Get Muddy if you’re look­ing for ru­ral ro­mance

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

De­ter­mined to set­tle down with a ru­ral type, Lind­say Lyon, who works in London and lives in Buck­ing­hamshire, has joined ru­ral dat­ing site Muddy Matches. Her townie friends find it hi­lar­i­ous but the 24-year-old, who is a spe­cial funds co­or­di­na­tor at St George’s Hos­pi­tal, in south London, with a pas­sion for in­te­rior de­sign, be­lieves the in­ter­net is her only hope of find­ing love.

“My friends take the mick but I’m ru­ral rather than townie and with­out go­ing on­line I don’t know how I’ll meet some­one from a coun­try back­ground,” she says.

In­ter­net dat­ing has moved on since the early Noughties, when sin­gles ex­changed lengthy emails be­fore ar­rang­ing to meet in per­son. When Lind­say, who lives in Bea­cons­field, at­tends the in­au­gu­ral Coun­try Life Fair in London later this month, she’ll be able to con­nect with po­ten­tial suit­ors us­ing Muddy Matches’ new dat­ing app, ex­chang­ing text mes­sages be­fore – hope­fully – meet­ing peo­ple in per­son at the cham­pagne bar. “It’s Tin­der for coun­try types,” she ex­plains, liken­ing it to the cult dat­ing app that con­nects users and al­lows them (anony­mously, thank good­ness) to “like” or “re­ject” after see­ing some­one’s pro­file pic­ture.

Lind­say tried net­work­ing the tra­di­tional coun­try way – at­tend­ing ru­ral events such as the Sheep Dog Tri­als at North­leach in Glouces­ter­shire, but she strug­gled to per­suade her London friends to ac­com­pany her, and when she did, the group never met any­one new. “It’s nerve-rack­ing, so­cial­is­ing with peo­ple you don’t know,” she says.

Many coun­try-loving sin­gles aged 18-26 find love at their lo­cal branch of Young Farm­ers, an or­gan­i­sa­tion with 25,000 mem­bers that ar­ranges ski trips and dances for young coun­try dwellers. But Lind­say felt a fraud sign­ing up as she works in a city and doesn’t come from a farm­ing back­ground. “It’s hard to find the right group that leads to meet­ing new peo­ple,” she says.

This was also the ex­pe­ri­ence of Lucy Reeves, from Northamp­ton­shire, who founded Muddy Matches in 2007, aged 25, with her sis­ter Emma, who was 27 at the time. They’d failed to meet any­one through Young Farm­ers, and while they en­joyed go­ing to ru­ral events such as the CLA Game Fair and Bad­minton Horse Tri­als, they only ever met up with peo­ple they knew. “It was so frus­trat­ing. I’d be sur­rounded by good-look­ing, like- minded peo­ple my age but I didn’t have the nerve to barge up to them and in­tro­duce my­self,” Lucy says.

Fiona East­man, who is or­gan­is­ing the Coun­try Life Fair at Ful­ham Palace, is con­vinced that the Get Muddy dat­ing app will break the ice be­tween sin­gles at the event.

“The cap­i­tal’s ru­ral con­tin­gent will be out in force, and by us­ing the app you will be able to meet sin­gles you don’t know and have a drink,” she says. Muddy Matches mem­bers us­ing the app can browse photographs of peo­ple at the event whose pro­files ap­peal, and send them texts.

“We didn’t see much point hav­ing a ge­og­ra­phy-based app be­cause our users would find the near­est ‘match’ lives 50 miles away,” Lucy says. “So we de­cided on an event-based app, as that’s the way peo­ple so­cialise in the coun­try.”

In 2006, when the Reeves sis­ters de­cided to give on­line dat­ing a go – se­cretly, be­cause the no­tion of find­ing love with a stranger via the in­ter­net had only re­cently started to lose its stigma – they failed to find a dat­ing site aimed at young, coun­try­minded sin­gles.

“Ru­ral in­ter­net dat­ing sites were all very much Last Chance Sa­loon; images of two bad­gers dis­ap­pear­ing off into the sun­set — that kind of thing,” Lucy ex­plains.

With their on­line dat­ing plans thwarted, they re­solved to set up their own site, launch­ing Muddy Matches – users can’t be afraid of mud – with about 800 pro­files a few months later, hav­ing bribed ev­ery sin­gle they came across to join the site. With so few mem­bers they wor­ried that there wouldn’t be any matches, but suc­cess sto­ries im­me­di­ately be­gan to pour in and, within six months, there was a wed­ding.

