There have been Bonds in Purbeck since 1472 when Somerset farmer William Bond leased land at Lutton. His descendants acquired land at Tyneham before Nathaniel Bond bought Creech Grange in the 1680s to establish impressive seats that within thirty years were joined by East Holme, bought by his son Denis.
Tyneham was requisitioned during World War 2 and Creech Grange was sold out of the family in the late 1970s, leaving Holme – extensively rebuilt as Holme Priory by Denis’s nephew, another Nathaniel – as the home of the Bonds. Today it is lived in by William Bond with his wife Hilary, Schools and Children’s worker for the parish of Wareham and recently ordained deacon, and their children Nathaniel 22 and Lorna 18.
They sit at the tip of a lot of history
‘Yes and I’m very aware of it,’ says Will from the comfort of his favourite hearthside chair in the library. ‘When you inherit what I inherited people say you’re privileged and they’re quite right, but I think the biggest privilege of all is to know where you fit in the world. There’s no need to go to look to make your mark – I am what I am and that is a great privilege.’
He’s steeped in family history most of which he has researched himself despite the best efforts of his late father Martin, for many years a county and district councillor, to pass on the stories.
‘We’d ask Dad a question and he’d give you a lengthy history when you just wanted to know who someone was; then Dad died and we had to look things up for ourselves.’
Which is how Will came across the now famous diary chronicling the escapades of John Bond, an Elizabethan secret agent for want of a better description who acquired the family motto Non Sufficit Orbis – The World In Not Enough – and later appropriated by author Ian Fleming as the motto of James Bond 007. That Fleming attended prep school at Durnford in Langton Matravers and used the names of other Dorset families – Drax and Strangways – in his Bond stories has given rise to a popular myth that he was somehow inspired to base 007 on the 16th century adventurer.
The diary, written by John’s son Denis Bond, details all manner of derring-do on foreign soil. It seems John had a knack for consistently being just ahead of history – he was in Bruges in 1580 two years before the United Provinces declared their commonwealth and in Cadiz in 1585 three years before the Armada set sail.
‘He wasn’t exactly a courtier of Elizabeth I, but it seems he was a trusted agent of the crown who was sent overseas to get the job done,’ says Will.
‘There is almost no possibility that Ian Fleming could have known of the diary. If he had it probably would have featured in a story in some way. What is more extraordinary is that Fleming wrote about his fictitious contemporary James without knowledge of the parallels with the Elizabethan John.
‘Dad had the diary and probably tried showing it to us when were a bit too young and we weren’t interested. It’s fascinating but it’s actually the transcriptions of it that are of more value as a living document. One has the continuity that the original transcription was done by Thomas Bond nearly 200 years ago when he was better at understanding the writing from 200 years previously and his transcription was then typed up by my aunt Lilian, from Tyneham, and then I’ve got it transferred to digital.’
And it’s not only the family diary that has gripped Will’s imagination. Close to the grounds of the Priory stands the parish church of St John the Evangelist, built by a later Nathaniel Bond in 1865 to replace an earlier church that Hutchins reported was in ruins by 1745. Inside, its whitewashed walls are beautifully decorated with scrolls, leaves and text painted by Will’s great grandmother Lady Selina.
‘She kept a diary for half a century or so including all the time the paintings would have been done, but on no day does she ever say anything about the paintings. She says what they had for lunch; who called, what diseases the children had, but nothing about the paintings or what inspired her. It’s deeply frustrating. Curiously, my great aunts who I remember in the 1960s and who would have been born around the time of the new church being built had no recollections or stories at all about the old church so for years we didn’t know where it stood.’
That was rectified in 2011 by Hannah Simpson, a Bournemouth University archaeology student, who identified the site just three weeks before she was due to hand in her thesis on the lost Cluniac cell and church at East Holme. She achieved a first class degree and won a prize for local studies research.
‘One of the other privileges I have here is the ability to make a difference, often simply by giving permission for people to do things. Bournemouth University has a department for forensic archaeology and they need places they can bury animal carcasses so they can measure decay. Again, fine by me, they can do it here, bury a deer. Then when you get a letter saying due to the evidence they’ve collected here they’ve achieved the successful prosecution of several war criminals in the Balkans, that’s making a real difference.’
An avowed environmentalist and ecologist, Will recently became chairman of Dorset Country Landowners Association and vice chair of the Dorset Local Nature Partnership, which aims to bridge various interests in the county’s natural environment, creating and promoting green spaces for leisure that also benefit wildlife.
But he also identifies himself as a pragmatist and recognises the apparent contradiction in the often world-leading work in habitat creation, restoration and translocation undertaken by Alaska, his eco-contracting company, and the on-going aggregate extraction on his land at Masters Quarry, which straddles Puddletown Road.
‘Of course there is a complete clash of moral positions but people will go on extracting sand because we need it for building materials. There’s no way of getting what we want without environmental cost so we can either find out how to do it at minimum cost or let someone else do it and wreck that part of the world, which I see as bottling out.
‘If you look at aerial photographs of 1946 where they did the tank training over the Masters South site, pretty much the entire heath was obliterated, but where it has regenerated it has more diversity, more dynamics in it and more micro-habitats and that’s what gives the interest. So if you apply the same principles when you do your restoration after you’ve finished quarrying sand you can give it features that it didn’t have before, which to some extent compensates for lack of age and continuity.’
Alaska is a recognised world leader in translocation, the moving of habitats, with more than 2000 projects to its name and in one of its most recent projects it was heavily involved in the creation of a nature conservation area as part of the Victory Oak development on the former St Leonards Hospital site. It was named Best Practice in Large-Scale Mitigation and/or Enhancement Award at this year’s Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management Awards.
‘Translocation is a controversial technique as it should be because we should be doing everything we possibly can to not damage these environments,’ says Will. ‘So if doing the job properly is expensive then to my mind that’s a good thing, morally. I’ll do a good job or no job and that’s why we have the reputation we have.
‘Most of what we do that’s novel is based on what some people call a gut feeling, others say is empirical observation, but it’s not based on deep scientific research. Sometimes the science is already there and we haven’t come across it but it tends to follow on when we ask the scientists why did what we did works so well.’
Will remembers his father saying he thought the Bonds had run out of initiative and steam, certainly in a commercial sense. That may at least partly explain Will’s efforts to combat climate change. Wind turbines are a contentious addition to the 21st century landscape and their imminent appearance rarely fails to excite local opinion as Will found when his wind farm project – four 125-metre wind turbines and a solar farm at East Stoke – underwent a protracted five-year planning process followed by two years of unsuccessful planning appeals against it by the pressure group Dorset Against Rural Turbines.
The wind turbines and solar farm could be up and running within ‘a year or two’ and generating at least half the total domestic energy usage of the Purbeck District Council area.
‘It’s another of the opportunities, privileges if you like, of owning land,’ he says. ‘A lot of people want to contribute to reducing climate change and have solar panels on their roofs or drive fuel efficient cars, but I have the opportunity to do a lot more and some people think I made the wrong decision and a lot of people think I made the right decision.’
When he’s not courting the slings and arrows of outraged public opinion Will can often be found playing ‘cask conditioned Celtic rock’ in the Black Sheep Band at barn dances and ceilidhs throughout the region.
‘I picked up traditional music from my sister Sophia who used to go to the folk club in Wareham and followed on from there. One day a fellow musician suggested we should start a band so we did – that was thirty-something years ago and we’re still playing together. I’ve never had a lesson on any instrument I play. It’s back to the empirical versus academic thing, not following a routine and just going with the flow. ‘It keeps me out of mischief on a Saturday night anyway.’