The cast of Call the Midwife have begun filming the 2016 Christmas special in South Africa.

The first image released for the new special and series six shows  Victoria Yeates (Sister Winifred), Jenny Agutter (Sister Julienne), Stephen McGann (Dr Turner), Stephen McGann (Dr Turner), Helen George (Trixie), Linda Bassett (Nurse Crane) and Charlotte Ritchie (Barbara), who have travelled to the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The Christmas special has been filmed on location near Cape Towm.

Production will then return to the UK for eight episodes in series six. They’ll be filmed on location at the historic Chatham dockyard, London’s East End, and the programme’s studio base in Chertsey, Surrey.

Call the Midwife’s executive producer Pippa Harris said: “It’s a testament to the great skill of Heidi Thomas’s writing that the series continues to evolve, whilst maintaining its hugely popular mix of social history, babies, laughter and tears.”

During the Christmas special, Nonnatus House receives an SOS from a tiny mission hospital. Understaffed, underfunded, and with a poor water supply, struggling Hope Clinic is faced with closure. The medics and midwives travel to the apartheid state to see if they can make a difference to the people whose lives depend upon its work…

Sinead Cusack joins the Christmas Special cast, playing Dr Myra Fitzsimmons who runs the threatened Hope Clinic.

Call the Midwife writer Heidi Thomas said: “My passion for the world and characters of Call the Midwife grows stronger with each passing year. Every season brings new stories, new challenges and new triumphs – yet each one feels like a return to a much-loved home, and series 6 will be no exception.

“As the team settle back into Poplar after their South African adventure, we‘ll see them grappling with all the contradictions and opportunities of the early 60s – the beacon of the Pill, the shadow of the Kray twins, the lure of independence and the call to duty. And time and time again, in a age of change and danger, we will be reminded of the simple power of love.”