Midwives leave wintry UK behind as they spend Christmas in South Africa

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Call The Midwife is leaving behind Christmas trees, mince pies and snowy scenes this year in favour of a hot climate for its festive special.

The hit BBC period drama about a convent and the midwives associated with it headed for South Africa to film a one-off episode where the characters try to save a beleaguered local hospital.

Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) gets an urgent call to come and help out at the understaffed medical centre just as the convent are settling down for a traditional Christmas, and so off they troop to lend a hand with polio vaccinations as well as deliveries.

The group encounters the terrible divisions of Apartheid in the 1960s-set drama, while Trixie (Helen George), who is now sober, gets the chance to prove her midwifery skills in the face of a potential tragedy.

George said: "It was really special being out there as a group, it was a really lovely bonding experience and really nice to work in a country and not just visit on a holiday.

"To get to know it from the ground up and to get know crew members of varying cultural backgrounds - so you really get to know the politics of the country and the state of the country in a way that you don't get when you just go and stay in a fancy hotel."

:: Call The Midwife airs Sunday on BBC1 at 8pm.