Truly, mudly, deeply
Sandy Mitchell logs on to a matchmaker site for Shire singletons
which calculates your “muddiness” quotient so that you can search online for others with a matching profile. Questions include: “How often do you wear wellies?” and “What’s your normal route to work?” (See panel, left.)
The site has already attracted 650 members who pay a £10 monthly fee (or £25 for three months) for unlimited searches and emails to promising contacts. If the service had been around in Jane Austen’s day, the ambitious Mrs Bennet would surely have been one of the first to fill in the questionnaire, without telling her five unwed daughters, of course. (Personal interest: “A considerable fortune.”)
Like the Bennet girls, Lucy and Emma describe themselves warily as “singleish” while denying it was their own love-search that prompted launching Muddy Matches. Lucy, an expert Spanish translator who lives in London during the week, puts herself at about 50 per cent “muddy”, while Emma owns up to an 80 per cent rating. When she is not running the website, she helps manage the family’s 1,500-acre arable farm and hunts, shoots and fishes, as well as stalks. Recalling how she once shot a massive 18-point stag, her eyes blaze briefly. It would be surprising if Muddy Matches did not become as popular over time as the more established and specialist dating websites for horse lovers and riders. (Some of the entries posted on these equine sites, with accompanying portraits of mutual adoration between horse and rider, make you wonder if there is really any room in the relationship for a third member.)
The sisters also plan to diversify into speed-dating events at point-topoints and country fairs. At last, wet weekends reading Mills & Boon or Jilly Cooper may be a thing of the past for singletons in the Shires. L ife in the countryside for lonely hearts has never been much of a laugh. Cows can be sympathetic listeners but only up to a point. And if the local hunt or Young Farmers’ Club is short of good-looking talent, where do you turn? To the ferret fanciers?
Even in town, romance or friendship can be hard to find for anyone more taken with dogs and horses than designer labels and designer drugs. But perhaps that’s about to change.
Two young entrepreneurs, sisters from Northamptonshire, have launched a website, Muddy Matches, which is aimed at “connecting country-minded people” and is run, appropriately, from a cottage on their family estate. Lucy Reeves, at 27 the younger of the two by three years, says: “We spent a long time thinking about what it is country people have in common. It came down to their attitude to mud. Any person who loves the countryside is not afraid of a bit of mud.”
Big sister Emma (shorter hair, fewer freckles) hastily points out that Muddy Matches is not really a dating service at all, but a web community that enables people with rural interests to meet or simply chat online. A witty element is the site’s interactive, multiple-choice quiz, How muddy are you?,