Wintershall’s Charlotte de Klee on her perfect Surrey weekend
- Credit: NA
The renowned Wintershall religious plays began more than 20 years ago on a hilltop in Surrey and now the baton has passed to the next generation of the Hutley family, Charlotte de Klee, to maintain this extraordinary theatrical tradition. With rehearsals well under way for the open air nativity, here she talks us through her busy weekends
By Friday evening, you can hear me let out a great sigh of relief that the week is ended and I can change pace; hurray for the weekend!
We live in the most delightful semi- detached cottage on the Wintershall Estate, which is really in the heart of the most idyllic Surrey countryside. Who could have thought we are only 30 miles from London yet surrounded by the most incredible wildlife, some of which seem to be moving into my attic for the winter at the moment. The squirrels are particularly noisy!
Saturday morning, without fail, is a large fry-up. I know it isn’t healthy but it is a ritual. We have three sons and now a married daughter, and it used to be the boys on duty, but even if they are not about, my husband looks expectantly towards the frying pan. Today, we take it slowly, as rehearsals for the Wintershall Nativity start at about 2pm, but earlier as it gets closer to Christmas. It is Mary and Joseph, innkeepers, prayer children and shepherds who have been called for this afternoon by our director Kathy Longbottom. Most of the rehearsal will take place outside, as it is about the donkey and the sheep, let alone getting Angel Gabriel into the trees.
There is a building of excitement that with the play comes Christmas and the children are beside themselves. We have a new Mary and Joseph this year and twin baby Jesuses who are going to alternate through the performances.
Later on, for a real treat, and if we leave early enough, we can walk over the hill, which takes about an hour, to the White Horse pub at Hascombe – now under new ownership and buzzing. One of the kids might have driven down from London to meet us there and give us a lift home after a well-deserved drink and snack. The walk over the Hascombe Hills to the pub or to the very beautiful, restored Victorian church, which has been there since pre-Norman times, is one of our most favourite things. Our children have been christened and brought up in this unique and charming church, and many of the locals have acted in our plays for years.
A Sunday service
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Sunday morning may see us go to the early Roman Catholic service in Bramley or Cranleigh; I usually go with Mum and Dad for this. They seem to know everyone as so many wonderful local people have supported us at Wintershall over the years.
In the afternoon, we’ll have a production meeting, which is essentially a gathering in the costume shed, to discuss props, and also getting the cast and equipment to BBC Broadcasting House where we will be performing the nativity play for a second year, moving from the piazza into All Souls, Langham Place, London W1 – where, by strange coincidence, my parents got married over 60 years ago.
I am incredibly lucky as not only are my parents busy, active and well, but I have my two brothers and their wives and children a mile down the road and my sister and husband plus their four kids as well. There’s usually a barbeque or camp-out or someone fishing (there’s a great private fishing club) so I can enjoy the solitude and beauty of the country but never feel lonely.
Sunday evening brings that Sunday evening feeling you get all over the world – work tomorrow, children to school etc – a down feeling but not sad. The march towards Christmas is upon us; I have to remember the real reason for it and feel truly fortunate to be involved with such a great cast and group of people who come to put this play on for us all to remember.
The Wintershall Nativity runs at Wintershall from Thursday December 18 to Sunday December 21 (times vary). Tickets are £16 for adults and £8 for children. There are also two London performances on Wednesday December 17 at BBC Broadcasting House and at All Souls, Langham Place. Tickets: £20 adults and £10 children. Book online at wintershall-estate.com