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River Cottage Australia on hold – Paul West making new plans

Ian Campbell 20 December 2016
River Cottage Australia, just outside of Central Tilba. From RCA Facebook page.

River Cottage Australia, just outside of Central Tilba. From RCA Facebook page.

River Cottage Australia at Central Tilba has been mothballed as backers of the TV show press ‘hold’ on further filming.

Host, Paul West says the future of the series is up in the air but he’s hopeful the show might return to TV screens one day.

“We don’t have a commission for the 2017 viewing year,” Paul says.

“For the last four years we have filmed a season every year continuously and this will be the first time we have had a break.”

The lush property, come TV set at the foot of Gulaga Mountain has been de-stocked, the cast of animals have all gone to good homes, their celebrity status attracting interest but not higher prices.

“We have stripped the high maintenance livestock out, like the chickens, the pigs and a lot of the cattle,” Paul explains.

“We just left a couple of the cows to keep the grass down, the property will still tick away but it won’t thrive like it has in past seasons.”

Digger the dog stays with Paul as part of his growing family.

“He’s not for sale…although that depends on how he’s behaving,” Paul laughs.

The West family on Paul and Alicia's on wedding day. From RCA Facebook page

The West family on Paul and Alicia’s wedding day @ The Sanctuary in Tilba. From RCA Facebook page

Having moved their life from Tasmania to the South Coast of NSW to film the show, Paul and his wife Alicia are now exploring new income options.

“It’s [River Cottage] not my property, I didn’t own it,” Paul says.

“As much as I do love going up there, I’ve got a family to feed, so I need to generate income, I can’t just do it for the love.”

Given the warmth many have for the show, it’s easy to forget that River Cottage Australia is a business – a partnership between Keo Films and pay-TV channel Foxtel.

According to Paul, the decision to rest the series is a commercial one that relates to the modern media landscape.

“The TV environment has changed rapidly in the last couple of years with the proliferation of on-demand streaming services and that caught our broadcaster on the hop a little bit,” Paul believes.

“They [Foxtel] had a restructure and River Cottage didn’t meet the criteria.”

Based on the long-running UK series hosted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall,  the Tilba version of the show reached into communities right around South East NSW.

The skill, passion, and beauty of these small communities was showcased to 17 countries across Asia and Eastern Europe.

Local people and their flair for food, the environment and each other became the star of the show – and generated terrific goodwill and prosperity beyond the TV production houses.

“There is no doubt the filming of 32 episodes of this national and international show has had a positive impact on the region in many ways,” says Sarah Cooper, Business Assistance Manager, Eurobodalla Shire Council.

“Aside from the immediate economic benefit that comes with a full TV crew filming for 3 months each year, there will be long-lasting effects,” Sarah says.

“The increased tourism in and around Tilba with visitors wanting to sample the ‘River Cottage Australia’ life has been a huge economic boost for the region and will be for some time.

“It’s been a four-year partnership with Council and the community, we will miss the show.” she says.

Paul West speaks with Ian Campbell about his plans for the future:

Paul West laughs as he remembers meeting viewers from Hungary on the main street of Central Tilba.

“If you have an eye for natural beauty, great communities, and that true regional character, then this is the best part of Australia,” Paul says.

The cooking and gardening program has also made a number of skilled locals ‘famous.’

Matt Christison with Paul West. From RCA Facebook

Matt Christison with Paul West. From RCA Facebook page.

As the show moved along Paul needed to call on expert advice, drawing on CWA cook Nelleke Gorton, farmer and felter Tabitha Bilaniwskyj-Zarins, Erica and Nic Dibden from South Coast Cheese and Tilba Milk, and mobile butcher Matt Christison, among many others.

Matt says the show has changed him.

“It’s been a huge buzz, the crew made me feel so welcome – they are great people.

“I was gutted when I heard the news, I will miss it. The Cooking School especially has been very satisfying,” he says.

Matt’s profile on the show has been good for his own business, which he’s very grateful for.

“Other’s have been inspired too, there are a lot more mobile butchers out there now,” Matt says.

While the show featured the recipes and gardening tips you’d expect, it was also known for showing regional life in all its colours, including the slaughter of farm animals.

As the one firing the gun and often cutting the throat of an animal, Matt says the reaction of viewers was interesting.

“I am very proud of that work,” Matt says.

“We showed how it can be done naturally and humanely.”

On the flipside, Matt says he’s disappointed his butcher jokes were cut from the show.

“I cracked every ‘meat’ joke there is, none of them made it to air,” he laughs.

