River Cottage Australia continues to build a fan base via SBS TV and showcase South East NSW to a national audience, but with just a hand full of episodes still to go to air, fans are asking what next?
Tilba, on the Far South Coast of NSW was heartbroken when Keo Films and Foxtel announced in December 2016 that the show wouldn’t be commissioned for another season.
The River Cottage Australia property in the lush foothills of Gulaga was then sold by Keo Films to a 36-year-old builder from Sydney. The asking price was $895,000.
Speaking to About Regional at the time, new owner Tristan Diethelm said, “It will be a place where family, friends and I can escape to, but I will be listing it for holiday rentals.”
The SBS exposure has opened the show to a new and broader audience beyond its pay-TV roots and kept the landscape and skill of the Eurobodalla and beyond before an admiring audience.
Central to the success of the show has been host Paul West, who invites you into his journey towards sustainability, sharing the wins and cock-ups along the way. Some might argue though that Paul’s border-collie Digger is the real star.
During filming, Paul and his partner Alicia became part of the local community, they were married in Tilba and started to raise a family in this slice of heaven – Otto now 3-years-old and Bowie who is quickly becoming a toddler.
Plans to stay and start a market garden foodie business didn’t work out, as Paul said at the time, “I’ve got a family to feed, so I need to generate income, I can’t just do it for the love.”
Relocating to the northern suburbs of Melbourne has paid off for the Westies, with Paul now building a solid post River Cottage Australia life for his family of four.
A growing relationship with the ABC will keep Paul on our screens cooking and growing food beyond the SBS repeats.
Catching up with Paul this week, his two young boys played happily in the background as he excitedly detailed – what next?
“There was a prolonged talk about making a season five of River Cottage between Foxtel and the ABC as a co-production, but it just didn’t eventuate,” Paul says.
On the back of those ABC TV discussions, Paul has moved on to be a guest presenter on Gardening Australia and Back Roads and is currently working on a two-episode special for the science program Catalyst.
“To be on the ABC and on programs with the prestige of those three is a privilege,” he says.
Paul’s screentime alongside the likes of Costa Georgiadis on Gardening Australia is already underway, while his first appearance on the rural and regional travel series Back Roads comes later this month and takes the 34-year-old Hunter Valley boy beyond his earlier foodie career.
“The work with Back Roads has been really refreshing, visiting different communities to see what makes them tick,” he says.
“And it has allowed me to step out of the spotlight and make it more about the people I meet.
“The two communities I’ve done stories with are Natimuk in Western Victoria and the Furneaux Island Group off the northeastern tip of Tasmania – unbelievable, best job ever!”
Paul’s documentaries with Catalyst will go to air on consecutive Tuesday’s in August. “It’s a mini-doco about science’s role in meeting the food demands of a world population of five billion people, looking at the role science plays in food production.”
A book is also developing around the idea of urban farming, with Paul using his rented back and front yards in downtown Thornbury as inspiration – a long way from the 20 hectares he farmed at Tilba for River Cottage Australia.
“What motivated me was the want to try my hand at growing in a suburban environment, you are so much more limited in terms of space, it fires the creativity a little bit more,” Paul says.
“It’s a real heartland for suburban food production, initially because of the Italian and Greek migrants that settled in this area in the fifties and now with the young demographic that’s moving into the suburb.”
The book is penciled in for a launch ahead of Father’s Day in September 2019.
Despite successfully settling in Victoria, Paul says the lure of the Far South Coast of NSW is still strong.
“We are thoroughly enjoying our time in Melbourne but the South Coast is paradise,” he says.
“We had to leave to follow the opportunities but it has made us realise that the South Coast is really where we’d like to settle down.”