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River Cottage Australia on hold – Paul West making new plans

Ian Campbell20 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?

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

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Edna Edna 10:45 pm 04 Mar 17

My husband and I absolutely love this show and even drove all the way down to Tilba Tilba so see The River Cottage. We hope it will return one day. The show was realistic and family oriented. Other shows these days a rubbish and very heavily scripted. Very disappointed that this show isn’t on anymore.

    Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 10:48 pm 04 Mar 17

    Spot on Edna, thanks for adding your thoughts to the mix.
    Ian

    Tom Tom 9:24 am 25 May 17

    Couldn’t agree more, bring back River Cottage Australia!!!

    Karen Gergely Karen Gergely 7:48 am 03 Jun 17

    Bring back River Cottage!!! We loved watching the series!!

    Liz Liz 11:24 am 08 Aug 17

    I am really sad to read that the show has been decommissioned. My husband and I have only just discovered river cottage Australia. It is inspirational to clean living and sustainability
    I actually thought the tv show was true life so am dissapointed to some degree
    I hope that there is a change of heart and the show does do another season

Sue Angus Sue Angus 11:28 pm 04 Mar 17

So sad that I won’t have River cottage Australia to watch this year!
It is by far the most inspiring program for Australians to really understand the grass roots of living off the land. I know Paul had help at the farm but I spent 8 years on 23 acres on the Darling downs when my children were young (it must be said that you may need a supplementary income to enjoy this lifestyle) and River cottage actually was a good depiction of small holding life in Australia. The incorporation of all his neighbours wonderful produce and help is exactly what happens in so many places in our country. The younger generation in my family have loved it and it is not just a dream in their eyes, it is doable.
My hope is that it will return to help us learn even in small situations how to be self sufficient and admire our beautiful countryside.

    Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 11:30 pm 04 Mar 17

    Thanks Sue – the show certainly inspired the young ones in my life as well. Thanks for your comments. Ian

Mat Smith Mat Smith 2:57 am 05 Mar 17

Dear River Cottage

Sad to not be watching the series again this year as it was a weekly highlight which was highly anticipated and helped us get through the week.
Having recently moved to Sydney for work the show was an inspiration for the way we would prefer to live and having been bought up on a farm it truely reflected the spirit and personalities of the rural and small town lifestyle.
Paul’s kindness, zest for life and genuine love of cooking and produce shone through our TV screen and it is hard to understand why the networks are not continuing this year with such an educational series, you simply cannot find a more genuine show which truely depicts a self sustaining lifestyle.
So long to you and the animals for now and all the best for the future, we truely hope you return to inspire us through our weekly grind in the near future

Regards Mat

Kathy Dale Kathy Dale 5:23 pm 09 Mar 17

Dear Paul and crew
My family and I really loved river cottage It is the only show our multigenerational family all watched. It was both educational and fun. We hope Paul and the crew return soon.

    Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 1:51 am 11 Mar 17

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to the mix Kathy. Ian

Donna Smith Donna Smith 12:21 am 14 Mar 17

What a disappointment to hear River Cottage is not returning in 2017. My 12 year old daughter has all the DVD’s and we watch them over & over. We are coming to Tilba at Easter just so we can see where it all happens. Good luck with everything Paul & family.

    Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 12:29 am 14 Mar 17

    Hey Donna, might see you around. Just a heads up. Since my story was written, Paul and his family have decided to move on and out of the area. So please dont come hoping to catch up with Paul at Triangle Farm. Don’t be surprised however to bump into Kelly Eastwood from the show who is the driving force behind the Easter Festival this year.
    Cheers
    Ian

Alan Barnes Alan Barnes 12:10 pm 25 Mar 17

Very disappointed to hear that the program is on hold. All the best for your future, Paul and family. So glad Digger has a permanent home and family! Alan.

    Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 9:31 pm 25 Mar 17

    Thanks Alan, lots of people feel the same. Ian

Stuart Wenham Stuart Wenham 1:45 am 02 Apr 17

I am disappointed that it didn’t run into a 5th year but seeing as it as almost the same format as the English version with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall whose own version only lasted the same time until they had the follow on series, which were very successful, maybe they will follow with the same in the “return to river cottage series” we can only hope.

Cathy Crawley Cathy Crawley 10:36 am 08 Apr 17

I came across your page while looking for a start date on River Cottage as it usually starts in Autumn, I’m so sad to read it isn’t coming back to our tv screens! My young son and I have been avid viewers since it started, it was one of his favourite shows. While there are loads if reality tv shows and home reno shows there aren’t any others showing how to be self sufficient in an environmentally sustainable way. It’s a huge loss for parents like myself who want to teach the importance of ethical food production and life skills to their children. Let’s hope the prosucers have a change of heart.

    Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 9:47 pm 08 Apr 17

    Hey Cathy, sorry to be the one to break the news to you and you son. Lot’s of people liked the show for the same reasons.Ian

Graham Graham 8:00 am 18 Apr 17

So sad River Cottage Australia has been discontinued. So many reality TV shows are so contrived but this programme had all the earmarks of genuine love of the “outback” Australia. We have been to Tilba Tilba and enjoyed the town with all its various somewhat quirky stores. Paul was such a lovely man on the show and am sure he is like that in real life.
Maybe, just maybe Fox may have a rethink and at least have one more series soon. BTW, who actually owns the property??

pat crowley pat crowley 11:07 am 19 Apr 17

My 11-year-old son has been waiting and waiting for this show to return, it was a family show we all loved to watch together and dream of living the life Paul lived. So sorry to see it gone.
I don’t get why Foxtel invest in all the other c$%p they make and cut something this wonderful.
Sad day, have to break it to him when he wakes up 🙁
Pat

    Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 8:33 pm 20 Apr 17

    It was wonderful, thanks Pat. DVD’s will have to do! Cheers Ian

Janis Janis 9:46 am 27 Apr 17

River Cottage Australia was one of the few programmes that has kept us keeping up our Foxtel subscription. Instead we are expected to enjoy low grade programmes with multiple ads throughout and still be prepared to pay for the pleasure. Pity Paul, we will miss you.
Janis

    Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 11:24 am 27 Apr 17

    Sorry to be the one to break the news to you Janis – lots of people are sad about it, me included!
    Ian

Glenda Richardson Glenda Richardson 1:13 pm 01 May 17

While wishing Paul and his family all the best in his new journey, my family will miss gathering around to watch the show and hoped to visit the farm one day. He has inspired my daughter to want to work on a farm, learn to be a chef, grow veg and edible flowers, practically follow in Pauls footsteps. My husband introduced me to River Cottage featuring Hugh 15 yrs ago or so and for foxtel to shelve the show is devastating, its disappointing for everyone. Hope they reconsider and give us back a quality show rather than current shows that encourage me to reconsider my subscription.

Gail Chancellor Gail Chancellor 10:05 pm 03 May 17

I cannot believe one of the best programs on TV, has been mothballed. There is an audience for this genre of program. Those ‘reality shows’ are part of the agenda to dumb down people, no violence, swearing, please bring it back.

Samantha Samantha 3:19 am 06 May 17

Like everyone here I have been waiting patiently for the return of River Cottage Australia. So disappointing to know it is not in the near future. My dream was to stay/live at the cottage. I hope it is not just left abandoned after all the work to make it into the wonderful, thriving place it was. I am sure Paul and his family will make Triangle Farm another thriving, family-oriented place. Lucky we didn’t make the trip last school holidays as previously planned.

Paul Paul 7:24 am 06 May 17

Hi guys
The only reason I subscribed to Foxtel was to view river cottage Australia!!!!!
I have seen every episode of river cottage and was wrapped RCA was conceived by Hugh and the Foxtel gang. Bitterly disappointed by the decision but that’s business!! I still don’t understand how half of the shows on Foxtel out rate RCA as I don’t watch them.
Fingers crossed that the ‘management team’ see sense and commission season 5 will be waiting

Kate Kate 9:03 am 08 May 17

Oh no! Gutted!! I just did the same – went online to see when the next series is starting! Ditto so many of the comments above. It was the one programme our whole family sat down & made a point of watching altogether. A huge loss, given the amount of rubbish that’s on TV most of the time. We’ve been wondering about our Foxtel subscription too this last 6 months. Maybe this is the final straw for us.

Good luck to Paul & family as they move on to pastures new. You’ve inspired many people. Glad to hear Kelly fell in love with the place like the rest of us & that she has decided to stay. Good luck in her ventures too.

Mark Tanner Mark Tanner 6:34 am 10 May 17

Hi RCA
I will miss the show a lot, really enjoyed the way Paul presented farm and small community life style the Australian way.
Come on Fox what about life on the Triangle Farm.
Kind Regards.
Mark

Anne Anne 11:43 am 10 May 17

Have been waiting for the next series to start and really sad to read the show is on hold. The program has inspired me so much that I’ve returned from the UK with my family and bought 100 acres to have a go at living off the land. This show is like a reference guide for me, was really looking forward to learning more. Keep my fingers crossed that Paul and the crew will be back again soon

Sue Dowd Sue Dowd 11:30 am 15 May 17

I’m devastated. I love this show . I think the focus in seasons 3 & 4 on trying to make the farm pay its own way was a mistake. It was early days and the focus should have been on Paul, the farm and the area, not on selling food baskets and a food van.
We visited River Cottage HQ in England, had a tour and a meal. It was a fantastic experience and I was so hoping to do the same at Tilba. Please bring the show and the farm back. I always feel inspired to do more at our place after watching it.My son-in- law is hooked now too.
I love Paul’s exuberance and enthusiasm and the fact that he will give anything a go.

    Dianne Fraser Dianne Fraser 1:34 am 18 May 17

    My husband and I enjoyed watching this programme which screened in New Zealand. Sad there will be no more. All the Best Paul to you and family not forgetting Digger.

    Dianne Fraser

Mellissa Mellissa 9:48 am 17 May 17

What can I say, other than total devastation. I have watched River Cottage UK, since the first episode, and was overjoyed to see the Australian version. I am a novice hobby farmer wanting to be self sufficient and having River Cottage sharing such precious and insightful information relative to Australia has been priceless. There is no other programs that gives volumes of information and resources relative to our beautiful country. My black thumb has turned a little greener and my husbandry skills have improved 10 fold due to River Cottage Australia. I was saddened to know that the farm is not owned by Paul and his family and that ownership is UK based. Thank you Paul, crew and every local involved, you have done us all proud, and I will pray for the day the show is again on air. Thanks from Far North Queensland.

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