Whilst the Dyfi Valley is known to be a green and bountiful Eden, one thing is as dry as the Sahara according to some resident women... men. The ‘Dyfi man desert’ has been coined by women living in and around Machynlleth, describing it as “hard” to “impossible” to date in the valley, with some having “given up on love” altogether.

With a glut of “gorgeous, intelligent and eligible women” who outnumber suitable men to date according to them, some have chosen to permanently move out of the ‘dry valley’ (which in reality, regularly floods) to stand a chance of finding a match.

One complainant, Bethan (pseudonym), broke up with her long-term partner three years ago after they moved to Corris together.

An artist in her early 40s, she said: “It’s bloody miserable for me around here, it’s near impossible to meet people. I’m a beautiful attractive person, it’s amazing that no one’s flirted with me in two years- but it’s because everyone’s your mate.

“If they’re not your friend they may be unattractive or older weathered farmers, or you have to travel hours to go on a first date. I recently connected with someone on a dating app in Bristol- I don’t know how that happened.

“I try and go to social things and put myself in places where it’s possible to meet new people, but the social environment is a bit dire, so you just get on with other stuff- there’s no distraction of attractive men.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of gorgeous men and women around it just doesn’t seem to happen to me. Maybe it’s me?”

Altaea, 25, agrees that it’s hard to not take it personally after so many years of unsuccessful dating.

She said: “The thing I have to accept is that after two years of singlehood, I’m probably the problem. I’m tired of being with people who don’t share my interests. Nobody seems to know what they want, which is fine, but as someone who does it’s tricky to move in that space.”

Altaea said another issue she comes up against is a distinct lack of people in their 20s in Machynlleth, and according to census data, that’s pretty accurate.

Data from the 2021 census show Powys was in the bottom four of Welsh counties for the number of residents aged 16 to 24, perhaps incidentally coinciding with having one of the lowest proportions of LGB+ identifying people. Nearby Ceredigion and Gwynedd also suffered with the greatest rates of population decrease since the last census in 2011.

As Altaea puts it, young people like her simply “aren’t sticking around” as jobs are few and far between, which makes women like her, who want to find a life partner and start a family, a little stuck for choices.

The self-employed chef who lives in Glandyfi, said: “It’s difficult to date in the valley because you know everyone and everyone’s relationship histories. Some have a steadfast rule to ‘never date in the valley’ because it ruins friendship groups.

“I had to break up with my therapist because they were too close to one of my friends- the social separation is miniscule.”

So for her, it’s easier not to date at all: “I’ve given up. Two years is quite a long time and I’ve reached a point where I’m happy in my singlehood. I think people in my generation often want something casual, there’s a lack of desire to start a committed relationship.”

54.9 per cent of respondents to the 2021 census in Machynlleth were female, whilst elsewhere in the valley was similarly unbalanced, with nearby Taliesin most starkly having 56.6 per cent of respondents identifying as female (Image suppliued)

She blames the ‘man desert’ on places like the nearby CAT learning institution for attracting settled couples pursuing master’s and PHD’s along with single women, with eco-friendly interests historically being labelled as a ‘feminine pursuit’.

Curiously 54.9 per cent of respondents to the 2021 census in Machynlleth were female, whilst elsewhere in the valley was similarly unbalanced, with nearby Taliesin most starkly having 56.6 per cent of respondents identifying as female.

One complainant Jill (pseudonym) has also struggled to find a partner to settle down with and start a family. The Machynlleth resident in her early 40s is now facing the difficult decision of becoming a single mum through IVF.

She said: “Lots of women refer to it as a ‘man desert’. It feels strange that I know such a large amount of objectively beautiful women who are really intelligent, several with PHD’s, struggling to find partners.

“In a bigger place maybe that wouldn’t happen.”

Machynlleth was recorded as having 2,163 residents during the 2021 census.

She described regularly going to parties entirely made up of women, remembering one which consisted of 20 women, a devoted hubby and a “man in his 60s”.

Many reporting having their dating apps set to the largest possible geographical ranges, usually a 50-mile radius, to stand a chance of meeting anyone who isn’t already their friend, family, ex, employee/employer, or looking for a polyamorous relationship which some “just aren’t interest in”.

But is this a bigger problem than just something to joke about around a pub table? Jill has had multiple break ups because partners didn’t want to stick around due to lack of work in the area.

She arrived in Machynlleth in 2006 as a Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT). She now works for the Welsh Government so can’t leave due to her job and, more to the point, doesn’t want to.

Despite being bisexual, she doesn’t see dating women as an option due to it being more difficult to start a family and experiencing “prejudice from friends and family members”, therefore chose to “say goodbye to a good chunk of myself”.

Another hazard on straight women’s quests for monogamous relationships according to them is the rise of polyamory. Coined a ‘poly paradise’ by some in the valley, Machynlleth is becoming known as a hotspot for the increasingly popular practice in which people engage in multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent from all parties.

