Hampstead Heath ice cream seller has 99 problems... and a pitch is one

Ice Cream sellers on the edge of Hampstead Heath were caught in a dispute over who could trade where

Ice Cream sellers on the edge of Hampstead Heath were caught in a dispute over who could trade where. Picture: Josh Spero - Credit: Archant

It could be cold war on Hampstead Heath as two ice cream sellers battle it out for a patch.

Veteran Heath ice cream man Cen Ahmet owns Twin Top Ice Cream, whose vans often visit two spots on the edge of Hampstead Heath. On Monday last week, Cen’s arrived at one these spots in a frosty mood.

This was because another trader, J3L, was using the pitch to sell their own products from an old-fashioned truck.

Cen told the Ham&High: “They took advantage of us not having turned up on time.”

However, J3L said they had no intention of stealing business, and that they just saw the space empty while they were looking for somewhere to trade.

J2L’s owners told the Ham&High: “We don’t want a vendetta or to steal business, and we only ended up there by accident. We were gone within a minute of being asked, but it was a little intimidating and we felt their behaviour was unreasonable.”

Cen said he had a family link to the pitches, which are near to the men’s and ladies’ ponds on the Heath.

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He said: ”My uncle was here for 30 years – one pitch was his and the other was his best friends’s. When they retired I took over.”

The two traders exchanged icy words before the argument was defused, and J2L left..

They usually sell from an area on Parliament Hill, but at the time thought road closures meant they couldn’t access their usual spot.

Cen, who has been running the business for the last 15 years, said that there is a “gentleman’s agreement” over who can operate from sought-after spots.

To complicate matters, Camden Council – whose jurisdiction covers the two bays in question – said it doesn’t officially offer ice cream van pitches at all, meaning there is no such thing as “fly-pitching”.

The town hall explained that ice cream vans are exempt from needing a street trading licence, provided they trade from a vehicle that doesn’t stay still for more than 15 minutes.

Ice Kitchen, which supplied the ice lollies being sold by J2L, said: “Of course, trading can be competitive, but we would hope that whole fruit ice lollies are bringing people together, not causing conflict.”