Truly, mudly, deeply

Sandy Mitchell logs on to a match­maker site for Shire sin­gle­tons

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Living -

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?,

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