Jill suggests the rise in polyamory is draining the pool of otherwise eligible monogamous men, with Bethan agreeing: “I’ve got friends who have three boyfriends, and I can’t even find one! Polyamory is rife but I don’t know how they do it, I can’t even find one person.”

However, Jo (pseudonym), who is non-binary and polyamorous in their late 20s, said that logically is not the case.

Jo, a writer and Machynlleth resident for two years, said: “Here there are a lot of monogamous couples. I tried downloading Feeld [a dating app designed for polyamorous relationships] but there were five people on there and I knew all of them, and none of whom I sadly had a crush on.

“I’d love to know where all these polyamorous people are that are meant to have detracted from the monogamous pool, I’m not seeing them anywhere.

“I hear it’s more successful if you increase your geographical range massively, but I don’t have the time or energy to go to Swansea just to see if I get on with somebody.”

“For me, being poly is an orientation. If these men are polyamorously oriented, they were never eligible for being monogamous in the first place.

“In the same way you could be angry at monogamous people for taking up all the dating options, it’s not these men being poly that’s the problem, it’s that they’re coupled at all. There are people in monogamous relationships I’ve had crushes on and can’t approach them.”

Jo similarly struggles with the lack of younger people in the area to date, whilst they described finding LGBTQ+ people and people of colour like them to date as “near impossible”.

Data from the 2021 census shows Powys was in the bottom four of Welsh counties for the number of residents aged 16 to 24, perhaps incidentally coinciding with having one of the lowest proportions of LGB+ identifying people (Image supplied)

Dating apps seem to be particularly illustrative of the problem. Altaea describes her app dating experience as “terrible” and prefers to meet people in person, having recently found a “spring in the man desert” by meeting a guy who had escorted her drunk friend home from the pub and asked her out.

Altaea’s frustration with apps is far from unique.

According to research published in December 2023 from dating app Badoo, a quarter of UK daters said their confidence in dating is at an all-time low, whilst over three quarters said it’s caused them to delete a dating profile.

A recent class action lawsuit was filed, aptly on Valentines Day on 14 February this year, against the Match Group who own some of the most popular dating apps in the world – including Tinder, Hinge, Plenty of Fish, the League, Match.com and OkCupid.

The lawsuit accuses the company of keeping users hooked to the apps to generate more profit, with “addictive, game-like design features, which lock users into a perpetual pay-to-play loop that prioritizes corporate profits over its marketing promises and customers’ relationship goals.”

This goes against consumer and business laws, as well as app Hinge’s own slogan - ‘designed to be deleted’. Instead, the lawsuit accuses the apps of “preying on users’ fear of missing out on potential matches” and therefore perpetuating the endless cycle that inevitably leads many users to despair.

Match Group have dismissed the lawsuit as having “zero merit”, branding it “ridiculous”.

The spokesperson continued: “Our business model is not based on advertising or engagement metrics. We actively strive to get people on dates every day and off our apps. Anyone who states anything else doesn’t understand the purpose and mission of our entire industry.”

However dating expert Charly Lester said it’s our busy lifestyles that contribute to our heavy use of dating apps, with seven in 10 relationships are predicted to start online by the year 2040.

Charly said: “It’s actually really hard to meet new people outside of work and I think the older you get, the smaller that pool of single friends. So, it is a great way of meeting people that you wouldn’t usually come across in any walk of life.”

So, what do the men of the Dyfi Valley have to say about this supposed ‘man desert’? Well, not a lot, which is perhaps indicative of the problem. Out of the multiple call outs for voices, only one man dared rear his head above the parapet.

Callum (pseudonym) in his early 40s, moved with a partner to the Dyfi Valley almost four years ago. Now single, he’s found similarly bleak experiences in trying to date, both online and off: “I’ve tried Hinge and Bumble, basically there’s no one on there.

“Very occasionally a new person pops up to your great surprise. I have a 50-mile radius set. If you set it to a 10-mile radius you’d know everyone on there.

“I think when you’re single there’s always an element of feeling frustrated, but I feel like unlike a lot of rural places there’s quite often opportunities to meet new people.”

And what does Callum say to the supposed ‘man desert’ that surrounds him? The freelancer and Machynlleth resident said: “How do you think that makes me feel, I’ve essentially been labelled as ‘ineligible’! It’s the only logical conclusion to come to on hearing that.

“Yes, I’ve heard about Machynlleth being named as a ‘man desert’ before, but I’m not bold enough to put myself forward as a solution to it.”

Whereas people like Bethan prefer to see the bright side: “In a weird way, the dire situation and lack of people available is a weird advantage, because it gives you time on your own which can be a really positive thing. I’ve since had two years of therapy.

“I’ve never said I’ll give up, even when I’m 90 I’m not going to give up on love.”