Elsa and Ian first met at the pre-schoolers’ group their mothers attended, although Elsa, four years younger than Ian, was just a baby. Then they were at the same school, but didn’t know each other. And although Elsa had grown up on a farm just 10 minutes from Ian’s village, where his parents have a smallholding, they never socialised. She had never been particularly interested in joining the Young Farmers’ Club that Ian was involved in.
That changed when Elsa came home after university and wanted to make some new local friends. It was November 2017 and she went to her first Young Farmers’ meeting – the group’s AGM, and Ian’s last night as chairman. “I saw her and that was just it, really. I thought: ‘Oh right, hello,’” he says.
He saw her leave at the end and ran after her. “She’d just got in her car. I ran up to her window, and she couldn’t remember how to open it. I stood there doing the old ‘wind it down’ thing.”
“It didn’t have a winder,” says Elsa.
Ian continues: “So she opens the door straight into my face. That was it. We swapped phone numbers that night. I just said: ‘A few of us are going to the pub; it would be nice if you joined us, meet a few people.’”
Elsa didn’t go, but they spent the week texting each other and a week later, they met for a date. Ian works long hours on a farm so it was late when they got to Rufford Abbey country park, in Nottinghamshire; at midnight they were still walking round the lake.
Since then, they say, they have been inseparable. “Whenever any of my friends meet Ian they say if they could draw a picture to describe what my perfect partner would be, Ian is exactly that,” says Elsa. “Ian is really kind; I don’t think I’ve met anyone as kind as him. He just gives off an aura of happiness.” Ian likes that they “have the same level of humour, the same values”.
They are doing up a cottage they managed to buy at auction but the dream is to run a farm together. “I said: ‘I’d like a bit of land, some tractors, some animals, my own business,’” says Ian. “I expected Elsa to say: ‘I’m not having that,’ but she said: ‘I like the sound of that.’ So that’s what we’re aiming for, putting a bit away and saving up.” Elsa says: “My parents have got a farm. I’ve got two sisters, but neither of them are interested in farming, so I think my dad was quite happy when he knew Ian was a farmer.”
They got engaged in August last year. Elsa does modelling part-time, often shooting covers for romantic or period novels, which Ian gets roped into doing, too (“All of a sudden I’m dressed as Henry VIII,” he says). Ian got one of the photographers to help with the proposal, setting up a fake shoot at the country park where they had their first date. “On the day, it was raining a bit so we were driving to this shoot, and Ian was getting more and more worked up,” says Elsa. “I was like: ‘It’s fine – the worst that can happen is we’ll cancel the shoot.’”
They set a picnic scene below an oak tree, and when Elsa turned around, Ian was holding a ring. “And he gave me a little speech,” she says. Ian continues: “About how much I love her and how much she means to me. She looked me square in the eyes and said: ‘Is this a prop?’”
“I thought it wasn’t real,” she says. “I thought: ‘I’m going to say yes and he’s going to laugh at me.’”
They are getting married in a few weeks in Ian’s village, followed by a blessing in the church in Elsa’s village down the road, then a reception on the farm. They will probably be travelling by tractor.