Barbara Pym’s characters do not usually go for long walks in the country. The furthest they walk is from their homes in old-fashioned English villages to tea in the vicarage, or to church.

Indeed, in her first novel, Some Tame Gazelle, one of the curates is surprised that the rather work-shy vicar has spread the word that the curate is so fond of the neighbouring village church that he walked there across the fields. In fact, “it was more than six miles, so he always went by bicycle”.

There is one exception to the disdain for shanks’s pony — the Low Sunday walk in Pym’s final novel, A Few Green Leaves, written in the late 1970s while she was living in retirement with her sister Hilary in the Oxfordshire village of Finstock.

Pym’s low-key style is not to everyone’s taste, and she was dealt a severe disappointment in mid-career, when her novels were rejected by every major publisher as being out of step with the times. Her literary limbo only ended in 1977 when Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil named her “the most underated novelist of the 20th century”.

The Few Green Leaves walk is typical Pym — the characters interact with polite conversation, but never really connect. The landscape is never described, so readers must use their imagination to fill in the details.

It is supposed to have been inspired by an annual Palm Sunday walk from Finstock to Chalybeate well in Cornbury Park or Ladywell in Wilcote, which included the making and drinking of ‘Spanish’ Water or Liquor, made from liquorice.

Pym changes the date to Low Sunday, the week after Easter, and the great house visited by her villagers is surely Cornbury, once a royal hunting lodge.

During Pym’s time in Finstock a long campaign started to create a right of way through the estate. It was called the Golden Path, perhaps because of Lord Rotherwick’s claim for £1.6m compensation from Oxfordshire County Council, later dropped. The present incumbents are much more sympathetic to walkers and indeed host several charity walks.

The council’s circular walk from Charlbury is surely one of the glittering prizes of ramblers’ campaigns for access to the countryside. You march proudly down the lane towards the grand house, crossing the railway and river.

The path turns left just before North Lodge, and a recent diversion bypasses the house’s garden, taking a splendid route just above the water meadows of the Evenlode valley.

This is a great winter route as the floods attract plenty of birdlife here, and sometimes rare migrant visitors.

Cornbury Park contains 647 acres designated as a National Nature Reserve and has its own herd of exotic deer as well as the fallow and roe deer of Wychwood Forest.

This ancient broadleaved woodland may be smaller than in medieval times, when it was a Royal Hunting Ground, but it is still the largest continuous wood in the county.

The forest is notable for plants such as herb-Paris and early purple orchid. But it is interesting in all seasons with plenty of striking tree silhouettes, plus lichens and ferns, including the rare adder’s-tongue. It also contains calcium-rich ‘marl lakes’, abundant in insect life.

The path emerges on to the road past fish ponds, across a dam towards Southill Business Park. You can continue along the track here or take a diagonal path through a tree-lined avenue and across the Manor House gardens, through a gap in the yew hedge, to a stone stile.

There is a short stretch along the Witney/Charlbury road as you turn right and then left along the road to Finstock. Finstock means ‘the place frequented by woodpeckers’. Wychwood Forest used to cover much of this area but all that survives is Topples Wood north-east of the village.

Pym’s house, Barn Cottage, is at the bottom of the village, just north of a triangular road junction, and it is perhaps a sign of her neglect that the blue plaque was only installed in 2006.

On the other side of the road is the Plough Inn, highly recommended for a lunch stop. The last time we visited, a group of ramblers who had come by train from Essex were enjoying a superb-looking spread, but you can just enjoy a pint if you prefer.

From the pub, walk back to the top of the triangle and take a footpath uphill lalong a track, then follow a dog-leg right and left turn to join the bridleway to Finstock Church. Here you will find Pym’s grave, where she was buried with her beloved sister Hilary. It is tastefully engraved, but difficult to pick out from the others.

The churchyard also contains the 1900 grave of Jane, Baroness Churchill, who had been Queen Victoria's maid for 46 years and was one of her closest friends.

Cross the busy B-road again and follow a magnificent track which offers tantalising glimpses of the big house as it descends and climbs again as a wide grassy avenue, then curves around to join a surfaced track beside a wide woodland avenue into Wychwood Forest. Bear right at the stream crossing and follow the track uphill to emerge on an open quarrying area.

Continue straight on along track to a wide grassy area. Turn left in this clearing and take the clearly waymarked wide avenue. Continue for about a mile straight on through the forest to the Leafield road. (You can take a shortcut here by continuing along the road for about a mile; turning left at the fork, signed to Chadlington; crossing the main road to Catsham Lane to join the track to Charlbury.) We turned left along the Leafield road to find another path through the forest and on country lanes to Chilson, passing the 12th-century church of the tiny hamlet of Shorthampton, which is open during the day and has an extraordinary collection of medieval wall paintings.

Here we joined the Oxfordshire Way — a section with splendid views across the Evenlode valley and beyond.

Pym died of a recurrence of breast cancer at Michael Sobell House in Oxford. She believed that “the small things of life were often so much bigger than the great things. The trivial pleasures like cooking, one’s home, little poems especially sad ones, solitary walks, funny things seen and overheard.”

This year is the centenary of her birth, and what better way to celebrate than by re-enacting the Low Sunday walk?

The anniversary will be marked at the Oxford Literary Festival in March, with a reading from letters between Pym and the poet Philip Larkin, who championed her work so effectively.

* Charlbury circular walk details available at Charlbury is served by the S3 bus service and the Cotswold Line from Oxford. See my website: