Portsdown Hill Verrechia's ice cream van man reflects on 40 years at 'most beautiful office in the world' after selling £3m worth during four decades in vintage van

HE HAS the ‘most beautiful office in the world’ with its stunning views overlooking Portsmouth.

Monday, 16th August 2021, 4:03 pm

During his 40 years selling ice creams at The Viewpoint on Portsdown Hill, Graham Penrose has made many friends, seen a lot of changes and sold a lot of ice creams.

The popular 63-year-old was only 23 years of age when he pitched up at the sought-after car park on Portsdown Hill Road.

After starting out when a ‘99’ ice cream was just 25p, Cosham-based Graham has gone on to sell over £3m worth of ice creams or around £85,000 worth a year after working as an agent for ice cream firm Verrecchia for 30 years before going solo during the last decade.

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Graham Penrose, pictured in July 2021, has been selling ice creams from his van at The Viewpoint car park on Portsdown Hill in Portsmouth for 40 years. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Graham’s love affair with The Viewpoint started when he was in the RAF and decided to buy an ice cream van. ‘I drove it down the A1 and broke down three times getting here and I parked in this car park and I’ve actually been here for 40 years since,’ he said.

‘Every day is different. There are lovely views...you could be anywhere in the world on a sunny day.

‘I have the most beautiful office in the world and the best job.

People enjoying view from Portsdown Hill Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘I love it here. I’ve been coming here every day over the last 40 years and there’s not been a day I haven’t enjoyed.

‘I’ll serve a couple of hundred people a day on a weekend. Weekdays are not so busy.

‘I’ve had a very lucky life… a good life. I wouldn’t change it for anything.’

As well as enjoying being in the thrust of the prime location that is visited by many people come rain or shine, Graham says he has made many friends along the way - adding to his sense of fulfillment.

People enjoy view from Portsdown Hill Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘I’ve met a lot of people over the years and have my regular customers who come here for a chat,’ he said.

‘I was only 23 when I started and have known some people for a long time. Some people were kids when I first started out and now I am serving their grandchildren.

‘Others have lost their partners and want someone to talk to and come here for a chat and have an ice cream.

‘My most loyal customers have been coming to me for years and are now friends.

‘I’ve seen a few things over the years and used to take pictures. There’s been quite a few changes but it is difficult to remember how it used to be.

Despite the changing landscape some things have remained the same.

A medium ‘99’ ice cream still remains the most popular choice for customers - costing £2 today after an initial outlay of 25p during Graham’s fledgling ice cream days.

Another mainstay of Graham’s journey has been his classic 1980 Ford Transit Mk2, which has stood the test of time after completing 65,000 miles having made the short journey from Graham’s Cosham home to Portsdown Hill every day.

He is still on only his third fridge in all those years which he still plugs in at night and charges for 12 hours knowing that will be enough to get him through the following day without needing a reboost. ‘It’s as good as new and is better than the modern ones a lot of other ice cream sellers use with it keeping the ice cream frozen all day,’ he said.

In its 40 years of service, the van has also been resprayed three times, had the engine rebuilt and had the wheel arches replaced.

Graham pays rates to Portsmouth City Council for the in-demand spot, which also houses Mick’s Monster Burgers, and said he has no plans to go anywhere just yet.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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