Environment

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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Waterlily1 Waterlily1 10:12 pm 19 Apr 18

I absolutely love River Cottage and Paul West who is the gem that makes this show so entertaining and enjoyable. It’s a welcome relief from the other over commercialised cooking and lifestyle shows. I think Paul West oozes charisma and charm while being fantastically masculine, sensitive and genuine. I think the show would be a hit in many countries and would also show case the beautiful location and setting. Wouldn’t be surprised if Paul west is snapped up by another channel as he is so engaging with Super Star qualities and deserves more opportunities to showcase his talent. Very sad to see it coming to an end.

Clodagh jones Clodagh jones 6:20 pm 18 Apr 18

I’m so sad River Cottage Australia is no longer. The rural setting and community involvement is a welcome change from cops and robbers programs and depressing news items shown on TV. We need more programs offering a country living in rural Australia apart from life on outback stations.

David Martin David Martin 8:59 am 10 Apr 18

Its a shame , Paul seemed to be living an idealic life ,we all dream of being self sufficient but obviously his income was not enough to buy the farm from the owner and sustain himself and I guess the slaughtering of the animals was enough to put some off watching

Helen and Neil Cooper Helen and Neil Cooper 11:18 am 31 Mar 18

We are devastated that there is no more River Cottage. We saw Paul on Gardening Australia on Friday night and suspected something was up. This is the only TV show that was honest and true. Good luck Paul and family and of course Digger. We will miss seeing you on our TV screen.
We look forward to seeing you again Paul on another TV show as you are a natural. 🙂

    gail gail 4:27 pm 26 May 18

    It wasn’t honest and true. It turned out to be a sham. The way the host was talking about how he got small farmer grants to help build the dam and fences made me think that he owned the property. It’s owned by the production companies it was just a TV show set

Geraldine Duncan Geraldine Duncan 6:57 am 30 Mar 18

Still missing River Cottage Australia. Hope Paul and family doiing well. Interested to see if the urban sustainability concept can get funding and link back to the community
both rural and urban.

Glen and Barbara Cousin Glen and Barbara Cousin 2:53 am 29 Mar 18

Bring back paul and river cottage australia. Quality tv with a wonderful host who is down to earth. Great austalian content . We need more river cottage!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wayne Davenport Wayne Davenport 9:19 pm 28 Mar 18

My wife and i love the show and were hoping it would return but now the farm is sold so would be hard to bring back i guess, but if there is a way, do it!!!!!

Stephen Stephen 9:16 am 26 Mar 18

Been watching from the UK, addicted to the River cottage series. Watched all of Hughs UK and now all of Paul’s foraging and self sustainability.
There’s nothing better than watching beautiful countryside both in the UK & Australia and different ways of life, cooking with foraged roadside edibles.
I’m quite envious watching people with amazing life and I’m riddled with pain rarely seeing the such beauty.

Frances Toogood Frances Toogood 3:54 am 02 Mar 18

Really sad that River Cottage has been shelved, it was a perfect programme for the whole family. I believe that this show was a great encouragement for people to get out there and grow some of their own produce.
We have also learnt a lot about areas in Australia we have never visited but would now be tempted to go.
We believe it is very short sighted to shelf this series as it offered so many different interests to different people.

Keera Keera 12:06 pm 07 Feb 18

This makes me so sad. My husband and I absolutely love watching this show and so do our two small children. It was so nice to have an amazing family friendly show to watch. We have learnt so many things along the way to implement with our own veggie patch etc and I love cooking the recipes. This is really disappointing.

Carolina Reece Carolina Reece 11:55 pm 06 Feb 18

Hi,

We have only just started watching River Cottage when it went to free to air and are so sorry that its not continuing. So nice to have good honest TV to watch where there is still community spirit and everyone is happy to share their skills. Also loved all the locals. Paul himself is such a personality. We saw him at Brisbane Regional Food and Wine and he is such a character. It was standing room only to hear Paul talk that day. Hopefully one of the free channels will pick him up…the Australian public is crying out for real TV and great home cooking.
Paul you are a national treasure and we will wait to see who is lucky enough to star you in another show. We loved that cheeky Digger too. Hopefully SBS will continue the seasons that have already been shown on Foxtel.

peter peter 5:34 am 02 Feb 18

I have been a Chef for over 50 years and I loved the show. What a shame it was cancelled.
Paul you and digger were great!!!

Dian Dian 8:59 am 29 Jan 18

I have watched nearly all the seasons, and only found out by googling ‘Paul West’ did I find out that there will be no more ‘River Cottage Australia’…..I’m gutted!! With so much garbage on TV…I looked forward to watching this program……Great show….very disappointed!!!!!!!!!!

David John David John 10:26 am 15 Jan 18

Wow, I have just found this show and disappointed that it is not continuing . The idea of creating a small farm in a very lush country environment is breathtaking to watch , not having any cocking abilitity it is dynamic to see all the food that can be source and created from a regional environment and not from the local Coles supermarket.
Great show!!
Disappointed

Donna Kahler Donna Kahler 8:22 am 06 Jan 18

Can’t believe it!!! Downloaded and am watching the previous seasons. Have Paul’s cookbook and have tried some recipes. My navy son is home after 12mths and we were looking for SEASON 5. Have subscribed to Foxtel for a decade and can’t believe they do rubbish like GOOGLE BOX over RCA. Disappointed in you Foxtel!
Good luck Paul and family and the local Tilba and surrounds community. Hope to see a return some time in the future.

kye kye 3:34 pm 02 Jan 18

I’m not impressed. Bring river cottage back NOW…..

Pari Misra Pari Misra 2:13 pm 02 Jan 18

It is so unfortunate and sad to lose River Cortage Australia to our ever growing commercial world of heavily edited and scripted shallow television.

River Cottage Australia was the only Australian programme which was so beautifully based on our authentic and rich Aussie country lifestyle.

It did a remarkable job of keeping our audience well connected with the natural and organic aspect of nature and this beautiful planet.

So disappointed to see it go.

Brian Moore Brian Moore 10:10 pm 31 Dec 17

If you have to watch a cooking show (which you do) this program is a great blend of food and origin. Gardening Australia have just said “thank you very much”, now pinching the concept. Further in an era of ratbag TV programs this was one of the only sensibly real, productive and enjoyable shows and Australian at that. Ah well back to travelling Europe with Michael on the train.

Mik Mik 4:43 am 23 Dec 17

I live in a smallish village in Woodend Vic. In the Macedon Ranges and RC have us so many ideas to try on our 5 acres, sadly missed.

Deborah Clare Deborah Clare 6:39 am 29 Nov 17

Cannot believe this awesome cooking show is going to be scrapped. Paul West is such a fabulous, funny, interesting, lively presenter. Certainly gives Hugh a run for his money!! We all have to endure so much garbage on television these days, so many tasteless reality shows shoved in our faces all week. We could do with bringing back some good wholesome family values which this show portrays. It is so refreshing and uplifting watching Paul on the farm, cooking and interacting with the people of Tilba. So annoying that Hugh kept his show going in England for years and then this one which is much more interesting to my mind gets dropped!! i will miss both Paul and Digger sorely.

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