Million bulbs story blossoms across the globe

Bequeathed blooms: The late Keith Owen

Bequeathed blooms: The late Keith Owen - Credit: Archant

Tale of how Keith Owen asked for £2.3m fortune to be spent on one million flowers makes national and international headlines

A CHALLENGE to plant one million flowers and fulfil the dying wish of a banker who bequeathed Sidmouth his £2.3million fortune has made national and international headlines.

The Herald reported last week how cash from the late Keith Owen’s gift to the town will be used by the Sid Vale Association (SVA) to turn swathes of the Sid Valley into an ‘iconic spectacle’ in springtime.

And the unique project has been given a huge publicity boost, along with the resort, after the tale was subsequently picked up by most British tabloids and broadsheets.

It even made it as far as Germany, Spain and former investment banker Keith’s home nation of Canada.

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Photos of Connaught Gardens and the seafront got a good showing alongside the story on the world’s most popular news site Mail Online.

The Sun, The Mirror, The Telegraph, The Express, The Guardian and even The Ottowa Citizen were among those to follow suit. John Humprys spoke on the subject on his Radio 4 show.

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“It’s great to have this publicity on such an original idea,” said Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce chairman Steven Kendall-Torry.

The first phase of the initiative will see 130,000 daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses and other bulbs planted in more than 40 areas in the space of two months.

SVA president Handel Bennett hopes the blossoming bid will extend Sidmouth’s tourist season and boost visitor numbers.

He added that, for the project to be a success, volunteer help is needed any time from September to November to support named groups.Handel said the bulbs, worth more than £20,000, are of no financial cost to the town or individuals and it is hoped none will be thrown away or wasted.

He added that it is hoped one of the major outcomes will be ‘a shared achievement through community effort’.

The well-established Keith Owen Fund, administered by the SVA, has boosted community projects to the tune of more than £400,000 to date.

Keith left £1.5million in cash and £800,000 in property to the SVA after his death from cancer in 2007.

His will stated that the capital should remain untouched but each year the estimated £120,000 interest should be spent on projects in Sidmouth, Sidford and Sidbury.

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