Get Muddy if you’re looking for rural romance
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