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Islwyn comprises a series of small towns and villages scattered along the mountains and valleys of west Gwent, nestling comfortably in what could be termed the bible belt of Welsh rugby union. Islwyn is a seat with a population of almost 73,000 divided between urban and rural areas.
On the eastern side of the constituency, in the Ebbw Valley, are the towns and villages of Crumlin, Newbridge, Abercarn, Cwmcarn, Risca and Pontymister.
In the centre is the Sirhowy Valley with the towns and villages of Blackwood, Pontllanfraith, Oakdale, Markham, Argoed, Hollybush, Wyllie, Ynysddu, Cwmfelinfach, Wattsville and Cross Keys. In the west is the Rhymney Valley and the towns and villages of Pengam, Fleur-de-Lys, and Britannia.
The main shopping areas are located at Blackwood, Newbridge and Risca. The constituency is part of the county borough of Caerphilly and is twinned with Pisek in the Czech Republic.
A former bastion of the coal-mining industry, the constituency’s employment opportunities range from companies making fast foods to microchips, from carpets to communications systems and print products to military hardware. Unemployment is relatively low and the area has proved a major attraction for inward investors.
Education is offered principally through age 11-16 comprehensive schools and post-16 education at the Cross Keys campus of Coleg Gwent.
The constituency’s name (meaning ‘below the grove’) is derived from the ancient parish of Mynyddislwyn which covered roughly the same area. Islwyn was also the nom de plum of local poet William Thomas (1832-1878).