1 Mar 2022

The Whittlesea area is known for its agricultural show and events like the rodeo and the country music festival but it’s not as well recognised for food and wine, despite the long rich history of food production in the area, particularly the Toorourrong valley. Local women Jan Hyndman and Judy Clements, members of the Friends of Toorourrong Committee, want to change that. Lovers of long table lunches and fine regional dining, they know the pleasures of sharing locally produced gourmet food with others having experienced the events held in the surrounding regions of Macedon, Yea and the Yarra Valley. The Whittlesea Council is very proud to provide support for this local event and is looking forward to this year’s Picnic of Plenty. 

In 2019, the committee ran a very successful long table lunch for 120 people using produce sourced from around the area. The lunch was prepared by high school students from Whittlesea College enrolled in food technology classes and local musicians performed at the event. Sadly, the pandemic put a dampener on further planned lunches.

Now that events are very much back on the calendar, the Friends of Toorourrong intend to make the Picnic of Plenty an annual event which showcases the produce and of the region. The event also aims to highlight the rich history of the waterways, always a food bowl for the Wurundjeri people and European settlers during the gold rush era. With local Wurundjeri elder Ian Hunter playing the didgeridoo and Steve Foy playing pipes, the representation of the meeting of old and new cultures in this setting is bound to be both haunting and stirring, as it was during the last event in 2019.

The 2022 Picnic of Plenty is a family oriented, twilight event. It will be held in the centre of the park, underneath the trees, looking over the water of the stepping pond with the musicians set up on the mounds. Chairs will be supplied but people can bring their own rugs and set themselves up on the grass if they wish. The park is a natural amphitheatre so the music will resonate throughout the area.

Chef Jenny Breheny is overseeing the food and menu for this event, again with the help of the Whittlesea college students, and has created deluxe hamper boxes that are sure to impress. This event continues to pay homage to the fresh seasonal local producers of the region.

Check out this long list of quality producers and generous suppliers from across the region who have teamed up to contribute a sophisticated selection of delicious food and beverages for the event.

The Toorourrong park contains a bushfire memorial from Black Saturday. While it does evoke strong feelings, the memorial is magnificent. Jan believes it is a fitting tribute to the people who lost their lives and those who helped the community on that day and in the weeks that followed the 2009 fires.

“We encourage people to walk around the park and look at the educational plaques to learn about the history of the reservoir and water system and the animals,” says Jan. The park was refurbished after the bushfires, and the exotic trees were replaced. Parks Victoria has tried to recreate what was there before the fires so it has an ‘old English’ feel, something locals are very pleased about. “The park is surrounded by Eucalyptus. We’ve got so many different types of eucalyptus. So to be in the park in this exotic European type setting with beautiful autumn leaves or a lovely shading in summer. It’s not detracting at all from where you are because you’re absolutely surrounded by eucalypts and then you’ve got the amazing mountain ash right along the ridge line. So it’s a lovely combination of both and it blends really well,” says Jan.

Jan has written a social history of the Toorourrong area. You can find her book, Just Add Water, at the Whittlesea library or get in touch with her to get a copy of it.

For more information about the Friends of Toorourrong or the Picnic of Plenty, get in touch with Jan Hyndman or the Friends of Toorourrong team on: fotoorourrong@gmail.com

0427 510 092

When : Friday 25 March 2022


Where: Toorourrong Reservoir Park, Jacks Creek Road, Whittlesea VIC, Australia