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People often ask why Charlotte Martin hasn't got a boyfriend.

She's an attractive 31-year-old from Hungerford in Berkshire with a successful career as a three-day event rider and a busy social diary.

My friends say that I'll meet someone when I least expect it and I guess I just have to believe them.

Horsey girls aren't that bad really." It shouldn't be difficult to meet a like-minded person in the countryside, given that there is a structured calendar of rural social events, including races and point-to-points.

But according to Patricia Warren, a farmer's wife from Derbyshire who runs the Country Bureau, a rural introduction agency, the country dating scene can be bleak, whatever age you are.

"Communities are small and people work long hours," she says. "I've gone to so many hunt balls this year, I've become a bit of a joke among my friends.

"There are amazing men out there who want a wife and children but feel as if they've been sitting on a tractor for the last 10 years and haven't met anyone." Charlotte, however, is socially proactive. But it's rare to be introduced to a new face and even if I am, the likelihood is that they'll know my friends." For many rural communities, the hunt ball is an annual highlight, organised ostensibly to raise money for the local hunt, but presenting locals with a rare opportunity to dress up and swing each other around on the dance floor.

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"I'd never go to one on my own," Charlotte says, "but as long as I have a wingman, I'm fine." This is exactly the right approach, according to dating expert Mary Balfour.

"Find a dating buddy; someone who is in the same situation as you," she says.

"Single friends will also give you moral support if you're feeling depressed about meeting the third frog in a row." If you've been brought up in a country community, the chances are you will already know a lot of the people living locally.

According to Patricia Warren, this can make socialising stale. Two of Charlotte's friends organised a singles party on Valentine's Day and 70 people turned up.

"It was very refreshing to be sat next to two people I didn't know," Charlotte says.

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