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Nine months of online dating, plus a pandemic later…how this couple coped through lockdown


A couple who met online before lockdown said it was a ‘relief’ to find they fancied each other when they finally met in person once restrictions eased. 

Social media influencer Emily Champion, 25, and boyfriend Nick Leatherbarrow, 32, first started speaking on Hinge in October 2019 and rekindled their relationship on Bumble in March.  

They were due to go on a date that month but were forced to cancel after Nick’s office closed when people tested positive for Covid-19.

They spent the next few months FaceTiming one another for virtual dates and regularly exchanged hampers packed full of food and drink for their romantic online meetings.  

After spending lockdown separately at their family homes, they met for the first time at Emily’s house in Barnes, south west London, with Emily revealing: ‘Instantly I already knew I fancied him from his smell and touch and thought thank god for that.’ 

The couple have now set up a joint travel Instagram account and are enjoying exploring the world together. 

Emily Champion, 25, and Nick Leatherbarrow, 32, (pictured) met online in October 2019 and fell for one another during lockdown, despite never having met in person

Emily Champion, 25, and Nick Leatherbarrow, 32, (pictured) met online in October 2019 and fell for one another during lockdown, despite never having met in person

Emily, pictured, admitted she was 'relieved' to find that she found Nick attractive when they met in person after months of speaking online

Emily, pictured, admitted she was ‘relieved’ to find that she found Nick attractive when they met in person after months of speaking online

Nick admitted his biggest worry was that there wouldn't be a physical connection when they met in person. Pictured: Emily and Nick at Château de Fonscolombe

Nick admitted his biggest worry was that there wouldn’t be a physical connection when they met in person. Pictured: Emily and Nick at Château de Fonscolombe

After lockdown was announced in March, the couple spent lockdown separately at their family homes. 

Emily went to live with her parents in the Cotswolds while Nick stayed at his family home in Balham. 

However they stayed in touch online with their first FaceTime date lasting seven hours.

Emily said: ‘The only way I had the confidence to do a FaceTime date was because I got drunk with my family.’ 

Emily (pictured) began speaking to Nick on Hinge in 2019

Nick (pictured) reconnected with Emily in 2020, on dating app Bumble

Emily (pictured left) and Nick (pictured right) met on Hinge in October 2019, and rekindled their relationship in March 2020 on Bumble

They went on to organise a date night every Friday evening, sending each other a hamper of goodies, including drinks and snacks, to enjoy for each virtual date. 

They adapted to the new way of living by creating their own dating experiences. 

Date nights consisted of Mexican and Italian nights where the couple would make their own dishes including homemade pizza.

Emily said: ‘If you really had to choose what to do on a first date it probably wouldn’t be in someone’s kitchen trying to make a make shift Mexican.

The couple fell for another after sharing flirty messages on Hinge and Bumble, but were unable to meet one another till nine months into their romance

The couple fell for another after sharing flirty messages on Hinge and Bumble, but were unable to meet one another till nine months into their romance  

‘It has made me appreciate those smaller things I think like going for picnics.’

Nick added: ‘You had to think outside the box. 

‘The fact that travel was restricted made us reflect on what we appreciate in life and once it’s taken away from you, you think actually, I do want to go away and I do want to see the world more.

‘I thought to myself I want to go and experience things with someone that I love and make some memories and spend money on those kinds of things instead of fancy restaurants and drunken nights out, so I suppose our priority shifted a bit.’

After lockdown restrictions were eased, they met for the first time at Emily’s house in Barnes, South West London.

Nick admitted it had been his ‘biggest worry’ that he may not fancy Emily in person, saying: ‘You can build up this image in your head of someone and then see them and there’s no physical connection there, but yeah that was a big weight off our minds.’ 

In July they booked their first holiday abroad together to Sibenik, Croatia, where they woke up at 5am to watch the sunrise every morning.

Emily said: ‘It was so so beautiful, we love capturing content.

After meeting one another in real life for the first time, the couple began booking holidays together and have since travelled to Croatia and France

After meeting one another in real life for the first time, the couple began booking holidays together and have since travelled to Croatia and France  

‘We love doing that together and I think it’s really nice to have that shared interest and hobby. We went to Chateau in France the other day and it took our breath away.’

They have since started a couple travel Instagram account called @emzandnick where they document their experiences.

Emily said: ‘We were literally walking around Barnes one day and I just said, “we should start a travel account” and Nick agreed.

‘The support has been amazing so far and we constantly have people asking us where we plan to go next.

Emily revealed they've created a list of places they hope to visit together and have arranged to go to The Dolomites. Pictured: Soho Farmhouse

Emily revealed they’ve created a list of places they hope to visit together and have arranged to go to The Dolomites. Pictured: Soho Farmhouse

‘We have lots of places we want to go and have started a list.’

The couple revealed last weekend that they have now booked their next adventure to the Dolomites.

Writing on Instagram Nick said: ‘The Dolomites have always been high on our list of places to visit so today after a few glasses of red and half a bottle of prosecco we made the executive decision to book!

‘I’ve warned Emz that she’s going to need to pack walking boots and thermals…I’ve got a feeling the turtle neck fleece may make an appearance as well.

‘Of course, we’ve decided to finish off the trip with a bang by visiting Venice for the first time! All recommendations welcome for whilst we’re there!’

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