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Escape to River Cottage is the OG of cottagecore


You may have heard the term 'Cottagecore' circulating the Internet of late, and it's popularity has grown so vastly over the past month that we even wrote about what exactly it is. In short, Cottagecore is a social media trend on Instagram and TikTok where users partake in homely crafts and cooking in idyllic settings like, you guessed it, a cottage. Foraging seems to be included, as well as gardening and baking classic things from scratch.

It's likely this trend has taken off the way it has because it is vastly disconnected from the reality most people live, and seems like an overall wholesome time. All this considered, I still can't get over what feels like the original Cottagecore: Escape to River Cottage, a 1999 television series presented by none other than Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall.

The English series takes place in Dorset, where celebrity chef Fernley-Whittingstall newly resides in a run-down small holding cottage by a river, and throughout the series makes efforts to become a self-reliant, downshifted farmer in rural England. Fearnley-Whittingstall feeds himself and his neighbours with self-produced locally sourced fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs and meat. The rugged, 90's style filming adds to the charm as we observe Fernley-Whittingstall try and sometimes fail to become 100% self-sufficient in the overwhelmingly wholesome content where he befriends what seems like the entire village, enters annual vegetable competitions, cooks eel plucked from the river, and raises livestock with the help of his new farmer friends. It could practically be a children's book.

I grew up in Devon, England, not far from Dorset, and watching Escape to River Cottage as a kid was how I learnt to cook. Now, just over 20 years since the show first aired, rewatching couldn't feel like a better reprieve from the world we are living in. Isolation from COVID-19 showed us that we need to slow down hard, Black Lives Matter is showing us that we need to go harder for what's truly important, and in the midst of it all, watching a show where a man moves to Dorset and grows his own vegetables and makes his own mayonnaise is the most non-committal, relaxing thing out there at the moment.

The series is endless, with multiple spin off's from the original Escape to River Cottage, so the easy watching will last you a good while. The series is available on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube. There also many a themed cookbook authored by Fernley-Whittingstall to keep the wholesome time going.