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

Lauren M Lauren M 2:44 pm 07 Sep 17

Popular television in this day and age means utterly deplorable shows like Big Brother or The Housewives series or some reality shows which are frankly an insult to one’s better judgment. RCA is a truly worthwhile televison production which has touched many viewers, not just nationally but globally as well judging from viewer feedback from other countries. What Paul West is doing on his farm is not just about planting his vegetables or growing his livestock or cooking his produce. He is passionate about his work on the farm, showing respect and love for the land and the animals, the importance of community – of looking out for one’s neighbors, of comradeship, generosity and trust and in sharing in the goods of the land. How Paul and the rest of the Tilba community goes about doing what they love are very good examples of responsible stewardship of the land they live in. How absolutely inspirational television! What a wonderful facet of Australia to show to the world because yes – the world is interested! How sorely lacking is Australian television of shows of this genre and what an absolute shame that is.
Most unfortunately Foxtel is no longer interested. Not much profit to be gained from the show maybe. Somehow payTV channels believe showcasing ‘badness’ is more popular and profitable than highlighting ‘goodness’ in shows such as RCA. It’s all about profits and popularity- never mind that being ‘popular’ in this day and age is nothing to aspire towards.

Keep doing what you love Paul! We miss you and wish you and your family including Digger all the very best. Maybe one day in the near future we’ll see you back on our tv screens again!

Leigh Leigh 12:03 am 05 Sep 17

Having just discovered River Cottage this year on SBS at 6 pm where I am, I can tell you it is the ONLY daily show on television that I watch faithfully. I will miss it terribly and I’m very very sorry to see it go. I wish the whole community could chip in to buy the property and have Paul manage it — a great place for his growing family and Digger to get on with their lives. I did suffer watching some of the kills (for some reason particularly the ‘disabled’ chick) and I’m a very limited meat eater but the message of table to plate produce, free range eggs, etc, ecologically responsible farming methods, sustainability, the importance of community, education, etc is needed even more today than when the show started production. I came on this page by random when I was looking for more info about Paul being at the Bangalow Markets on Saturday but I hope someone gets this message so late.

Debbie Debbie 7:15 am 04 Sep 17

I have only just discovered River Cottage Australia… well, I did know about it because my sister was always raving about it… but then I wasn’t in a position to ever watch it, until just recently.. where I sat down and watched all of them in the last three days… I must say it has changed the way I see my 10 hectares and I will certainly be using some of the fantastic ideas and recipes that have come out of each segment. I’ve loved the series and concept so much… and also very sad to see it has come to an end…. but the legacy of the series will live on, because it is just a matter of popping it into the DVD player and being inspired all over again.. and again… and again. thanks for putting together a fantastic series and to all the people involved.

Matthew Louis Matthew Louis 11:38 am 02 Sep 17

Wow, River Cottage has been such an addictive event at my house. I can’t think of one episode that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat. We record it and sometimes watch 3 or 4 shows a night!
Yes the community feels really warm and genuine. How good is life on the south coast, congratulations Paul and Digger and thankyou Tilba!

Moya Shanks Moya Shanks 9:54 am 27 Aug 17

Could you please advise me about the episode on Honey Bees, any information would be appreciated.
Love the show
Many thanks
Moya Shanks

matt ware matt ware 8:33 am 23 Aug 17

Very disappointed that river cottage has been cancelled. I bought a similar property and over the past 4 years I have been following RCA and using some of the advice from the show.
Was one of the best shows for the whole family with realistic shows.
Far better than anything else on tv today.

Jim Jim 8:43 am 22 Aug 17

I am astounded that river cottage is not being continued. One of the few reality tv shows that we watch. With all the rubbish on free to air tv this was a shining light imo. Hope sanity prevails and it returns soon. Cheers Paul west and crew genuinely great tv.

Daphne Matthews Daphne Matthews 9:31 am 20 Aug 17

Paul my friends and I miss river cottage so much. Why oh why did they take it off. I am so sick of all the repeat shows Foxtel put on each and every week. Your show was a breath of fresh air all new and interesting. I am sure Hugh was a little disappointed that it would not continue. I wish you well your wife and son and the new baby to. Maybe one day you can do it all again starting of small just like Hugh and get one of the TV channels to take it up. Anyway I wish you all the best

Dee Dee 1:52 pm 19 Aug 17

River Cottage Australia is great family viewing, in fact one of the best series on TV! Please bring it back!!

Denise Gasparich Denise Gasparich 11:58 am 16 Aug 17

We thought the film was for ‘real’ . However still love watching and very sorry it is to be discontinued.
Paul is a likeable believable man. It has sure put Tilba on the map.

Dee and Mitch

Rhonda Michelle Hill Rhonda Michelle Hill 5:29 pm 12 Aug 17

This sucks. Bring back River Cottage

Ric K Ric K 12:41 pm 11 Aug 17

Does anyone think that perhaps a “Go Fund Me” could be organised to have a private production on the same theme with our hairy faced chef / farmer involved? Still watching the series at the moment

rod hahn rod hahn 12:27 am 11 Aug 17

I just love IT. NO more to be said really, BRING IT BACK, please

Natalie & Dave Natalie & Dave 1:26 pm 10 Aug 17

My partner & I love River Cottage Aust and am dumbfounded as to why it had to end. All the best wishes to Paul & family, huge hugs to Digger. Why do we have to suffer the rubbish served up on TV when there is such quality and inspirational shows like yours. Very sad, Natalie & Dave

Ross Ross 12:01 pm 10 Aug 17

One of the few quality shows on television. It is the 1st show in years I have looked forward to getting home from work to watch. There is so much rubbish on television and River Cottage was a refreshing quality program. Let’s hope it comes back in the future.

Selina Maddern Selina Maddern 12:18 pm 08 Aug 17

I grew up in Bega and visited Tilba, Bermagui, Cobargo and Narooma on occasions. Watching the show brought back memories as a child and teenager. My grandfather and mother were dairy farmers in The Bega Valley.
I didn’t know what I had until I moved to the Gold Coast! seriously considering moving back as I miss that community spirit and sustainable lifestyle. Of course having children has inspired that thinking as well as watching River Cottage and my son wanting a farm full of animals.
I loved all the episodes especially the Bega Show as we went there every year! Good to see some familiar faces too! People who know the good life and stick around country life.
The far south coast NSW truely is beautiful and as someone once said “surfing in the morning, snow skiing in the afternoon! Not too many places you can do that?!?

Edward Edward 4:05 am 06 Aug 17

Best show in years!
It was lovely to see a community help each other out and it was inspirational to watch the farm grow!
Hopefully it will be back soon, as television is mostly rubbish now.
Sad to see such a gem go!

Very disappointing.

Valerie Gilbertson Valerie Gilbertson 10:39 am 03 Aug 17

I have been thinking I must have missed the new series of River Cottage Australia. I finally got around to trying to find an airing date and what I found was devasting. I can’t believe it is not going to continue. It was so enjoyable to watch a show that any member of the family could watch what with all the rubbish that’s on the tv. It will be greatly missed. Thanks for all the lovely episodes.

James James 8:54 am 02 Aug 17

I love i watch River Cottage . Please bring back this TV show.

Edwina May Edwina May 10:21 pm 01 Aug 17

Absolutely gutted. This was such a highlight of our viewing each evening, depicting real life and teaching kids the facts of life when it comes to food – where it comes from, how it’s grown as well as animal rearing for food. Such quality viewing when there is so much rubbish on TV. Thanks Paul West and all the local people who showed us there is life outside big cities. I think we have all learned something about values. My very best wishes to Paul and him family and a big hug for Digger!