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

Rich Rich 1:45 pm 29 Jul 17

The main problem appears to have been the difference in the UK and Australian shows set up. Hugh appears to have made a firm decision early in the UK project and invested into creating businesses to support his family and satisfy his passion for the River Cottage project. The Australian setup seems to be solely a media presentation on a lifestyle rather than building sustainable business ventures to create the lifestyle and educate like minded people. It is a shame it didn’t work because the differences between UK and Australian land and farming are significant and this series did manage to highlight this.
Unfortunately we live in a shallow world where so called reality shows ‘the Batchelorette and Yummy Mommies etc reign supreme. Good luck to Paul and others who worked on the series

Kaylene Kaylene 4:22 am 29 Jul 17

Love the show,have watched all four seasons and am saddened that there is no season five. The great camaraderie exhibited by the people of the region showcase what country life is all about….everyone coming together to support each other, the community and share skills. The relationship of good wholesome meals produced from home grown foods and prepared in a gorgeous country kitchen is a winner,
We too have visited this region and seen the gorgeous town of Tilba and the villages of that area.
Fantastic series, please bring it back.

Andrea Ridley Andrea Ridley 2:49 pm 27 Jul 17

Truly disappointed that the show has been cancelled really enjoyed watching as did my husband. Such a shame and a waste. The production company should be ashamed of themselves. UK

Jim McKenna Jim McKenna 9:28 am 26 Jul 17

Hi Paul, yes it is sad that the series has ended. Better to be on a high at the finish. How about your own show on your new property with your growing family and Digger. “River Cottage the next move”.
Australian’s need more shows like yours mate. Waiting for your come back in the not to distant future.
Regards, Jim.

Sue Lamont Sue Lamont 3:48 am 26 Jul 17

Such a shame to see River Cottage shelved . Note to the ABC … how about taking this on !

Fiona Stocker Fiona Stocker 8:57 pm 22 Jul 17

The original River Cottage was a huge inspiration for myself and my husband here in our own farm and food property in Tasmania. Personally I’m interested in seeing the Production companies waking up to the fact that women do this sort of thing too – moving to the country, grafting on the land, making food, babies and businesses. My blog and my book are all about just that – living the good life in Tasmania. Apple Island Wife. It’s crowdfunding now!

Ben Clark Ben Clark 1:43 am 16 Jul 17

What a shame this show is not continuing. I was just checking online to see when the show would be back only to see the bad news. Surely with all the American rubbish that passes for cooking shows we have room for a show with integrity such as River Cottage?

Nigel Bannister Nigel Bannister 4:22 pm 08 Jul 17

Paul, Really sorry to hear of the shows demise- it was wonderful to watch you, Digger, and the stunning scenary and farming. I wish you every success in your next venure- and THANKS for all the insights into an amazing part of the world.
Nigel- Ireland

Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 10:32 pm 03 Jul 17

An update – the River Cottage Australia property has been sold, meet the new owner:
About Regional.

Paras Universal Paras Universal 5:11 pm 29 Jun 17

Are there similar shows people can recommend as I really rather this than news, drama and reality.

Kim Kim 2:18 pm 29 Jun 17

Trying to explain to my 8 year old why this show isn’t on TV anymore and what has become of “Good girl Bessy” the “hungry hippos” (the pigs) the chooks and goats is quite challenging. She has gone from a very picky eater to willing to try, want to grow her own and take part in the kitchen.
With so much talk about children not being educated about food, where it comes from, the time invested to get food to the plate etc.. it very sad to have to close the book. Living in Sydney city we don’t have the yard sizes for elaborate gardens (at best it’s a herb pot) but RCA gave such an amazing insight into so many ways of life and taught my girl a new found appreciation of food that I was raised with. This was not only a great watch, it was educational, inspiring and emotionally investing. I do very much hope it does return. Good luck everyone who made the show what it was x

Jenny Scott Jenny Scott 2:06 am 28 Jun 17

I’m so happy to have stumbled upon this great article. I, too, am/ was a huge fan of River Cottage Australia (and the original River Cottage UK – so much so that I made a point of eating at the River Cottage Canteen in Bristol on a trip to the UK back in April this year!). Having grown up on a small farm in central Tasmania I totally sensed the genuine community ethos of this endeavour. It wasn’t just a “TV Show”. I was also really happy that Paul identifies as Tasmanian. Maybe we could start an online petition and crowd funding campaign for Paul and Hugh to bring it back as an independent production?

