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Banker’s £2.3m bequest to buy town one million flowers

10:50 27 August 2013

Handel Bennett and John Townsend at Sidmouth garden centre with manager James Trecett. Photo by Terry Ife ref shs 5670-34-13TI To order your copy of this photo go to and click on myphotos24

Handel Bennett and John Townsend at Sidmouth garden centre with manager James Trecett. Photo by Terry Ife ref shs 5670-34-13TI To order your copy of this photo go to and click on myphotos24


Sidmouth residents handed unique challenge to help fulfill dying wish of Keith Owen

Britain’s oldest civic society is today asking the community to dig in and help make the dying wish of a benefactor who loved the Sid Valley, and left it his £2.3million fortune, a reality - by planting one million flowers.

Residents have been handed a one-in-a-million challenge – to plant the staggering number of blooms and transform swathes of the parish into an ‘iconic spectacle’ that will change springtime.

Before his death in 2007, Canadian Keith Owen asked the Sid Vale Association (SVA) - which now administers a fund in his name - to ‘think outside the box’, plant one million bulbs and ‘get everyone involved’.

More than 40 plain grass verges and lawns across Sidmouth, Sidford and Sidbury have been identified for the first wave of action that will see 153,000 flowers of nine different varieties planted.

It is hoped young and old will unite for Sidmouth’s first Bulb Planting Day on Saturday, October 26.

“Perhaps one day people will travel to see ‘a host of golden daffodils’ in ‘the valley of a million bulbs’,” said SVA president Handel Bennett.

“The planting of natualised bulbs will provide an attractive sight of Sidmouth in springtime. We hope it will fulfil Keith Owen’s hope of an iconic spectacle to be enjoyed by both residents and visitors.

“The SVA, through Keith’s gift to the people of Sidmouth, has in the last five years benefited many voluntary organisations with grants of over £400,000. Today we are asking the community to respond to this challenge, by volunteering to enhance our natural environment.

“This is a big thing – it could change the colour that is here in Sidmouth in springtime.”

Sidmouth Town Council chairman John Hollick praised the unique project and said it would ‘help to unite and strengthen our community in a common purpose’.

The SVA wants to see 20,000 bulbs planted on Peak Hill slope and Jacob’s Ladder Chine on October 26 during three sessions running from 9am to 6pm.

Register to take part at or email More information on the event and the initiative will feature in future editions of the Herald.


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