MDHUB’s Millie Green chats with Jessica Allen-Back, the Estate Director at Aldenham Estate, Hertfordshire, with the responsibility of looking after over 700 acres of land in an environmentally sustainable manner. With that, her life as a solicitor, mother and the running of Home Farm Glamping, here is Jessica’s story…


Jessica Allen-Back is an ideas person. Originally training as a solicitor, she worked at a firm specialising in small business growth where the nature of her work had an effect on her – or rather, some of her clients’ work did.

She often felt she was far more aligned with her clients than with her own work, or that of her colleagues. She would leave meetings thinking how she would have rather been on their side of the table, being creative, rather than filing another timesheet. Ultimately, she made the decision to begin work on her father’s part of the Aldenham Estate, near Elstree, Hertfordshire.

This work on the estate alone wasn’t enough to pay Jessica a salary, so she kept her part-time position at the law firm, while juggling with the process of setting up the glamping business at Home Farm, the main farmhouse on the estate.

It was a time where an imbalance in her daily life became more pronounced, and, with so many responsibilities, she began to feel overwhelmed. She was introduced to MDHUB by a friend, and began working with Fiona Shafer, MDHUB’s Managing Director.

Speaking about this intense period, Jessica admits, “I sometimes look back at the beginning, and I don’t know how I managed. However, I’m much better now at accepting that I’m not going to get through my to-do list. I had to adjust my role in the business, to accept that I was still able to make the decisions.

“I am guilty of getting into busy periods. Fiona is good at asking ‘how can you find a way to make sure you’re still enjoying it?’” Jessica, after a careful pause, believes trying to be more like Fiona will help.

MDHUB has also helped Jessica in ways which are not so quantifiable. Many bosses talk of loneliness at the top of their business, and she admits as much.

“It’s very easy when you’re running a small business on your own to feel isolated. It doesn’t matter what your business is doing, most of the issues you’re dealing with are the same. Having a place in which to talk that through with the addition of the expertise that MDHUB brings is massively valuable.”

MDHUB has also given Jessica a better perspective of a work/life balance, one in which her family life gets more of a look-in. However, she is mindful not to take work home with her. To that end, MDHUB has given Jessica a safe space to discuss important decisions, away from the people they affect.

At the recent MDHUB annual awards, Jessica received ‘The Futureproof Award’ for her dedication to reducing the environmental impact of her business.

Being so close to London, Aldenham was approached to become the site of a huge solar farm – a plan, amazingly enough, on the receiving end of an enormous local backlash because, apparently, they’re seen as ‘ugly’. The backlash made Jessica more determined to make renewables and sustainability work on the estate.

Additionally, the parallel but lesser-known crisis of biodiversity is a huge priority. Hertfordshire has the worst nature loss in the UK of all the counties, and the UK is one of the worst countries in Europe for species loss. Having these crises on Aldenham’s doorstep makes the role of the estate feel all the more crucial to making a difference.

Looking forward, Jessica hopes to have a more positive impact through education. “We’re looking at how we can align with the Natural History GCSE, which is being introduced in 2025. There is a tendency at the moment to teach young children about nature but then forget about it when they go to secondary school.”

She’s hoping that the new GCSE will be taken seriously as an academic, science-based subject, and thinks it could be a key part of reintroducing people to nature.

Aldenham Estate is also hoping to encourage businesses to re-engage with nature. A disconnect has been allowed to grow between either being a successful businessperson or someone who is interested in nature and the environment. With climate change looming, Jessica feels the way forward is about adaptability.

“We’ve got to find ways to bring nature into business and make people understand that everything in our lives is based on nature – we’ve separated it from ourselves mentally.

“The estate I am running has been in my family for 400 years, and our local community (which is also our customer base) has changed continuously throughout this period. Being future-proof requires us to help our customers meet their future challenges.”

For this generation of the Aldenham Estate, sustainability and environmental awareness are the immediate challenges its businesses need to adapt to. If not, their future looks uncertain.

Related Posts

120 Motoring: Polestar 2

Developed by Volvo and its Chinese masters, Geely, it is built in China with Swedish know-how. The first model was a plug-in hybrid...

120 Travel: Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Known as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, Plovdiv boasts a rich tapestry of heritage spanning over 8,000...

120 The death of customer service

What has happened to the renowned customer service us Brits were used to - in past times, the envy of the world? We seem to be in...