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

Colin Wells Colin Wells 2:07 am 21 Nov 17

In days gone by the old saying was when you are on to a good thing stick to it. But not anymore such a great shame that this beautiful show is put on hold. Thanks to Paul, Digger and all the people of the Triangle area all very best you make Australia proud well done. You’ll all be missed in this house hold.

Louise Louise 12:51 pm 10 Nov 17

Seeing River Cottage Australia was back on TV has made my day! I’ve missed Paul, Digger and all the animals and people of Tilba. I’ve got two items on my Xmas wish list this year. The DVD set and a wish for a new series of RCA. Fingers crossed for this delightful and entertaining program.

russell pearson russell pearson 8:03 am 29 Oct 17

I loved River Cottage, both UK and AU, and will miss it very much, it is one of the very few reality shows I will watch, as most of them seem very contrived and false. I wish everyone concerned with the show all the best and good luck for the future.

Rowena Rowena 12:06 am 28 Oct 17

Absolutely loved River Cottage Australia. Have watched every episode of each series since day 1. So sad that show has been placed on hold and seeing the property in Punkalla Tilba road has been sold dont expect the show will return so we travelled from Auckland to visit Tilba and the surrounding district to get a first hand feel from what has brought a heap of pleasure to us over the years. Good luck Paul and family for whatever lays ahead and thanks for the memories.

Hannah Mark Hannah Mark 12:36 pm 24 Oct 17

Please bring back RIver Cottage Australia!
Paul West is a natural on television, his enthusiasm for what he does is infectious and there really are lots to learn and discover from this worthwhile show -whether it’s with plants and gardening or cooking yummy recipes or taking care of livestock or just getting to know the absolutely lovely area of Tilba & its fabulous community! We know Paul gets paid for being on the show but really, it is his love for what he does and that he is a genuine sort of guy who really cares for his craft which is the real drawcard for many viewers of the show.

So come on SBS. Pick up the mantle where Foxtel had left. River Cottage Australia is a true GEM of a show. There’s a legion of existing fans out there who would be forever grateful to you – and no doubt you’ll be garnering plenty of new ones along the way!

AMY AMY 3:13 am 13 Oct 17

I just watched it for the first time on Sbs last night and i absolutley LOVED it. It was the episode where he got his first pigs. Cant wait to catch up on all the episodes. My kids will love to watch it.

Cam Cam 3:16 am 10 Oct 17

Love RCA so much there is nothing else like it on Australian TV that shows the true Australia. Such a great show love Pauls realness, he’s a true character. Please come back for season 5.

Lisa Lisa 12:47 pm 05 Oct 17

River cottage brought back the Aussie spirit of self sufficiency and showed us that we can live outside of the big cities and that it is okay to dream of an alternative lifestyle. The TV program will be sadly missed especially Paul West who gave his very best notable his culinary skills and his love of country.

Helen Brown Helen Brown 8:10 am 29 Sep 17

Poor Digger! All that land to run about on and now he’s stuck in a suburban backyard, bored witless. Shame Shame Shame!

Pam Pam 5:54 am 29 Sep 17

Lost my soul … grieving at the loss of RCA.

Jen Jen 3:29 am 29 Sep 17

So sad :(( I have only recently discovered RCA which has been airing on SBS every week night at 6pm – who needs the 6 o’clock news with all its doom and gloom when you can watch this delightful show. Paul was a wonderful host. Loved absolutely everything about it. Good luck to you Paul and your lovely family.

Kerin Kerin 6:23 pm 26 Sep 17

Only recently discovered RCA and absolutely loved it . Paul is just so down to earth, enthusiastic and capable and the show really inspired me with its combination of sustainable farm life and food. Very disappointed that it has been cancelled and I wish Paul and family all the best.

Trevor Trevor 10:41 am 25 Sep 17

We also love river cottage which is still on Tv each night (sbs 6pm) we dropped in last week to catch up with locals in bermagui, tilba, cobargo , its message is clear , good living, hard work, friendship, community, laughter, we look forward to a return series, hopefully with Paul and digger?!!

Brenden Saul Brenden Saul 11:15 pm 23 Sep 17

My wife and I loved watching the series. It isn’t often a TV show has real lovable characters that everyone can relate to.
Within the 1st series we already wanted to visit Tilba. By the end of the 4th you want to live there.

It is a shame the investors don’t see the long term investment in a show like this. The audience would have kept growing.
With cooking classes that were already added and adding farm stays, this could have been even bigger.

Hope to catch up with Tilba soon, we wish Paul and his family the best. Thank you Paul, the crew, and Tilba for such an awesome series where real people were able to share part of their lives with us all. You have a piece of heaven there.

Jenni Jenni 11:29 pm 20 Sep 17

Tragic – a show for the whole family with wonderful animals and great recipes. Please bring it back. Hope Paul is happy with his lovely family, and that Digger is part of his family!
We need more authentic Aussie programmes which illustrates life in the country, the wonderful community spirit which give those living in towns and cities a view of the spectacular Australian scenery.

Liz Scheide Liz Scheide 4:51 pm 16 Sep 17

I grew up in the country on Eyre peninsula, Moved to the city when I was young to find work, living in the hum drum and every day life of the city, people forget the country life style, My husband died 7 years ago and I decided to move. I have 2 blocks of land and have got right into gardening etc.
I found your show an inspiration, something to bounce off, get hints, tips from, and to view ideas in another prospective
I will miss the episodes…
cheers Liz

Lorraine Pansini Lorraine Pansini 12:51 am 16 Sep 17

Such a shame that commercialism wins the day again. Having recently made our own sea change move from Perth WA to beautiful Evandale Tas, we thoroughly enjoyed looking at similar scenery in Tilba. The work and love that Paul, his family and team have put into developing the farm is outstanding. We have always enjoyed River Cottage UK and it was great to see Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visit Paul. However, we can relate so much more to an Australian series. Please consider the wishes of other viewers and re-consider returning River Cottage Australia to our screens. Whatever happens, best of luck Paul to you and your lovely family.

Tanya Williams Tanya Williams 1:13 pm 14 Sep 17

Thank you Paul for such a wonderful heartfelt country series. Please give Digger a hug for me.
I am watching River Cottage Australia on SBS and am saddened to read that the project and series has come to an end. Many Australians do not have Pay TV – so we have only just begun our love affair with the show, down to earth Paul and his growing family and of course the animals – especially Digger and Bessy. I am so sorry about Ron.
You are making changes in people’s lives, their backyards and kitchens at grass root levels. As a gardener and a cook I love the yummy recipes. I love the honesty and the relationships between the local food producers.
The time for sustainable living, growing and purchasing food locally is now! Come on producers “a Return to River Cottage Australia” is the next logical step… Australia is waiting….
Cheers Tanya

trudijane trudijane 8:26 am 13 Sep 17

Thanks for a great show. Made me long for my perfect childhood on the farm.

Irene Irene 12:01 pm 08 Sep 17

This is one of the few shows on television that is worth watching. It brought us back to SBS and caused us to watch many more SBS programs. I don’t understand the decisions that programmers make. This is a good show, it isn’t reality trash – it is reality treasure.