TRIBUTES have been paid to 'autism champion' Campbell Main who passed away aged 85.

Mr Main, who lived in Burnham-on-Sea, founded Autism Somerset in 2011 after fathering a son with autism.

Born in Cumbria to farming parents, Mr Main had a lifelong interest in farming and the countryside and toured the West Country by pony in 1949.

He moved to Somerset from Essex in 2003 after retiring as a lecturer in agriculture from Writtle College.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine Main, three children and four grandchildren.

Allison Ward, director of Autism Somerset paid tribute to Mr Main, describing him as a 'champion' and a 'courageous' man.

"Campbell was a truly remarkable man who was well known to many of us as a champion of our people," Allison said.

"With the heart of a lion, he took on the cause for rights and support for people with autism and galvanised us, their families and carers, to fight alongside him. "He was knowledgeable and courageous, making himself known to all, undaunted by titles or hierarchy.

"Campbell made sure to always be where his views mattered, he knew his beliefs and stood by them.

"He was a warm and personable human being, with a background in farming that gave him a love of the countryside.

"He was a family man and spoke proudly of his grandchildren, it has been an honour to know him."

Mr Main was an active campaigner for young people with autism and was well-known in Burnham and Highbridge.

His charity, Autism Somerset, offers support to people suffering from autism by connecting them with health, education and social care professionals.

In 2013, he was awarded the Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust Chairman's Award for his work in founding Autism Somerset and for championing autism support.

Tina Emery, co director of Somerset Parent Carer Forum also paid tribute to Mr Main, describing him as 'a true gent'.

"He was a driving force for the rights of people who have autism," Tina said.

"He was an amazing unsung hero of this world and was proactive well before autism became a buzz word.

"Many families benefitted from his strength, his foresight and tenacity without knowing who he was or what he did.

"He’s left an amazing legacy that is Autism Somerset and he will be sorely missed."

A spokesman for Autism Somerset said the charity will continue in his memory.

His funeral will take place at St Peter and All Hallows Church in West Huntspill on January 15 at 12.30pm.