Wintershall's Peter Hutley on his perfect Surrey weekend
PUBLISHED: 17:26 07 January 2011 | UPDATED: 15:37 20 February 2013
For over 40 years, Peter and Ann Hutley have lived on the spectacular Wintershall Estate in Bramley, where their famous open-air plays attract people in their thousands. In 2004, Peter received an MBE for services to the community, while his wife,...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2008
For over 40 years, Peter and Ann Hutley have lived on the spectacular Wintershall Estate in Bramley, where their famous open-air plays attract people in their thousands. In 2004, Peter received an MBE for services to the community, while his wife, Ann, was made a Dame. Here, he reports on his busy weekends writing and producing their dramas
The beauty of the Surrey Hills is as spectacular as any part of the country and, to my mind, Wintershall, which is made up of 1,000 acres of rolling green farmland, is the jewel in the crown.
My weekends are usually spent here on the estate, either in rehearsals for our open-air plays - often with my children and grandchildren, several of whom take part - or looking after our visitors.
Many of them come to see our organic farm, which takes up a great deal of time. We have expanded our herd of single suckler Aberdeen Angus cows and wonderful Welsh Lleyn ewes in recent years and have seen a big increase in the number of schools and groups who come here to learn about organic food production. It's a delight to show off the countryside to children from the town.
Our organic Soil Association status is particularly important to everyone at Wintershall, as healthy food farmed by traditional natural methods is one of the greatest services we believe we can perform for the wellbeing of the nation's people.
Theatre of dreams
However, it's our plays that tend to dominate my weekends. Since 1995, over 250,000 people have come to Wintershall to see them and a lot of my time is spent on their writing and production.
The Life of Christ is our major one of the year and sees a 200-strong cast act out the five-and-a-half-hour play in the open air. As a result, it involves all of my weekends and most evenings from the middle of April.
This is our tenth year and with the wonderful publicity from the BBC's Songs of Praise, tickets this year sold very quickly with over 16,000 people coming from schools and other parties as far away as Leicestershire, Suffolk and Devonshire.
It all began when after purchasing an 18th century barn at the top of the hill behind the house, one of my sons suggested that we performed the nativity play there. With a good deal of changes, the Wintershall Nativity play, with its real animals, music, brilliant costumes and the ever-burning reminder of the real reason for Christmas, has gone on ever since. Some 6,000 people now enjoy the play every year in the Holly Barn, which is licensed as a theatre.
On the rare occasion when I do get a moment to myself, I like to go walking on the estate, with the addition perhaps, after church on Sundays, of a little fishing in the trout lakes.
- This year's Wintershall Nativity play runs from Wednesday December 17 to Sunday December 21. If you would like to check it out for yourself, call 01483 892167 for more information
My Surrey Weekend is a monthly guest column in Surrey Life magazine, where we discover how some of the county's high profile characters spend their weekend. To catch up with the series, click here.