Descent has a new publisherDescent covers

On 1 October 2022, after 34 years and 204 issues with Chris Howes and Judith Calford as editors, and 24 years down the line from its purchase by Wild Places, Descent magazine changed hands. Initiating this was a difficult decision, to say the least and Chris & Judith would like to say thank you to the many kind words and comments that they have received. Some of these are reproduced below.

Subscribers will still be able to check their details in their account on this website, and all subscriptions are being honoured by the new publisher, Stalactite Publishing, with Chris Scaife and Carolina Smith in control. Learn more by visiting, where you will be able to renew your subscription and purchase back issues. We wish Chris and Carol well with their new venture and we will continue to offer our support where required during the transition. 

Wild Places Publishing will continue to serve the caving community, with the emphasis returning to publishing books as well as selling second-hand books, journals (including collectable copies of Descent) and other caving-related items.

The illustration represents, in part, the journey taken by Wild Places. Top left is the first cover published in 1969, bottom left is the first that appeared under the editorship of Chris Howes in 1989, top right is the first under the Wild Places imprint, and bottom right is issue (288), the final edition published by Wild Places.

Chris & Judith

A few of the messages received within the first couple of weeks after the news broke:

Wow, so an era comes to an end, as the two of you and Descent magazine are synonyms and stand for superb quality in 'cave journalism' – so my helmet is off to you!! M.W.

Whilst enjoying my morning coffee, I have just read the news that you are handing on Descent to new management – it is the end of a big era. Your and Judith’s involvement in Descent magazine has been all I’ve ever known. To me, you guys are Descent magazine and it will not be the same again. I wish you both well for your future projects (can’t wait to see!) and say an enormous THANK YOU. R.S.

Congratulations on a brilliant publication that has kept such high standards for so long. P.G.You will be a very hard act to follow, having set the highest standards of presentation, photography and literacy, and creating in the process an excellent journal of record as well as a very entertaining read. Good luck for the future. It has been a pleasure working and corresponding with you both. R.W.

You've done a fantastic job over the years. J.W.

It's been an honour and a privilege to have worked with you both over what has been many years. From myself and all of us in the area, we wish you both a very big thanks for everything you have done for us. P.T.

I’ve just read the Editorial. Goodness! You’re moving on! We always knew it would have to happen, but it’s still a shock and the end of an era. We want to thank you for producing such a high quality publication for so many years – yes, it IS many years isn’t it. Descent has been the constant link to the caving world, and we are very grateful to you both for providing it. We know it has been a hard and, doubtless, often a thankless job, with little monetary reward, but you have managed to maintain a consistently high standard of publication – we almost took you for granted. I hope we didn’t. Thank you both for 34 years … 34 years??!  You must have started it when you were in nappies! Thank you so much. P.F. & T.F.

All I can say is thank you. I came across Descent as a teenager, nearly 30 years ago and what a big door it helped open for me, as I wondered how to find more cavers to go caving with, in the future. B.N.

I think there will be a lot of emotion in the air. Descent was, and will remain to be, magnificent while you guys were making input ... but life has to move on ... It must be difficult handing over what you have so successfully built up, but as with children there comes a time when you have to hand over. So ... a sincere note of thanks for all you have done for British caving. You guys are real stars. M.F.

An appreciation of everything you two have achieved for Descent would require a small book rather than an email, but I had to write expressing my appreciation of all your work dedicated to producing such a major publication regularly.  Some readers just take these things for granted and seem to think the magazine assembles itself. How wrong they are. Your attention to detail is also impressive – copyright, accuracy of facts and double checking – these all take valuable time that you can ill afford. As you say, your names have appeared on the editorial pages longer than many readers have been caving (do you feel old?!) so you are officially an institution. All the best for the future and heartfelt thanks for keeping the caving flag flying so well for so long. A.J.

Fantastic magazine by the way, always look forward to receiving it and always a great read. R.L.

A brief note about your handover article in Descent. I’m sure I write for many people. Thanks to you and Judith for giving us such an outstanding magazine for so long. P.J.

There won't be many people who, like me, remember you taking on Descent but ... can I thank you both for producing such an excellent journal. Its a credit to both of you. H.J.

The Darkness Below team joins the rest of the caving world in congratulating Chris and Judith for keeping Descent dropping through our letterboxes for more than three decades, for developing a reliable and enjoyable source of news for cavers, and for keeping the magazine fresh and affordable. It is clear they had a strong unwavering passion for producing Descent to the highest standard and that this shows in every issue published, right up to the latest.
Peter Burgess on Darkness Below

Being a longstanding lover of Descent caving magazine please can I ask ... Why is it no longer being published [by Wild Places]? Floods of tears to create a new sump ?????. Yours deeply from the depths. L.C. [Of course, publication continues with the new owners]

Thanks for all your efforts. A big well done! J.H.

Ref (288) and the end of an era. Having found out that you're now handing over Descent to Stalactite Publishing after 34 years (hopefully now having a well-earned rest) can we in the Gloucester SS wish you both all the best for the future.
   Since 1988 the magazine has indeed come a long way and the production standards and quality of the articles is really the best and something to be very proud of.
   In the current age there will no doubt be some who will say that we no longer need 'paper' magazines such as Descent, but my reply (and I'm sure for many others) is that nothing can beat sitting in a comfy chair with a magazine (in this case Descent) and a coffee (or tea or something stronger) ... something that a digital version can't manage.
   We, as cavers, need to have some 'central' place where we can get all manner of news and information and Descent magazine fills that gap, rather than having to subscribe to a number of forums or online groups.
   Very many thanks for all you've done with the magazine over the years and enabling a lot of us to enjoy 'visiting' and reading about places we'll never be able to get to in person.
   It has been appreciated!
Jonathan Maisey, Chair Gloucester Speleological Society

[I hope the new publishers can continue] the good work done by Chris and Judith in the same way (or even better, but that will be difficult)! Thank you both for the long time spent working as you did, and our the friendly contacts we had by email or during many congresses! H.D.S.

Thanks a million for all that you have done for the caving world. Gloucester SS greatly appreciates your time and efforts in producing a quality magazine. J.C.

Reading through the latest Descent I see you're passing on the editorial baton, I'm sure Chris and Carolina will carry on the good work, but I reckon you folks will be missed, you've done a fantastic job over the years - always look forward to Descent dropping through the letter box. R.L.

Can I add my thanks for all you have both done in producing Descent so regularly over all these years. You have kept us all so well informed about latest cave explorations and national and international caving news. Here is wishing you every success in your future endeavours. T.F.

I’ve been a subscriber to Descent for many years and would like to say a very big “WELL DONE and THANK YOU” for the many years producing such an excellent magazine. It has kept my interest going well into my mid-70s and I still enjoy reading of the new discoveries - and the exploits of the “younger” cavers. Very many thanks – and all good wishes for the future. P.B.

Congratulations both on everything you achieved and gave to the caving community with Descent & also on now moving in to a new chapter. ... hopefully one that allows you more time to pursue fun things! M&J. B.

We received Descent today [and] started reading it straight away. I must say the editorial is very moving. It must be very satisfactory after all these years of dedication and hard work to look back at what you have achieved.  Congratulations, once again! P.C. & A.G.

[I've only just learned of the changeover]. 34 years is half a lifetime and I can't imagine Descent without you, but well done for all you've contributed! I wish you a long and happy (semi?) retirement. A.C.

I am shocked to hear that you want to hang up your keyboards after only 34 years! I hadn’t read your most recent editorial, but I have now. It feels a bit like the death of the Queen - you knew it had to happen sometime, but still a shock when it happens. Thanks so much for all your work over the years, an amazing job, and for securing the future of Descent. C.D.

I still can’t believe it! To say Descent has become an institution is an understatement. It’s the solid rock on which cavers have relied on for information for decades, and the internet era hasn’t dented its success and importance. All those years of tremendous service to cavers you two! I’m humbled. Well done. Thank you ... and all the success in your next stage of life. I bet it feels really weird though! C.B.

Many thanks for your efforts over a long period to produce a truly wonderful magazine absolutely beyond comparison with any other. Chris and Carol will find you a hard team to follow, but will work hard to achieve the standard. Best wishes for the future! D.R.

I'm sorry to see you leave Descent, but I am sure you have passed it on to good hands.  Congratulations on keeping such an excellent magazine going for so many years.  I still look back at the early editions (from no 1 onwards) just to see how things have changed since Bruce Bedford’s start in 1969. N.D.

Congratulations on closing one chapter and opening another.

I saw in the last Descent that you were exiting "stage left", but I hadn't responded immediately. That was not because I was short of words (or emotions) after such a long period of time being connected to you through Descent, but probably because I had too many words to know in what order I should write them down! [With Covid losses such as Hidden Earth I hoped] that Descent will continue to arrive on our doormat despite it not having your guiding hand in getting it there. Thank you both for the excellent job you have done over the years. We wish you all the best for the future. T.B.

Happy semi-retirement. Thanks for all your efforts. A big well done! J.H., on a thank you card in the post

[We are certain Descent will continue; Judith and I will keep supporting Chris & Carol for as long as they wish our input and Descent will inevitably succeed given the continued support of the caving community, which I know they will enjoy: C&J.]