8 February 2021

What happened to Paul West and the River Cottage?

| Hannah Sparks
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Paul West on farm with chickens.

Former River Cottage Australia host Paul West. Photo: Supplied.

It’s hard to imagine that the popular lifestyle television series, River Cottage Australia, stopped filming five years ago. However, its ethos of showcasing local, seasonal produce lives on in the show’s former host Paul West’s current work and the cottage’s new incarnation as an Airbnb.

These days, the chef is living with his young family in Bermagui, on the NSW South Coast, in a house they bought during their River Cottage Australia days, 30 minutes’ drive from the old TV set in Central Tilba.

Paul juggles hosting a weekday breakfast radio show on ABC South East NSW, taking care of his eldest son, Otto, and youngest, Bowie, in between school and daycare, teaching a wrestling class at Bermagui Surf Life Saving Club – a hobby he started about five years ago – and taking his famous dog, Digger, to the beach every day.

River Cottage at Central Tilba.

River Cottage at Central Tilba is now an Airbnb. Photo: Supplied.

“Digger is now eight and settling back into life on the coast after what was a pretty unenjoyable two years in Melbourne,” says Paul. “I think he felt he’d fallen from the high life on the farm in Tilba to a suburban backyard in Melbourne.”

When River Cottage Australia wrapped up in 2016, Paul and his wife, Alicia, chased work in Newcastle and Melbourne before returning to the region they’d grown to love during filming. However, the 18 months that followed weren’t easy, with bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic throwing life up in the air.

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Appearing at food and lifestyle events around the country had been Paul’s bread and butter for the previous three years, but that work dried up with the onset of COVID-19.

Instead, he took work wherever he could find it, which for the past year has been on a friend’s oyster farm at Wapengo Rocks in the Bega Valley Shire.

Paul admits his plan to grow a vegetable garden at home, reminiscent of the one that thrived at River Cottage, took a back seat while he and Alicia looked for work.

River Cottage dog Digger.

The family’s dog, Digger, was also a star of River Cottage Australia. Photo: Supplied.

However, that will soon change with Paul about to start work on a new book, due to be released before Christmas 2021.

“It’s probably one of the worst vegetable gardens I’ve had in a very long time,” he says. “But now that we’re a bit more comfortable at home, I’m going to refocus on the garden.

“The book is going to be about growing food in backyards and community building – basically looking for people to try their hand at growing and cooking food as part of a community.”

Thoughts of days spent at River Cottage are never too far away for Paul, who said he would happily take the call to go back, although that is unlikely to happen.

“There were discussions about getting the old crew together and filming again, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen,” he says. “I think we’ve seen the end of lifestyle TV on free-to-air and pay TV. They’re relatively expensive to make and a lot of lifestyle presenters have moved into the YouTube space.”

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While many fans have settled for repeats of the show, there is the opportunity to recreate the experience at the cottage.

The Airbnb is already a popular escape with River Cottage Australia fans, particularly those who want to have a go at cooking in the cottage’s iconic country kitchen, according to owner Tristan Diethelm.

River Cottage owner Tristan Diethelm.

River Cottage owner Tristan Diethelm. Photo: File.

The Sydney-based builder considers himself something of a cook and was taking a rare break at the cottage when Region Media called for an interview.

“I come down when there’s an opportunity to stay, but the Airbnb has turned out to be more popular than I expected and bookings have been heavier than normal since everything opened up again [after COVID-19] so it’s been harder to get in,” says Tristan.

“People love to come and cook, and source ingredients from the local markets or around the area. “It’s quite an equipped kitchen. I’ve made sure you can do everything from baking to cooking a roast, or something extravagant.”

Up to six guests can stay at the three-bedroom property for $380 night. Included are four beds, hilltop views of the ocean and the roaming green pastures that are home to the neighbour’s cattle and horses.

Tristan bought the nine-hectare property from Keo Films in 2017 and has spent the past three years touching up the cottage, including rewiring and replacing floorboards. However, now his sights are set on the property’s old dairy.

“The cottage runs really well as a three-bedroom Airbnb, but down the track, it would be great to turn the old dairy into two bedrooms or a studio so I can host two families or about 10 people on the property at once,” he says.

While managing the property remotely from Sydney has meant the once flourishing veggie beds are no longer, Tristan is working his way up to hiring a gardener and, like Paul, is always hopeful the property will feature as a television show set again one day.

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cannedbeeria2:02 pm 08 Jun 24

Paul’s current (June 2024) life makes interesting reading, and its great to see he is still around and he and his family (and yes, Digger as well) are thoroughly enjoying their life in “Berma “.
As for watching reruns of “RCA”, I have only one issue – I was absolutely rivetted to the original show. If I couldn’t watch it live, I’d record it so I didn’t miss a single part. (AND wasn’t it great that the show didn’t have ad breaks all the way through!).
But now, when I watch a rerun, I can remember every incident! But it is still a great show.
Long live Paul, his family and RCA!

Michelle Kylie11:14 pm 05 Jun 24

I’m watching the re-runs and didn’t realise Paul married and had a baby now I see he has two children.. how lovely. Naively I thought this was his home.. This show is timeless, it is a fabulous series that I would love to see rebooted. The host, Paul, bought a genuine , down to earth presence to the show. Congratulations on your delightful family Paul 🤗

Pamela Falvey4:30 pm 06 Aug 22

I also wish the show would come back. Paul’s easy going nature as host and that dog! Digger was the other reason to watch the show. It would be such a lovely option to watch other than those infernal reality false eyelashes big boobs shoes that are forever being shown . Give us some enjoyable normal shows.

