A legacy from a local man has allowed Sidmouth and the adjoining villages of Sidford and Sidbury to be brightened by hundreds of thousands of daffodils (and snowdrops and bluebells and crocuses). Sidmouth was a popular resort with royalty, and has a range of various architectural styles from the 18th and 19th century.
Keith Owen was born in Totnes, and although he moved to Canada where he made his fortune in finance after leaving the RAF, always loved Sidmouth. His mother retired here, and he would visit often and invested in local properties, regarding the town as a quintessentially English town. He was involved in the local Rotary Club and the Sid Vale Association (SVA), and was keen on â€œcommunity spiritâ€.
He spent a lot of his time travelling the world, and even travelled the canals of Britain for two years in a barge called â€œBilbo Bagginsâ€, always planning his retirement in his beloved Sidmouth.
On his last visit in 2007, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and given a matter of weeks to live. He had no children and was divorced, and decided to leave his Â£2.3m estate to the SVA, who formed the Keith Owen Fund. The capital is to be left alone to earn interest, which should be used to enhance the local area, supporting local projects including the planting of a million bulbs.
A large number of bulbs were planted in 2013, more in 2014 and 2015, and altogether about 600,000 bulbs have been planted so far. The glorious display this year is just the beginning, as there are a variety of bulbs which flower at different times of the year, prolonging the blooming period. Many community organisations are involved in planting, including staff from the local shops and cafÃ©â€™s, brownies, scouts, local school children and members of the public â€“ including a grandfather with his 18 month-old grandson.
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