River Cottage roots down in Tilba

The eyes of the world will be on Central Tilba in coming weeks now that it’s confirmed as River Cottage Australia’s HQ.

And the benefits that this much-loved and watched TV series are expected to deliver has tourism experts excited about the impact across the Eurobodalla, Shoalhaven and Bega Valley shires.  

Filming on location on the edge the village is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks with British celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visiting to announce the identity of the Australian host.

The show, based on the British series River Cottage that centres on small-scale sustainable farming and local food production and preparation, will air on The LifeStyle Channel on Foxtel/Austar later this year.

A well-kept secret so far, news broke when the production company ITV Studios Australia advertised in the classifieds for a production runner.

It apparently was quite the battle to lure the series to Central Tilba and the Eurobodalla Shire Council actively lobbied the producers, who ended up purchasing the 23-acre Central Tilba property for the show.

Mayor Lindsay Brown said Central Tilba’s natural and spectacular setting on the slopes of Gulaga Mountain beat out more convenient locations, including Berry.

“Council is delighted and excited to be actively working with the television production company to bring this lifestyle and food show to Central Tilba,” Mr Brown said.

“Filming is due to commence soon and we expect the show to bring significant benefits to the Eurobodalla.”

Mr Brown said the show was an excellent fit with the “Nature Coast” with upcoming opportunities to explore and highlight local sustainable food production, including a renewed focus on oysters.

Gordon Beattie, Deputy Chair of Sapphire Coast Tourism is also excited.

“This is terrific news for all of us in the Bega Valley shire,” Mr Beattie said yesterday (Wednesday).

“If you know this program and the underlying philosophy with its emphasis  on locally grown, slow food and artisan made products then this seems like a natural fit.

“A lot has been happening in the shire over the last few years; Nethercote markets, the growing interest in and practice of permaculture, SCPA, producers and of course new cafes and restaurants .

“A program like River Cottage will bring international attention to the Bega Valley and be a show case for not only our produce but for the landscape we live in. I have noticed that many people in the Shire take what we have for granted and sometimes an “outside eye” can bring that into focus for both locals and visitors.

“This program has a great international audience and our developing food trails and local producers will gain an international profile from it.”

Back in November Foxtel announced that the series would follow the search for an “Aussie Hugh”, testing knowledge of food, enthusiasm for all things wild and local, and resilience in setting up a sustainable farm in the Australian countryside.

Fearnley-Whittingstall, 47, is best known as a chef and food journalist, but in recent years has become a major force in raising the profile of sustainable agriculture.

He has campaigned internationally for sustainable fishing and to raise awareness of food production, in particular a campaign in the UK designed to raise the standard of chicken breeding.

“Australia’s a country I have long wanted to get to know,” Fearnley-Whittingstall said.

“We’ve had some lovely Aussies visit us here at River Cottage in Devon and it’s high time I repaid the compliment.”

The series takes its name from a cottage on the grounds of Slape Manor, in Netherbury, Dorset.

The original cottage featured in three series presented by Fearnley-Whittingstall between 1998 and 2002, Escape to River Cottage, Return to River Cottage and River Cottage Forever.

Several subsequent series have been made using the River Cottage brand but filmed at other locations. A total of 10 series have been produced since 1998.

Meanwhile some months ago, The LifeStyle Channel began the “Aussie Hugh” selection process calling for interested people to apply.

It says Fearnley-Whittingstall will pass everything he’s learned to a willing disciple and the new “Hugh” will have the same passion and verve for living off the land, someone who can take his good living principles and build on them, someone who can take forward the message of River Cottage and lay the ground for a sustainable future.

“I know there are great things happening with local, seasonal wild foods and I can’t wait to tap into them. And I’m looking forward to meeting some Aussie Hughs. At least I think I am!” the original Hugh said.

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