Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith OBE

A great friend of the entire river’s conservation movement Dr Stephen Marsh Smith has died aged 69. His uncompromising passion for the protection and ecological improvement of his beloved River Wye was the catalyst that has shaped many in the river conservation world.

His professional life as a dentist and a specialisation in reconstructive dentistry always gave away his approach to solving problems both big and small, from the precision of a reconstructed incisor to a large concrete fish pass structure for migratory fish. He was comfortable in both worlds.

Born near Warrington, he moved to Cardiff and won a scholarship to Llandaff Cathedral School as a chorister. Most importantly he lived near to the city reservoirs of Lisvane and Llanishen where his early love of all things aquatic began with fly-fishing for trout. He was a highly accomplished fly fisherman having fly fished for England distance casting. He was a joy to fish with, always supportive and generous with his time and knowledge.

His lasting legacy will be the creation, strategic direction and shaping of the world of River Trusts, the local bodies and charities that monitor and manage the health of our river systems. He was the founding father of the Wye and Usk Foundation where he was Chief Executive for over 20 years and a leading light in creating the umbrella bodies of The Rivers Trust and Afonydd Cymru: The Rivers Trust of Wales.


In 2012 Stephen was also instrumental in pulling the myriad of angling representative bodies together to form a single organisation called The Angling Trust.

He lived and breathed the River Wye, and tackled the multifaceted challenges of this significant UK catchment with passion. Residing on its banks near Erwood, he had a visceral understanding of its unique ecology and was the “go-to” person to get a reasoned and balanced view of what needs to be done. His in-depth knowledge base of this whole rivers discipline will be greatly missed.

He was busy and deeply ensconced in taking forward the pressing issues of agricultural river pollution and the loss of Welsh rivers migratory fish, especially Salmon, Sewin and Eels. He was designing a fish pass from his hospital bed just days before his untimely death. His enormous volume of work was recognised in 2011 with an OBE for services to the environment and conservation of the rivers Wye and Usk.

In recognition of his contribution to the science of fisheries management Stephen has been posthumously made a Fellow of the Institute of Fisheries Management, its highest accolade.

He is survived by his wife, Seren whom he married in 2014, his daughter Georgina from his second marriage and Henrietta and Edward from his third. Stephen has two grandsons Frank and Victor from his daughter Georgina.

Kindly written by Mr. K M Waters