paul’s focus at the moment is getting his own garden going again and producing the food he was famous for growing in the rich soils of Tilba with the nation watching on.

Click play to hear more from Paul, including his sadness at the end of River Cottage Australia…

“River Cottage was the most amazing experience. The program has found such a strong home in the mind of the Australian viewer. The message of that program was so positive and fundamentally human,” Paul reflects.

“To have played a small part in that – I couldn’t be happier.”

The other ‘stars’ of the show all still live locally – butcher Matt Christison, baker Nelleke Gorton, cheesemaker Erica Dibden and chef Kelly Eastwood. Paul sees the potential in “getting the band back together” and doesn’t rule out having some fun with the RCA gang in the future.

The River Cottage property was sold in July 2017 when TV production ended and is now available on AirBnB for $350 a night.

“People send me pictures of it all the time,” Paul laughs.

“Which I kinda like, but it also feels like someone sending you pictures of your ex-girlfriend.

“There is a morbid curiosity for me to get back out there but for me the focus now is reconnecting with all the wonderful people.

“But I don’t want to be Paul from the TV in the community I just want to be Paul from Bermagui. If you see me, come and say g’day, I am always up for a chat.”

Stay in touch with Paul via his website mrpaulwest.com

Kelly Eastwood who was a producer on River Cottage Australia now runs Eastwood’s Deli and Cooking School on Bunga Street, Bermagui.

Erica Dibden is following and building her food and farming ambitions through her family business Tilba Real Dairy.

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Paul West is back —-

Watch Gardening Australia on Friday nights ABC with Costa


Come back Paul. Kids and not only kids adults too need to know your back to basics knowledge and the farm life you brought to so many homes is just fantastic. I just started watching your shows on sbs lately and just googled you because I thought you were the guy named Brent or Bret on MasterChef 2021 and then I see your show has stopped on 2017. Your show I tell you if far more enjoyable and interesting than a lot of other bull dust rubbish show which is aired to tv which is just a waste of time to watch and most of the time it’s rude and pathetic so please bring back your shows. Start a go fund me page and we will get you going mate 👍👍👍👍👍👍

Hey mate you need to go watch the original River Cottage on YouTube with hugh Fearnley-whittingstall back in Dorset England. He’s the one who started it all mate he’s in season one on RCA with Paul all his seasons are on there the first on is escape to river cottage season two return to river cottage third river cottage forver hope you enjoy. I’ve been a huge fan and watching since 1999

Kaye Pownall12:02 pm 20 Feb 21

Still watching River Cottage Australia re runs on SBS and always wonder why it was not continued. So now is the time to start a new show with a similar concept Paul, and all your River Cottage mates. I know it would do well. So hurrah up Can’t wait much longer.

Miss the Show Bring it back Somebody needs to give Paul another contract. It was well like and enjoyed due to Paul West why do they always stop the best shows Better than the Reality TV

Paul get the band back together we miss it and it was such a great way to show us silly city people a bit of an idea how farming and good food is not just in a packet on the supermarkets shelve. So thanks mate it was a great show which I never missed.
Many Thanks.

Totally agree loved the beautiful simplicity of the show, and I’ve just come back from visiting Tilba, and the people there are just like they’re are on the show. Make me want to go back and buy my own river cottage 😁

I always meant to watch the show when it first started but somehow never got around to it. I have recently discovered it on SBS Streaming (now finished) but loved it so much I bought the box set. Paul, while the mast head figure for the whole philosophy of Australia’s take on ‘River Cottage’ is such an inspirational, genuine warm human being.

I really hope there is a production company that sees his potential to be of real value in another production showcasing our beautiful land, people, communities and produce in a similar way to River Cottage….I personally would watch it weekly, year round as I do the iconic Gardening Australia!

I have a dream to be self sufficient on my own parcel of land and will always refer back to Pauls endeavours on River Cottage when I need to be reminded how amazing(if hard work) that kind of lifestyle is.

I would love to see a show with more detail and finer technical details of actually being self sufficient, organic and of course the end result…the amazing food & recipes. Dick Strawbridge was another of my favourite ‘men on the land’ and had a great TV show showcasing the self sufficiency lifestyle.

Paul…if you have ideas I hope you are pushing ahead with them and promoting them with the relevant agents! :)) Would love to see you back as a regular fixture on our screens and see you more hands on with the actual production and overall content. Love your book and your passion for great produce and food.

Good luck with the future and all the best to your beautiful little family.

I know it’s been a few years now since you guys stopped filming, but the show currently showing (obviously re-peats) is so great for my primary aged children to now watch and enjoy. You’re a genuine human being Paul (you’re actually a spitting resemblance of a soldier we lost in Afghanistan, so kodos the beard!) All the love to you and your young family going into the future Paul. We’re originally from Surfside Sth Coast, so maybe we’ll cross paths one day and say g’day.

Deborah Roberts4:44 am 14 Jun 20

Paul hope to see you soon in another tv show doing your thing. I really enjoyed river cottage australia and seeing a beautiful part of the world.Growing fruit and veg,recipes and insight to farming. What could be better. Your book looks interesting and looking forward to reading it.

My husband Brian and I both love watching River Cottage Australia. We were watching the ABC the other day and I heard a voice and said to my husband “is that Paul from River Cottage?” I love your laugh Paul.

I love to watch River Cottage Australia, I am just doing it and tried to google Paul. No I am so sad to read he is not longer doing this program. He is such a lovely man and I hope I will see him soon again with a new project. We need humans like him around us. He brings people together with his love for farming and cooking but most of all – with his smile.

Have thought for a long time Paul why not write a kids cook book and incorporate antics with digger it could be illustrated by POH who is a great artist and lives food.

Maryanne Camilleri5:14 am 23 May 20

The quality of River Cottage Australia was top notch many West Australians watch it over and over again.
Thank you for a wonderful program.
West Australia.

Roger Clough6:44 pm 14 May 20

Paul, you had a great show with River Cottage. I’ve never seen such a balanced educational and entertaining program. Should be compulsory viewing for all children from 6-16 years age. Good to see you back in the area.

Hi Paul,
I`m engineer. My wife work in hospital. We are Your watchers. We live in Poland, We got douther, and We can go to Australia like You.

What were they thinking cancelling River Cottage Australia in the first place. We need that show back. I’m so happy to hear Paul and his family are back in Bermagui and raising their sons there. Fingers crossed Paul that you’re back on our screens soon but more importantly that life treats you and your family well in that special place in the world.

I loved watching River Cottage Australia,hope to see Something like this again from Paul and his family.

Great to see Paul West on the Today Show in Batesman Bay this morning !!!!!!
Good looking bloke lol. !

I would be more than happy to watch Paul on TV in any endeavour he chose to do… He was brilliant in River Cottage and I sadly missed seeing him and re-runs only work for so long… it would be great to watch a good entertaining show again.

Susan taktak7:26 am 12 Dec 19

Love your show I wish you and your family all the best what happened to your english mate? I miss river cottage and you

Annabel Dobson9:22 pm 06 Nov 19

Bermigui is fast becoming ‘foody central’ in the Bega Valley, and it’s not only food that’s bringing people here, it’s lifestyle and possibly future proofing thats alluring. With Paul West and Michael Mobbs both announcing their move here it’s clear that the Bega Valley is attracting attention.

Great for everyone to have you back with us on the Sapphire Coast Paul.

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