Kelly Eastwood is another of the names tied to show reflecting on the positive impact it’s had and making new plans for the future.

Paul West and Kelly Eastwood. From RCA Facebook page

Paul West and Kelly Eastwood. From RCA Facebook page

Kelly was the TV Food Producer and as a qualified chef was Manager of the River Cottage Australia Cooking School, which ran in conjunction with the TV series.

Kelly says the region has left its mark on her and she’ll be staying.

“With all the travelling I’ve done, this is the first place I’ve had an affiliation with, it feels like home,” she says.

Just like Paul West, Kelly has built a connection with the local community that has moved beyond the TV screen and into the fabric of what regional living is about.

Kelly has become a key member of the Tilba Chamber of Commerce and has just been appointed president of the 2017 Tilba Easter Festival committee.

“I got involved to say ‘thank you’ to this community for its support of the show and the cooking school,” Kelly says.

“Moving here for River Cottage Australia has been life changing, there are lots of reasons to stick around.”

Kelly says she’ll take the next month off and rest before jumping into anything new.

“There are lots of opportunities for good food here and I’ll be writing my cookbook over summer,” Kelly says.

“I believe so much in this region and I just want to show it off to the world.”

For Paul West, his wife Alicia, their 2-year-old boy and baby due early next year, River Cottage Australia lives on in many respects.

Triangle Farm Tilba. From Facebook

Triangle Farm Tilba. From Facebook

While the show might be hibernating, Paul’s passion for food is awake and kicking under the banner of Triangle Farm Tilba.

Over the last couple of months, Paul has been turning a grassy paddock on the Princes Highway, opposite the Dibden’s dairy farm, into a market garden.

“When you are making a TV show you do more TV making than you do food growing,” Paul says.

“Now that the TV show isn’t on the horizon, I want to do more food growing.

“I’ll be growing a variety of chemical free vegetables that I hope to sell into the Bermagui and Tilba farmers markets, and maybe I’ll get down to Bega as well, and supply a few hospitality businesses,” Paul says.

A pop-up food stall is also part of Paul’s thinking, but he’s keen to get the garden producing first.

“Tilba sits atop a region that is colloquially known as the triangle,” Paul explains.

“It’s the trio of villages – Bermagui, Cobargo, and Tilba, they make a triangle on the map.”

Paul says the name Triangle Farm is also a nod to the triangle being the strongest shape.

“And the three points [of a triangle] also symbolise produce, place and people – the three most important elements in food,” Paul says.

Over the last four years, River Cottage Australia has been nominated for a number of TV industry awards, including best lifestyle show at the recent Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, it has attracted weekly audiences of up to 132,000 people and sold thousands of cookbooks, but perhaps its greatest achievement is the mark the show leaves on the community that took it on.

Farewell River Cottage Australia – fingers crossed you come back one day.

#Stay up to date with Paul West and his life after River Cottage Australia, Paul has made a new home in Melbourne and is working for the ABC – find out more. (June 2018)

What's Your Opinion?

153 Responses to River Cottage Australia on hold – Paul West making new plans

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John Alford 11:19 pm 15 Sep 19

One of the best Australian produced TV series. Absolutely loved it and very sad that it’s all finished. Added interest when Paul said he was born in Murrurundi because my dad was born there and my great grandfather, Alfred Alford, was once the town’s one and only farrier and blacksmith. Other surnames in our extended family for that region are Watson and Hunt; maybe Paul’s parents have heard of them. If it is possible I would love to chat with Paul or his parents.

Amina 10:50 pm 15 Aug 19

I hate that the show is over I sat till 11pm waiting for it to come on very enoyed as I got to look forward to the show & what went on on the show what an upset to read it’s over can’t the show get more backing & start again what a shame I loved it!! I live on a farm so I enjoyed watching all the episodes was very interesting will miss it thanks for that brief show it was outstanding

Matt mitchell 7:43 pm 13 Aug 19

We miss the show . With its connection with a real community , growing stuff and the how to stuff made it great show . Put it back on

Lisa Macdonald 12:51 pm 10 Aug 19

We watch the show every time it’s on we love seeing Paul and Digger who is the star of the show and of course Bessie the jersey cow it definatley looks a nice place to live and all the animals look happy going to miss it for sure.

Donna Mcleod 1:43 pm 26 Jul 19

Love this show , love Tilba been up that way on many a holiday . This show has taught me so much about farming living off the land a total community spirit. Sad to just learn that I won’t be seeing Paul , Digger and Daisy on my tv screen . Hopefully it makes a comeback.

