Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

'There's no bikinis, no swearing... this is not Love Island'

Sara Cox has spent two decades making her mark on TV, but it's only in the last 10 years that she's felt a true purpose, she tells Gemma Dunn

Sara Cox is recalling the time she successfully played match-maker. "There was somebody on Twitter called Ross and he followed me - this was a few years ago now," she begins excitedly. "I used to chat with him and banter with him, because he was hilarious. And there was a young lady who saw him bantering and also thought he was pretty funny, so she started following me.

"She tweeted him and they got chatting and now they're on their second child - they got married and everything and I kind of brought them together."

But, far from reeling off past conquests, the popular radio DJ is simply talking up her skills ahead of her new BBC Two dating show, Love In The Countryside.

Going back to her roots, Cox (43) will traipse the countryside in the hope of helping eight rural dwellers from across the UK find love with urbanites seeking their perfect partner - and a dramatically different lifestyle.

With cupid's arrow ready to strike, it's a part the Bolton-born star felt compelled to play.

"I am quite soppy and I feel really blessed that I have a lovely husband," says the mother-of-three. "But it's so exciting. You live vicariously through your single friends, as it's always fun to hear about their adventures in singleton life.

"It appealed to me to help people find love, but also the countryside dynamic to this show is so interesting. It's a completely new angle."

Of the feelgood role, Cox adds: "I am the presenter, but I kind of keep popping up like a slightly over-eager best friend or an annoying sister. The people that I'm chatting to, they're so lovely, but it's my job to try and get out of them what they're really thinking and how they're really feeling.

"To quote Esther Rantzen - and she's been widowed for many years and is dating again - 'I've got lots of people to do lots of lovely things with, but I just want somebody to do nothing with'. And I think that really sums it up."

"It's that getting in, putting the telly on, watching The Apprentice, or whatever, and having a brew," muses Cox. "You know, just reading through the papers on a Sunday morning. Just having someone there with you on the couch, or sitting up in bed.

"Our singletons on Love In The Countryside, they're really dedicated to their farm, but they need a partner; someone who is going to be there to support them and share their adventures. I don't think they're the sort of people to want to swipe left or right on Tinder. They're looking for a little bit more commitment."

For this six-part series is certainly no Love Island, quips Cox.

"There's not going to be bikinis, or bad language, or drunkenness, or fighting, or drama. But what's interesting when you've got a range of ages (the rural folk range from 25-59 years) is their outlook on life and their outlook on finding a partner.

"We've got Wendy, who is really hot to trot. She's our pig farmer, she's gorgeous, she runs miles every day and runs rings around everybody else. So, they're not being tucked up with a blanket. They're showing the young 'uns how it's done."

How does Cox think she would fare in the modern world of dating, then?

"Thank the Lord, I'd hate to be single now. I'd be terrible; I wouldn't have the energy. It's all the meeting the friends, meeting the family. I am grateful that I've got my lovely husband.

"But I do think it's really difficult. There should be a website for very confident women who have got their own businesses to find men who aren't intimidated by that.

"I think there's a danger sometimes, whether you're male or female, to get along fine by yourself and actually you stop putting in the effort to meet people."

Cox - in addition to a hectic home life - has barely taken a breather from a two-decade career that has seen her rise to fame as a model, DJ, radio and TV presenter.

"It's been crazy. I can't believe it, really. And some of my critics can't either," she jokes. "I feel a little like the first decade was quite mad, quite a roller-coaster, with the Breakfast Show in there and my first baby and a lot of partying and a lot of crazy times. And then I feel like the second decade has had a bit more purpose to it.

"The last decade, I've really enjoyed the work I've got to do. I've had two more kids and I've been a lot more settled, because I'm really happy with Ben, so I've had a really brilliant time so far.

"And I'm really blessed. A lot of people hate their jobs, but if you've got a job that you really love, then you've hit the jackpot."

Love In The Countryside, BBC Two,

Wednesday, 9pm

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