My husband and i both love the River Cottage Australia show. We watch the reruns whenever we can and now we have our own farm we are even keener to see what paul can do. Paul West is a great presenter and a natural in front of the camera. We would love the show to return on another property with great new local people and businesses.

Daniel wright10:56 pm 26 Jun 22

Don’t worry about YouTube and social media there’s no class there, put this show back on and fire up the Aussie spirit again god know we need it, river cottage all the way😜😜

Robert Zucca3:14 am 19 Feb 22

I so miss aussie chef & farming legend Paul West & the awsum Digger Dog 🤠🐶 the shows true Aussie spirit of the locals, there produce, personalities & skills, true characters with real hearts,what they done with Paul to create River cottage is spectacular & inspiring, not like these BS reality shows that are depressing & negative, bring back Paul & Digger, and his beautiful wife & kids, do a family show on a new property, in Bermagui or wherever, there must be a TV production company out there that ca see the light??? Let’s go!! Go Aussie! Good luck Paul, I really wish you the best of luck 👍Rob & Bella, my version of Digger 😀🐶

Ellie Harakos7:14 pm 18 Feb 22

Bring back Paul West and River Cottage Australia , it’s my absolute favourite show and Paul is an absolute legend !!!!

Jayne Mansell1:46 am 17 Feb 22

Bring back Paul West & River Cottage Australia,this was the best show on Australian TV, I honestly can’t work why it ended, I watch the re- runs on TV whenever they’re on & if I can’t watch them I record them, please bring this wonderful show & the wonderful Paul West.

Brian rapson1:46 pm 12 Feb 22

We want Paul back on TV another river cottage programme would be great

Bring Paul West back to River Cottage.

I absolutely hate “reality TV” its low in quality and content, and needs to be back where it started, America.
I wish we had better entertainment on our TV’s it would be great to have something new and entertaining instead of all the re-hashed American content, but as someone told me many years ago, you can wish in one hand and spit in the other, and at the end of the day all you have is a hand full of spit.
I don’t care how many times River Cottage is shown, or re-run, its Aussie, entertaining, educational, community based and fun, and Paul’s a great pig wrangler, and Digger, well…Diggers…Digger.

Bruce McGill9:59 am 15 Feb 22

Yeah mate just returned from a year in America, stuck there due to our closed borders. I gotta say I was apprehensive when I first went over but it turned out to be so much better than I could have imagined, and that includes MUCH less of the reality TV you mention compared to what I see on-air here at home. I think America moved on from that a while ago – they haven’t even heard of MAFS lol.

Anyway I didn’t come here to defend America, was just wondering what happened to River Cottage and Paul West. Great show, highlighting some of our best culture.

The show should be exported – the Yanks I met would love it!

Dennis gates11:01 am 15 Dec 21

I am a fan of river cottage Australia. I find all the shows relaxing and informative. If we can only get repeats I’ll still enjoy them. Paul often appears on other shows and I always so I wish him well and his family. Dennis and Caroline gates. Best wishes.

Christine Ferguson4:54 pm 04 Dec 21

I am watching River Cottage Australia as I write. Have always admired Paul’s attitude to life. What an example of community. I was so pleased to see him find love and have beautiful children. What a great achievement from all the hard work. I hope his and his lovely family’s future is prosperous. Good luck. Big hug for Digger.

It looks terrific and hope it flourishes. I love
seeing Paul West on re-runs of the River Cottsge
tv show and watched one tonight which brought
back happy memories.
I do hope Paul and his family thrive too and have
NO more co-vid problems!
Best wishes to all.
Margaret 3/12/21.

I am in love with Paul west. He has all expertise. I want to see him again on river Cottage Australia.

We love River Cottage and are watching the repeats with great happiness and pleasure. We are so sorry you are no longer there Paul as your way of developing the farm, looking after the animals and having Digger as your companion really touched a nerve with us. My partner has a farm in Gippsland and so much of what you were doing reminds us of what potential my partner’s property has as well as the people in the area. We have two dogs who love visiting the farm! Let us know if there is anything we could so to encourage the show to start up again – we wouldn’t miss it for anything. In the meantime, we have thought about going to stay at River Cottage but I’m not sure it would be the same without you.

Julie Forsyth7:44 pm 20 Jun 21

Loved River Cottage programme & Digger the dog. Would love to get over that way & planning to do so. Hope vegie garden or some of it still going. Loved episode where all sisters went back to property & he made morning tea for them. Such a great bloke & bet Tilba was very sad when he left. He seemed to give so much to community but brilliant chef but still love Digger🐾🐕. Hopefully Digger still alive & Paul & family still going well🤔😁💖

I loved the show too, and am now fortunate to have moved to Bermagui permanently. And guess what: I just met Digger dog in front of Eastwood’s cooking school and gave him a long pat. He is such a great dog.

Paul West is back !!!!!!!!
But on Gardening Australia with Costa YaYyyyyyy

Can somebody please tell me what is needed to get Paul West back doing River Cottage? Australia WAISTES so much money on RUBBISH!!! With so called relative life programs! So called experts? (You wouldn’t go to them with a head cold.) choosing partners of individuals that subscribes to this rubbish!! What is the success rate? Please bring back Paul West. What is required? Please don’t let covid take everything? Regards Rosi Whyte

Couldn’t agree more! I’d live to see Paul & Digger on the farm again!!

Zenaida Camps4:04 pm 13 Feb 21

The show is one of my favourite. It is a very inspirational, informative show and it is so easy to fall in love with Paul with his easy going nature. It saddened me that the show is no longer but just thankful it is still airing. Good luck to Paul and his family. I pray they continue to experience success in every venture.

Margaret Lawrence4:49 pm 09 Feb 21

I would love to see river cottage come back and so would a lot of other people. I have all of the series on DVD 📀 and watch them all the time

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