Jennifer Anderson 6:27 am 26 Jul 19

I’m sorry to say that I’ve just found Pauls TV show and now I don’t miss a single one. Even when I am away I tape it. I just love the show and the lifestyle it portrays. It’s a hard, busy and rewarding life and Paul is just the right person for it, a wonderful personality. There should be more of these programs where people watching can see life as it is. Best of luck to Paul in his next venture.

    Ali Moore 4:01 am 30 Jul 19

    Love this program.
    Paul, the community of kind people and of course, Digger.
    The show has restorative qualities and anyone who loves it as I do will understand what I mean!
    I watch it with glee !

Jan Howlett 10:08 am 16 Jul 19

I absolutely loved the show and still watch it every time repeats are shown.
It is inspiring on so many fronts,the home grown element and all the benefits that offers, the community that exists with this hard labour way of life, the commitment to excellence and of course all the wonderful tips and tricks about cooking and growing/raising home spun food.
Thank you Paul West ..you were inspiring with your obvious passion for all things raw..how incredibly refreshing in this modern world of quick fix and the lost art of offering food from the heart. I hope the show gets new legs!!!
I have been looking for a community to live in that is all things sustainable and, but for the cold climate and lack of sea close by to swim in, would have moved to the area for all it offers.

David MARTIN 9:49 pm 11 Jul 19

Dam shame that it was terminated and that Paul didn’t buy the farm and wasn’t able to make enough running it, at the end of the day who else would make a tree change if this farm wasn’t sustainable without the income from the TV show

Leanne Hasluck 7:34 am 27 Jun 19

Please bring River Cottage Australia back it was a awesome real life show. So sad 😭 it’s gone
Paul West is a beautiful sole

Greg Howard 4:57 pm 04 Jun 19

Good bye to a truly great show.
I have loved every minute of it and was admired and was inspired by Paul and his guests.
Reading the comments it is very true what has been said about being part of a community.
The show certainly reflects this as what it is to run a small farm, the involvement of the local people and living on the land.
Its a real shame that this is the end
To Paul, his wife and family, good luck for the future.
Thank you very much.
Greg Howard

Rosie 6:11 pm 19 Mar 19

I absolutely love this show and really admire Paul. I would be a firm viewer if “the powers to be” decide to continue producing this show. Fingers crossed we will be seeing Paul at River Cottage again.

Please reconsider ……

Regards Rosie Thompson

Sandrs 7:37 pm 04 Nov 18

Very disappointed that it has gone into hiatus another fave show have apparently gone down the gurgler

Caroline 1:30 pm 18 Oct 18

Our whole family loved this show – even the teenage kids, believe it or not. We would wait each week for the next episode and watch it together over dinner. So sad that it won’t be coming back.

Ali 7:18 pm 07 Oct 18

More River Cottage Australia. We love it in the UK

Elli antoniou 10:51 am 22 Sep 18

Loved this show!! Soo disappointed that it’s bn cancelled!!

Margaret Thomas 12:21 am 02 Aug 18

Waching river cottage Australia here in england, love the show never miss it, hope it does return. Best of luck to all.

Joan smith 6:53 pm 31 Jul 18

I really miss the show. Watched it without fail. It reminds me of the dorrigo where I came from on a farm at moleton. Sorry to see it go

Penny Low 8:43 pm 18 Jun 18

I really miss the show ,it was one of the highlights of the tv week. The replays on SBS keep me going but I sincerely hope the show comes back. My 90year old mother also watches the show whenever she can. Please come back River Cottage Australia.

JACK CAIRNS 11:51 am 18 Jun 18

HI FOLKS – WE LOVED PAUL’S FARM SHOW – A BIG MISTAKE NOT CONTINUING IT – I GREW UP ON FARMS IN IRELAND – IT LEFT THAT OTHER SIMILAR PROGRAM FOR DEAD ! – THANX PAUL – I AM GLAD YOU SHOWED ALL OF FARMING IN IT’S TRUE REALITY AND NOT EDITED TO SUIT THE DO-GOODERS / GREENIES / SO-CALLED NICE FOLKS !- TELL HIM THE STAR OF THE SHOW IS DIGGER ! – J.C.

Julie Cave 1:22 pm 14 Jun 18

I would love to see Paul and Digger Dog back at a River Cottage again. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole series, from the great recipes, the wonderful exploits and adventures that Paul and Digger got up to and especially the community spirit that shined through the people, the place and their wonderful organic fresh food.
Come back again…

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