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Global hit for weekly’s ‘million bulbs’ story

A weekly newspaper has joined forces with Britain’s oldest civic society in a bid to plant one million bulbs and fulfil the dying bequest of a millionaire benefactor.

The Sidmouth Herald is backing the scheme by the Sid Vale Association (SVA) to plant the flowers after Canadian banker Keith Owen left the community £2.3 million in 2008.

The story was published on the front page of the Archant South West title last week and went viral just hours after appearing on the newspaper’s website.

Herald content editor Stefan Gordon said the scheme to transform the grass verges and lawns of the Sid Valley into an ‘iconic spectacle’ in springtime had really caught the public imagination.

Handel Bennett and John Townsend at Sidmouth Garden Centre with manager James Trecett.

“The Sid Vale Association asked us to help by publicising the scheme. This was a no-brainer as it was a great, positive community story,” he said.

“After the piece hit the web, it was picked up by Mail Online, and The Sun, The Mirror, The Telegraph, The Express, The Guardian and even The Ottowa Citizen to name a few all followed suit.”

The scheme was also discussed on John Humprys BBC Radio 4 show and on BBC Radio 2.

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

Around 130,000 daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses and other bulbs will be planted in more than 40 areas in the space of two months as part of the initiative’s first phase.

The three-strong Sidmouth reporting team of content editor Stefan Gordon and reporters Stephen Sumner and Harvey Gavin will be getting their hands dirty on the town’s first-ever Bulb Planting Day in October by helping plant some of the blooms.

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

Keith left £1.5 million 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.

Before his death he asked the SVA to ‘think outside the box, plant one million bulbs and get everyone involved’.