Bamburgh Castle hopes profits from plastic bag sales will help feather the nest of a Northumberland coastal wildlife scheme.

Money raised from the sale of plastic bags in the castle’s gift shop will go directly to The Northumberland Coast Barn Owl Project, a new initiative which aims to boost barn owl numbers on the Northumberland coastline.

Bamburgh Castle opted to charge for plastic bags in line with recent Government policy in a bid to build a nest egg for the project’s conservation and educational work.

Francis Watson Armstrong, owner of Bamburgh Castle, said: “Far from being a feather-brained scheme, we were very keen at Bamburgh to support a project that protects and conserves the majestic barn owl – my favourite national bird species.

“Although the Government’s scheme of charging for plastic bags does not apply to our gift shop, we feel strongly that the principle of reducing the number of plastic bags in circulation is an excellent and very valid one.

“After discussions with Iain Robson from the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership, we decided that the barn owl project could benefit from Bamburgh’s bag tax which will see all the money raised after tax being donated to the scheme.”

Mr Watson Armstrong added: “Having worked with the Northumberland Coast AONB for a number of years providing inhabited barn owl nest box sites on Bamburgh Castle Estate, I felt this was a wonderful opportunity to help give these beautiful birds every chance to increase their numbers here on the Northumberland Coast.”

Barn owls need rough grassland to feed in as well as somewhere safe to nest. With many former barns being converted into holiday accommodation or refurbished, nesting sites for barn owls are becoming increasingly scarce.

The Northumberland Coast Barn Owl Project will provide and construct nesting boxes on farms throughout the Northumberland Coast and offer farmers free advice on how to make their land and buildings more ‘barn owl friendly’.

The Northumberland Coast Barn Owl Project is overseen by the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership and the Alnwick Wildlife Group.

Phil Hamner is the project co-ordinator. He said: “Many parts of the Northumberland coast provide excellent habitat for barn owls, where they feed on rough meadows and dune grassland. As well as areas to hunt, barn owls need safe places to nest. The first priority of the project is to provide new nest boxes for barn owls that can be put up in barns or on trees near to feeding areas.

“We are very grateful to Bamburgh Castle for their support which will go along way towards helping us to safeguard magnificent barn owls in our coastal areas as well as raise awareness of the project and our aims.”