Bulb tourism blooms early

A civic welcome from Cllr John Hollick was given to a coach party from Bournmouth who came to visit

A civic welcome from Cllr John Hollick was given to a coach party from Bournmouth who came to visit Sidmouth and see the Sid Vale Association's Valley of a Million Bulbs project . Ref shs 0127-10-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Tourists have been arriving in Sidmouth to see the town’s ‘Valley of a Million Bulbs’.

A coach of more than 80 gardening enthusiasts travelled down the A35 from Bournemouth to see the daffodils at the start of the flowering season.

After 20 years of tours, UTE operator Neil Goodrich returned to Sidmouth after researching the background to the bulbs for the 2015 tour brochure.

He had previously brought visitors to Connaught Gardens.

The Valley of Million Bulbs was the idea of banker Keith Owen, who left £2.3million to the town in his will.

Mr Goodrich said: “A lot of people know Sidmouth is a nice looking town to visit. There is no vandalism; it comes across a safe, clean area, a smaller version of Bournemouth.”

The operator said that to keep the company’s nucleus of customers coming back, they organised a visit to Bridport before travelling to Sidmouth.

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Mr Goodrich added: “There were only plans for one trip but we had such a lot of interest that we ran a second coach. The combination of a nice collection of violets and an usual bequest of one million bulbs, which isn’t far from home, was of interest to our customers.”

Sid Vale Association president, the Reverend Handel Bennett joined the tour to show some of the bulb sites. Due to recent frosts and cold weather, the bulbs were not in full flower but visitors have given positive feedback.

He said residents should look out for new areas coming into bloom, including on the verges at Sidford Road; Bickwell Valley; Trow Hill; the parish churchyard; Peak Hill; and at the top of Four Elm Hill.

Mr Goodrich said that to keep the brochure varied, a trip to see the bulbs would not be a yearly occurrence.

Welcoming visitors to the town was Sidmouth Town Council chairman John Hollick. He said that he was ‘flattered’ by the tourists’ interest in the bulbs.

He added: “We who live here are extraordinary fortunate to have so many locals who work as volunteers for the town: The Sid Vale Association, our youth organisations, schools, our Sidmouth in Bloom group and others.

“Tourism is our main industry - our economy benefits and depends on keeping this town in pristine condition.”