Does this allotment site hold the secret of long life in Milton Keynes?

A plot of allotments has grown a reputation for longevity alongside its vegetables.

Bletchley and District Allotment Association boasts the oldest members in town with one of its gardeners digging until he was well over 100 and another still going strong at the age of 92.

Maria on the allotment

Maria on the allotment

Maria Paolucci, who will be 93 in July, grows all her own veg and can dig an entire 10 pole plot in a day.

“She’s like a digging machine! It’s amazing to watch her,” said allotment committee member Carol Smith.

But Maria has a way to go to beat Ron Nichols, who was a regular sight at the allotments until he died in 2014 at the grand old age of 103.

“Ron was a shining example of a life of fresh air and fresh vegetables. He was incredible,” said Carol.

Ron Nichols in 2009

Ron Nichols in 2009

“Gardening was his passion and his allotment plot was a real credit to him. He grew all his own vegetables, but he loved growing dahlias too. He used to win prizes for his dahlias years ago.”

Maria’s plot is also immaculate, with not a weed to be seen among the rows of vegetables.

“Maria actually has two plots. At one time she used to have 10 and she looked after them all with her husband, who died two years ago,” said Carol.

Some of these plots have now been taken over by Maria’s family members and she regularly volunteers to help them out with the digging and manual work.

She has also used her plot to grow wheat, which she feed to chicken she keeps in her Bletchley back garden.

“Again it’s proof that fresh vegetables, fresh food and exercise on an allotment all play apart in keeping people young,” said Carol.

The association, which currently has five vacant allotments, charges just £20 a year for each pitch.

It is hosting a seed and plant swap afternoon between 2pm and 4pm on Saturday April 27 to promote allotmenting and its health and wellbeing benefits.

“All are welcome to swap, discuss and view our well tended allotments to inspire more people to grow their own fruit and veg,” said Carol.