Muddy Matches now has more than 100,000 mem­bers and Lucy has stopped count­ing the wed­dings, although the to­tal has reached well over a thou­sand. “Our users are nice, nor­mal peo­ple with sim­i­lar in­ter­ests,” says Lucy. “There are farm­ers – we also host Farm­ers Weekly mag­a­zine’s dat­ing site – horsey peo­ple, shoot­ing types and dog lovers as well as a large num­ber of coun­try-minded folk who live in

— towns.” A tongue-incheek mul­ti­ple-choice quiz on the site cal­cu­lates a user’s muddy-townie ra­tio with ques­tions such as “Where would your ideal house be?” “What are the con­tents of your vac­uum cleaner?” and “How muddy are your wellington boots?”

The site is de­signed to cope with painfully slow broad­band speeds found in some ru­ral ar­eas and the fact that a pro­por­tion of mem­bers are still us­ing dial-up in­ter­net con­nec­tions, but it is also now fully re­spon­sive, as 50 per cent of Muddy Matches traf­fic is via mo­bile phone and tablets.

“Peo­ple use it when they’re out at work or on their com­bine har­vester; mes­sages have got shorter; peo­ple are ‘chat­ting’ rather than email­ing; it’s all much more im­me­di­ate,” Lucy says.

One mem­ber, Richard, found his girl­friend Va­lerie five miles away, by search­ing for lo­cal users. “I sent her a mes­sage ask­ing if she was well and she replied that she was en­joy­ing a gin and tonic in her gar­den,” he writes in the suc­cess sto­ries sec­tion of the site. “I sug­gested she came round for fur­ther gin and ton­ics and the rest is his­tory!”

It is happy out­comes such as this – there’s at least one posted on the site ev­ery week – that have in­spired sin­gles such as Lind­say to sign up. Lucy and her sis­ter, fear­ing it was un­eth­i­cal to join their own site but ea­ger for a suc­cess story of their own, even­tu­ally signed up to a ri­val, and are con­se­quently both in long-term re­la­tion­ships.

Lind­say, whose muddy-townie ra­tio is 50:50, says her ideal match is blond, blue-eyed, busi­ness­minded and re­ally funny. “Hope­fully he’ll do sport – cricket or shoot­ing – but most im­por­tantly he has to love an­i­mals,” she says. She has al­ready ex­changed mes­sages with a cou­ple of “cute” guys and is look­ing for­ward to test-driv­ing the Get Muddy app at the Coun­try Life Fair. “It’s ex­cit­ing see­ing who has looked at your pro­file.”

Lucy rec­om­mends she post a flat­ter­ing and clear pho­to­graph of her­self on to her pro­file and in­cludes brief de­tails such as her lo­ca­tion and age. “At an event peo­ple aren’t go­ing to want to read a load of text,” she says. “They just want to see if they like the look of the photo, you’re a sim­i­lar age, and The in­au­gu­ralCoun­try Life Fair in the grounds of Ful­ham Palace, London SW6, next week­end will bring the coun­try­side to town, with demon­stra­tions and de­bates, bars, restau­rants and a shop­ping vil­lage with­morethan 200ex­hibitors.

Vis­i­tors can sam­ple, taste, try and buy the lat­est ru­ral equip­ment, cloth­ing, cars, gad­gets, food and wine, and meet prop­erty and travel ex­perts. And­for younger guests there’s a kids’ zone with mo­bile farm and fal­conry dis­plays.

Along with talks by Ben Fogle, Dick Strawbridge, AlexJame­sand Let­tice Row­botham, high­lights in­clude “tweed to town” fash­ion shows, the Ginkhana™ gin-sam­pling ex­pe­ri­ence, two pop-up Ful­ham pubs, the BrownCowand Sands End, and cock­tails byMrFogg – and there’s even the chance to win a Boo­dles di­a­mond.

10am-5pm, Ful­ham Palace, Bishops Av­enue, London SW6. Tick­ets from£23 can be pur­chased on­line at coun­trylife­fair.co.uk – chil­dren un­der12 ad­mit­ted free. that you don’t live 600 miles away.” And what if Lind­say’s dream man flashes up on her screen? “Keep the chat light,” Lucy urges. “It’s amaz­ing how easy it is to talk your­self out of a date.”=

Get Muddy app

An­droid and iPhone users can down­load the Get Muddy app for free on the App Store, log in via their Muddy Matches ac­count (or reg­is­ter an ac­count if they are not al­ready a mem­ber) and add/edit a quick pro­file, ready to start mes­sag­ing other sin­gles at the Coun­try Life Fair. It will also be avail­able to use at a num­ber of se­lect coun­try­side events across the UK and Ire­land. See mud­dy­matches.co.uk for more in­for­ma­tion.

Take a bough: Lind­say Lyon hopes that Muddy Matches, cre­ated by dog lover Lucy Reeves, top, will help her find a part­ner

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