Sidmouth’s world-famous Valley of a Million Bulbs project to ‘take a break’

Handel Bennett, Peter Moss, Barry Jones and John Townsend from the Sid Vale Association, admire the

Handel Bennett, Peter Moss, Barry Jones and John Townsend from the Sid Vale Association, admire the Daffodils at Peak Hill in 2014. - Credit: Archant

Scheme - hailed as Sid Valley’s ‘biggest community project’ - was dying wish of benefactor Keith Owen, who left town his £2.3million fortune

An ambitious, volunteer-led operation to fulfil a wealthy benefactor’s dying wish – and create a valley of one million bulbs – is to ‘take a break’.

The Sid Vale Association (SVA) revealed its decision this week to cease work on the project in order to allocate urgent funds towards an extension of Sidmouth Museum in part of the former Trumps building in Fore Street.

With a third consecutive season completed, more than 50 groups have now been involved in planting 623,000 bulbs to help achieve what has been hailed ‘the biggest community project’ Sidmouth has ever seen.

It is a story that has captured the imaginations of people around the globe. The SVA launched the project to fulfil the dream of banker and philanthropist Keith Owen – who bequeathed his £2.3million fortune to the town.

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Reflecting on its success, SVA president the Reverend Handel Bennett said: “In three years, the SVA and community groups have planted 623,000 bulbs of nine different varieties. The bulbs are going to naturalise and, with the number planted, we will have more than a million coming on as a result.

“The SVA feels it is time to take a break as we have to find money urgently for the museum extension above Trumps.”

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He referred to the daffodils scattered at the entrance to Sidmouth near The Bowd, which were planted under the direction of Joy Seward many years ago, and said these add to the overall numbers.

Mr Bennett added: “I’m very much aware that some people have taken matters into their own hands and planted outside their own homes and as part of neighbourhood schemes. I have been very impressed with what they have done. Hopefully, we might yet be able to come to an arrangement to supply bulbs in the future.

“When you see the flowers each spring, give thanks for what others have done – and for what Keith Owen’s vision has done – and that you live in the Valley of [at least] a Million Bulbs.”

He issued a thank-you on behalf of the SVA to all who contributed in any way to support the project.

Bulbs team leader John Townsend said: “I want to emphasize the magnificent support the community has given – I still believe this is the biggest community project I have seen in the Sid Valley in the 40 years I have been here. And also to pay tribute to Keith Owen and to the legacy he left the community. This was his only direct request so it should be a bit of a memorial to him.”

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