Residents of Montacute claim growing their own fruit and vegetables is the secret to longevity
Residents of Montacute, near Yeovil, boasting England's best life expectancy have disclosed that growing their own fruit and vegetables is the secret to longevity

The Somerset village has been found in a national study of three million pension records to have the longest life expectancy in the country.

The 680 residents will, on average, live until at least 89.

Montacute scored the highest with a mortality score of 6.4 while Bootle, in Merseyside, scored the lowest with 15.3.

The study, by international business consultancy Watson Wyatt, analyzed the records to break down life expectancy for older people in the UK by postcode.

Researchers calculated a "score" for each postcode which represents the number of men aged over 65 per thousand that are expected to die in the next 12 months.

The figures can be interpreted as "mortality scores" relative to ten, which is the UK average.

Residents of towns who score below ten have a greater likelihood of living longer than residents of towns who score above ten.

They then used a complex formula to transform the mortality score into an average life expectancy for that postcode.

The highest average life expectancy yielded by the test for male pensioners over 65 was 25 years (living to 89 years of age), with the lowest being 17 (living to 82 years of age).

The Montacute villagers believe their health and longevity is all down to the simple life choice of growing their own produce.

Lifelong resident Shirley Hann still grows her own at the age of 74, as do most of the village residents.

The great-grandmother-of-three, who worked in the village's glove factory, said: ''It seems that growing our own vegetables does have a bearing on how fit we are and how long we live.

"People here all have allotments or a little vegetable patch in their back garden.

"I've been eating homegrown veg my whole life. My husband always grew all our vegetables until he died 15 months ago.

"I had to decide what to do with the veg garden and I decided I would take over - and I'm 74."

She added: "I've never regarded it as amazing, but I'm certainly fit enough to do it. Plus if you've got something to do and you've got an interest it keeps you healthy.''

Montacute-born Charlie Northam, 89, has only recently stopped growing his own fruit and veg in his allotment patch for himself and his wife Mabel, 90.

The former engineer and great-grandfather-of-two believes the onions he tended on the patch in particular contributed to his good health.

I'm absolutely fine because I grew my own fruit and veg for my entire life. I put it down to that," he said.

"I had an allotment for 40 years and I grew every vegetable you could think of - and I didn't use any chemicals.

"I had 30 rows of potatoes, spinach, runner beans - you name it I grew it. So we're in very good health at the moment."

He added: ''There must be something in the water here - something that is blessed. I wouldn't live anywhere else for all the tea in China.

''We're both healthy and strong and in very good condition.''

Shirley's cousin Keith Hann, 72, has been growing 95 per cent of his produce in Montacute for 50 years.

The great-grandfather, who worked as a financial consultant, said: ''I think when you grow your own food, or the majority of it, you're having pure food not full of chemicals - which I'm afraid seem to be in most foods you seem to by from supermarkets.

"I grow everything. I've got three allotments, and I've grown about 95 per cent of my fruit and veg for nearly 50 years.

"We have a lot of older people living in the village who seem to be very healthy, agile and determined.

"I think the younger generation should take notice - they could learn a lot about living from older people who appreciate their health and whatever they may have.''

Matthew Edwards, who led the study, said: "These findings show vividly that postcodes can explain substantial variations in mortality, with the longevity varying from 17 to 25 years according to their postcode band; a difference in expected future life time of eight years.

''For 65-year old female pensioners, the postcode variation leads to a range of longevity from 23 to 27 years - still a substantial variation, but half that of men.

''These variations in life expectancy are due to substantial differences in general health and lifestyle patterns between different parts of the UK.

''The North-South divide in particular is very striking, and the variation in life expectancy by postcode band for female occupational pension scheme pensioners is about half of the above range.''