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August 27, 2013

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Fifteen years ago, Englishman Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall embarked on an experiment in sustainability and self-sufficiency. He moved to a cottage on a small land-holding in Dorset, and set about learning how to grow his own produce, raise livestock – and become part of a community where sharing not only knowledge, but the fruits of farm labour, were an important part of life.

Now, Hugh is ready to take that experiment in downshifting – and the message of sustainability – down under. In the eight-part series ‘River Cottage Australia,’ Hugh will hand the River Cottage baton to an Australian counterpart – former Tasmanian chef Paul West – who’ll face new challenges and uniquely Australian characters as he attempts to set up his own farm near the historic and picturesque village of Central Tilba on the NSW Far South Coast.


With Hugh back in the UK, Paul finds himself alone at River Cottage Australia – but not for long. He’s about to welcome a new best friend to the farm – Digger the border collie pup. With his new mate nipping at his heels, Paul sets about getting his winter vegetable crop fed, and that involves an organic fertiliser recipe that makes use of some of the farm’s most unwanted products.

With his cows, chooks and veges thriving, Paul decides it’s time to explore the nearby coastline and discovers an abundant source of seafood delicacies. He meets a local lobster expert and together they catch a crayfish brunch – and Paul introduces him to a deliciously different way of eating them. Back on the farm, Paul’s busy building a pig pen, before taking delivery of a small herd that will hopefully one day feed him.

Paul discovers a blunder that has left him with only 2 days of water for the farm & livestock – he needs a solution fast. Wanting to breed his own chickens, Paul buys Roosters, some for the farm & a couple to provide food for the table.


Paul visits the neighbour’s bush food orchard, then goes olive picking and takes freshly pressed oil back to the farm. The pressure’s on as Paul competes in a regional oyster shucking contest. Are his chef’s skills up to the challenge ?.

River Cottage Australia land-holder Paul West is keen to restore the gully which acts as a natural watercourse on his farm – but it’s almost totally overgrown with blackberries. Paul learns he can hire a herd of hefty eaters to deal with the problem – but will they have the appetite for such a massive job? Meanwhile, Paul hatches a plan to create new life at River Cottage with the help of Ron – his brand new rooster. At the same time, he has a tough task to perform – Big Boy the pig is ready for the butcher, but is Paul?

The local CWA ladies have a big job for Paul – and there might be a sweet reward in return. If he can help them paint their headquarters, they’ve offered to share some of their cake–making secrets with him. How will his Hazelnut Loaf cake stand up against some of the finest in the district? Back on the farm, Paul’s been collecting old chook feathers – but what on earth for? Could there be something fishy going on? And as we head to the coast nearby, Paul learns that there’s more to seaweed than meets the eye. Not only is it good for the garden, he has an idea for a crispy new recipe.

It’s been nearly four months since Hugh returned to River Cottage in the UK to let Paul to go it alone, but now he’s back, and he’s amazed at what he finds. Where there used to be run down enclosures and sheds, there are now homes for chickens, ducks, pigs and a dairy cow. The vegetable beds they laid out together are now a mass of leafy winter greens, and the citrus grove is thriving. They decide to harvest what they can as a starting point for a huge community cook-up they’ve got planned. But they’ll need more food to feed the hungry throng. At the beach, Paul instructs Hugh in the fine art of beach-worm catching – but will they be able to catch the bait, let alone enough fish for a feed? And as they prepare for their final feast, the pair reflect on the journey so far.

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