Though millionaire banker Keith Owen died in 2007, his legacy lives on in a beautiful and tangible way.
Every year, 153,000 daffodils, snowdrops and crocus bulbs bloom across 50 sites in the coastal town of Sidmouth in Devon, England, all thanks to a generous donation from Owen himself. Now, in 2022, the yellow flowers are brightening the English countryside with “beautiful golden light” after what Sidmouth resident Julie Hudson called a dark, long winter in an interview with the BBC.
Born in the nearby town of Totnes, English native and Canadian resident Owen planned to retire to Sidmouth. When Owen, 69 at the time of his death, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and learned he had weeks to live, decided to leave his life savings of 2.3 million pounds (approximately $3 million) to a Sidmouth-based voluntary countryside conservation society, the Sid Vale Association (SVA).
Owen told the SVA he wished for his money to be used for big, imaginative ideas and to “support local projects, which made use of voluntary labor, and in particular to sustain the ambience and way of life, recognized in Sidmouth and its surroundings,” according to Good News Network.
The beautiful blooms were planted during a community effort over two or three years. They come back every year, making for a memorial that lives on in perpetuity.
Twitter user @nidpor snapped a sweet photo of the daffodils back in 2015:
Beautiful #Daffodils in #Sidmouth #Devon today #flowers http://t.co/M980KfgfkD pic.twitter.com/28cpmzLLNR
— nidpor (@nidpor) March 14, 2015
Just a year later, Laura Tobin (@lauratobin1) posted this peaceful picture:
Daffodils in Sidmouth part of 1000's planted as a dying wish of Keith Owen who left his fortune to plant a million. pic.twitter.com/SD9fpSnBBr
— Laura Tobin (@Lauratobin1) March 15, 2016
And in 2017, Julia Bramble, Ph.D., (@juliabramble) treated the timeline to these stunning photos of the blooms beside the sea:
Sidmouth was looking amazing today – sea and daffodils are a wonderful combination! #devon #eastdevon pic.twitter.com/ocgD3jm89e
— Julia Bramble Ph.D. (@JuliaBramble) March 13, 2017
The town of Sidmouth has of course embraced the generous gift, even highlighting it on their tourism website, Visit Sidmouth. Dubbed “The Valley of a Million Bulbs,” Visit Sidmouth refers to the big bloom as an annual event.
“This annual event sees the whole community come together to honor the legacy of one of the town’s most loved visitors and helps create a beautiful sight that visitors and residents alike can enjoy every spring and summer,” reads the site.
SVA chairman Ed Harrison echoed the sentiment in his interview with the BBC, saying, “Every year it brings back happy memories of this man who did this amazing thing for the town.”