Philippa Wightman Philippa Wightman 1:10 am 21 Jun 17

I’ve recently discovered SBS Food Network and just yesterday caught a brief ad advertising the ‘new series’ of River Cottage Australia would be airing on that network on 3 July 2017.
Visited the SBS website, but there is no mention of it…
Am really, really REALLY hoping it is a new series and that RCA will be on our screens next month!

    Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 8:13 am 21 Jun 17

    Hey Philippa – it’s not a new series, SBS will be screening what’s already been done – which is still fantastic news.

Annie Annie 5:13 am 19 Jun 17

As I do not have Foxtel I was surprised to see the DVD set at the shop. Of course, I bought the whole series and it was worth it. I was disappointed to hear that the series is not going ahead, a pity the ABC doesn’t pick it up, I’m sure you will have a much bigger following then.
My partner and I are always looking at the native bush tucker around us and including them in our cooking. So this series is very relevant to our lifestyles in the Tropical North. I can only hope that Paul will continue along in another series. Goodluck. Maybe something with the Bushtucker Man from the North might be an idea?

Sharon Sharon 4:30 am 12 Jun 17

Really disappointed that River Cottage Australia isn’t coming back. It’s one of the few shows I really enjoyed watching. Seriously considering cancelling my pay tv subscription now.

Francine Austin Francine Austin 10:20 am 07 Jun 17

Watching a show now. 3rd time through the series…
Hubby and I are looking for our piece of paradise to build our river cottage lifestyle. We have visited Tilba, driven past the property.. true blue…
Thanks for the inspiration. We will miss your laugh Paul. God bless

Terry Bullock Terry Bullock 8:51 am 04 Jun 17

Sad to here that this great lifestyle show has been canned, an inspiration to any and all who wish to give the city the old heave ho, and seek the country living best depicted in the series, River Cottage Australia, good luck to Paul and his family, and good luck Kelly and with your decision to stay on in Tilba, and all the very best to all the guests, locals, crew and to the township of Tilba, and to the day I can too, share a frothy top at the pub with you all….

Mike Mike 1:03 am 01 Jun 17

I was wondering when it was returning and found out it is done. I am super sad about that. This was one of my favorite shows. And I live in California!

Daniela Lawn Daniela Lawn 10:52 am 24 May 17

Like all so sad that this has been cancelled and that Paul and his family have left the area. Just one question – after all the hard work that has been put into the property what will happen to it as it was such a beautiful place and have had the pleasure of being there in 2015.

    Dee Dee 2:38 am 26 May 17

    Probably a commercial decision to cancel the show because of the number of viewers compared to other “reality” shows. Also, a Foxtel executive said “I lost count of how many goats got murdered”. Perhaps some people don’t want to face the reality of how meat actually gets to their tables.
    The property which was purchased in 2013 for $650K was listed on the market last month for $895K.

    Ian Campbell Ian Campbell 8:24 am 26 May 17

    Keeping an eye on the sale of the property Daniela, will keep you posted, Cheers Ian

Tammy Tammy 9:18 pm 22 May 17

RCA something wholesome & truly educational that taught our city cousins about life cycles and sustainability. Sad news Australian viewers have lost a true gem of the grass roots kind. Positive that Paul West & family will pop up somewhere again & bring us another enriching service. The legacy left to the tourism of area will be enjoyed for many more years hopefully.